(Reuters) - A rare books specialist says papers recently found in a safe deposit box are not a third novel by Harper Lee but a close friend of the "To Kill a Mockingbird" author on Tuesday held out hope that another book still might surface.
Tonja Carter, Lee’s attorney, had hired rare books expert James S. Jaffe to examine a stack of documents found in a safe deposit box in Lee's hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The newspaper reported Monday that Jaffe concluded the documents were copies and drafts of "To Kill a Mockingbird" and the recently published "Go Set a Watchman."
It was widely reported that the papers might have been a prequel to the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Mockingbird."
"Watchman," which set sales records when it was published in July, proved controversial for portraying Atticus Finch, the virtuous lawyer and father of narrator Scout in "Mockingbird," as a racist. The manuscript for the book, Lee’s second novel in more than 50 years, was found in 2011 in a safe deposit box.
Carter could not be reached in her Monroeville office for comment Tuesday.
Retired Auburn University Professor Wayne Flynt, who is a close friend of Lee, said Tuesday he believes there is still another Lee novel stashed somewhere.
"I know there’s another novel because (Lee’s sister) Louise told me there was,” Flynt said. "She said Nelle (Harper Lee) worked on it for years, it was a finished work and she said it was better than 'To Kill a Mockingbird.'"
Flynt said Lee also wrote a non-fiction book called "The Reverend" about a Southern preacher who might have been a serial murderer.
In Lee’s hometown Monroeville, which the fictional town of Maycomb was based on, many were disappointed that the newly discovered papers would not lead to another book, said Spencer Madrie, who owns Ol’ Curiosities & Book Shoppe, where he sold about 10,000 copies of "Go Set a Watchman."
"We were all excited that there might be another one and we’re hoping it might still be out there somewhere,” he said.
Lee, 89, still lives in Monroeville in a nursing facility and has been closed-lipped about her works. She has not given a press interview in decades.
Editing by David Adams and Bill Trott