Charles Shields

One Book Steamboat: An evening with Harper Lee biographer Charles Shields

Thursday, October 15, 2015 - 6:30pm to 8:00pm
  • Library Hall

The announcement of this summer's publication of Harper Lee's second novel, Go Set a Watchman, created unparalleled excitement in the book world. Biographer Charles J. Shields, author of the critically acclaimed account Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee, is one of the few people who knew of the existence of Lee's manuscript. When The New York Times, NPR, BBC Radio, MSNBC and The Associated Press reported on the story, they turned to him. And with Watchman's release already being heralded as the literary event of the year, audiences are also turning to Shields to get the inside scoop on the life of the mysterious author.

Join us for an evening with Charles Shields as he shares stories about Lee's childhood in Monroeville, Alabama; examines the murder trial that inspired her great work; details her journey to Kansas as Truman Capote's ally and research assistant to help report the story of In Cold Blood; and, of course, discusses Go Set a Watchman.


About Charles Shields
Charles J. Shields is an American biographer whose book Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee went on to become a New York Times bestseller and a perennial favorite of readers and teachers. The biography of the author of To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman is now in its 10th printing.

“This biography will not disappoint those who loved the novel and the feisty, independent, fiercely loyal Scout, in whom Harper Lee put so much of herself,” wrote Garrison Keillor in the New York Times Sunday Book Review. Two years later, Shields followed-up his biography of Lee with a young adult version: I Am Scout: The Biography of Harper Lee, which received awards from ALA Best Books for Young Adults; Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year; Arizona Grand Canyon Young Readers Master List.

I am Scout

In 2009, with fellow biographers Nigel Hamilton, James McGrath Morris, and Pulitzer-prize winner Debby Applegate, Shields co-founded Biographers International Organization (BIO), a non-profit organization founded to promote the art and craft of biography. As of 2014, BIO has 350 members in 45 American states and 10 nations, including Australia, India, Kenya, and the Netherlands.

In November 2011, Shields published the first biography of Kurt Vonnegut, And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut, A Life, described by Janet Maslin as an “incisive, gossipy page-turner of a biography,” and an “engrossing, definitive biography” by Publishers Weekly in a starred review. It was selected as a New York Times Notable Book, and Washington Post Notable Nonfiction Book. Shields served as a judge for the 2013 PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography.

Books will be available for sale and author signing courtesy of Off the Beaten Path Bookstore.

This is a featured event in the ONE BOOK STEAMBOAT 2015 community read of Harper Lee's novel, Go Set a Watchman.