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Novelist Mark Childress ("Crazy in Alabama," "Georgia Bottoms") happened to be born in Monroeville, Alabama -- the town Harper Lee called Maycomb when she wrote about it in the classic "To Kill a Mockingbird." For years, as a journalist, Childress was told to pursue an interview with the famously reclusive author, who refused all entreaties. This essay describes the importance of Harper Lee's novel to the Southern fiction of today, and goes a distance toward explaining why Harper Lee prefers to remain a figure of mystery. 2,500 words.