Author Harper Lee is famously shy of talking to the press. So imagine the excitement when one newspaper flagged its “interview” . . .

It’s nearly 50 years since the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee’s Pulitzer prize-winning novel. Famously, Lee has spent most of the time since living a quiet life, which journalists commonly describe as reclusive, chiefly because although Lee is known in her Alabaman home town, she won’t speak to the press, and has never published another novel.

So imagine the excitement when the Mail on Sunday devoted two pages to the story of a meeting between its writer Sharon Churcher and the legendarily silent novelist. “When [Harper Lee’s] friends agreed to give our reporter an introduction, it was on one strict condition . . . Don’t mention the Mockingbird” ran the preamble. This is how the meeting went (read it slowly, to make it last):

“Nervously, I approach the novelist, carrying the best box of chocolates I could find in the small Alabama town of Monroeville, a Hershey’s selection costing a few dollars. I start to apologise that I hadn’t brought more but a beaming Nelle – as her friends and family call her – extends her hand.

“‘Thank you so much,’ she told me. ‘You are most kind. We’re just going to feed the ducks but call me the next time you are here. We have a lot of history here. You will enjoy it.'” © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds