At this point, it seems pretty clear that very, very few people have any direct contact with reclusive author Harper Lee. And with questions still stirring around her mental state and the circumstances around the planned release of Go Set A Watchman—a sequel to the American classic, To Kill A Mockingbird—the state of Alabama has now gotten involved.
The Times reports today that the state where Lee has long been a resident has opened up an investigation into potential elder abuse. They write:
Now the State of Alabama has been drawn into the debate. Responding to at least one complaint of potential elder abuse related to the publication of “Watchman,” investigators interviewed Ms. Lee last month at the assisted living facility where she resides. They have also interviewed employees at the facility, called the Meadows, as well as several friends and acquaintances.
It remains unclear what, if anything, will come out of the investigation, now more than a month old. One person informed of the substance of the interviews, who did not want to speak for attribution because the inquiry was ongoing, said Ms. Lee appeared capable of understanding questions and provided cogent answers to investigators.
The state’s Human Resources Department, with the help of the Alabama Securities Commission, are leading the investigation. Several of Lee's friends, including aide Marcella Harrington and writer Marja Mills, gave starkly different accounts: Harrington called Lee lucid and mentally alert, while Mills (who wrote a book about living next to Lee in the mid-00s) offered investigators interview snippets with Alice Lee, Lee's sister and longtime protector who died last November at 103. In those interviews, Alice described her sister as having serious memory lapses: "She doesn’t know from one minute to the other what she’s told anybody,” Alice said of her sister in the excerpt. "She’s surprised at anything that she hears because she doesn’t remember anything that’s ever been said about it."
You can read more here about the controversy regarding Lee's mental state, questions about the intentions of her publisher and attorney, and the backlash to the backlash.
Last week, one insistent local reporter who was determined to make contact with Lee did so: she responded to his two page letter with a succinct written message: "Go away!"