How the Internet Killed a Harper Lee Christmas Tradition

The front page of today's Montgomery Advertiser is devoted entirely to Harper Lee.

As you might imagine, each and every story on the front page of today’s Montgomery Advertiser is devoted to Harper Lee, who passed away Friday.


In an ironic bit of timing, the independent bookstore that Lee patronized for many years every Christmas, Capitol Book & News, closed in January after 65 years. Today, via one of those three front-page stories, reporter Kym Klass retraces how Lee would sign copies of To Kill a Mockingbird every Yuletide season to help support the store, and why Lee chose to finally end this annual tradition:

Lee would let the Montgomery bookstore know in advance that she was coming – which she did for many years up until about eight years ago after a stroke made her physically unable to travel from her home in Monroeville – and Thomas Upchurch, a store owner, would order hundreds of copies of and offer a private signing in a back room at the store…

“We kind of inherited her as a customer,” Upchurch said. “And then we became friends with her. When she came to discover that people were putting her signed copies on eBay, she didn’t like it. So she stopped signing books a couple of years before she got sick.”

In 2014, Lee did however voluntarily surrender to the notion of a To Kill a Mockingbird e-book.

One other fun Capitol Book & News note. Many years ago, on the same front page of the same Alabama newspaper in December 1976, there was a photo of a clerk from the store. That clerk, Cheryl, would go on to buy and co-own the store with the aforementioned Thomas, her current husband.

Previously on FishbowlNY:
Publicist Recalls Pair of Magical Encounters With Harper Lee
Journalist Recalls the Summer He Worked Alongside Harper Lee
On Her 88th Birthday, Harper Lee Heralds Mockingbird eBook