Harper Lee has been depicted as alternately obstinate, humiliated, and "happy as hell" since HarperCollins announced her second novel would be published—and now more red flags have popped up. Amid the debate over her mental competence, the state of Alabama has jumped into the fray to investigate at least one claim of elder abuse involving the author and whether she was able to authorize the release of Go Set a Watchman, the New York Times reports. So far, officials from the state's Department of Human Resources, aided by fraud watchdog Alabama Securities Commission, have interviewed several of Lee's friends and acquaintances, workers at her assisted-living home, and Lee herself, an unnamed source tells the Times.
A doctor friend of Lee's who hasn't treated her says he called Alabama adult protective services to make the elder-abuse claim, concerned because of her reported condition and stories he heard from a third party who had visited Lee, per the Times. At stake: whether she's the victim of a scheme involving her attorney or others. Other friends admit that though she's hard of hearing and can't see well, she can communicate if visitors yell loudly or write things down using a machine she has for that purpose, the Times notes. Wayne Flynt, a friend of Lee's, says the author, as the Times puts it, is "mentally fit, engaged, and can recite long passages of literature." But he also confesses her short-term memory isn't the best. "What novel?" she recently asked Flynt when he inquired about her book, he tells the Times. "Watchman—you must be so proud," he replied. Her answer, according to Flynt: "I'm not so sure anymore." (Read more Harper Lee stories.)