“Though Alice said that her sister had never written the book, for years Harper told Tom Radney that it was near completion. In 1997, Radney told a newspaper reporter, “I still talk to Nelle twice a year, and every time we talk, she says she’s still working on it.” Madolyn Radney told me that while Lee procrastinated Tom persisted. “He’d call her and she’d say I’m just about finished with the draft, or it’s just going to be perfect, or I’ll send it to the publishers tomorrow,” she said. “He even went up to New York to get his files, and she told him it was headed to the publishers.”

“He was so trusting,” Radney said of her husband. “He gave Harper Lee everything he had: notes, transcripts, court documents. And she took it all with her.” None of it, the family says, was ever returned, and Tom Radney’s generosity has bothered the family since his death. Beyond hoping that Lee might still publish “The Reverend,” the family has tried to get Radney’s files back.

-Writer Casey N. Cep on Harper Lee’s missing or abandoned crime novel, The Reverend. Cep traveled to Monroeville, Alabama after the controversial announcement that HarperCollins will release Lee’s second book, Go Set A Watchman, which supposedly details Scout Finch’s adult life and was written before To Kill A Mockingbird.

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