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The Loop

Author Harper Lee said that golf helped inspire some of her best creative thinking

February 19, 2016

Nelle Harper Lee, whose 1960 novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” detailed racial injustice in a small Alabama town, sold 10 million copies, won the Pulitzer Prize and was made into an Academy Award-winning movie starring Gregory Peck, has died at 89.

Lee never wrote another novel, although an earlier work she penned was published last year. She was one of the most notorious recluses in the literary world, living out her life in Monroeville, Ala., where the city clerk on Friday confirmed her death to The New York Times.

Lee’s sister, Alice, who died in 2014 at 103, was her main shield from the public and the duo often took refuge on the golf course, a place where Harper Lee said she did her best creative thinking.

In a 1980 interview with Time magazine, Lee explained why. “Well, they’re Southern people,” she said, “and if they know you are working at home they think nothing of walking right in for coffee. But they wouldn’t dream of interrupting you at golf.”

Lee rarely granted interviews, made precious few public appearances (except to receive the occasional award) and consistently used golf as her safe haven. When Alice Lee turned 100 there were public celebrations in Monroeville that Harper avoided. Harper instead attended a family-only gathering at the golf club several days later.