Casey Cep does an incredible job weaving the stranger-than-fiction series of events between the murderous Reverend Maxwell, the reclusive Harper Lee and her lively counterpart Truman Capote, and a Southern lawyer ahead of his time to tell the three-part story of Furious Hours. Cep finally reveals the story Harper Lee wished to tell years ago through a thoughtfully researched and carefully crafted narrative. If you like courtroom drama, literary history, and murders most foul, then Furious Hours is the right book for you. Recommended By Ronnie C., Powells.com
Outstanding and impressive, Casey Cep masterfully takes on the true crime book
Harper Lee wanted to write. Furious Hours is like three books in one: the stories of the reverend, the lawyer, and the author of To Kill a Mockingbird. Excellent! Recommended By Adrienne C., Powells.com
Furious Hours, a matryoshka of mysteries, is perfect for readers seeking true crime as compelling and sensitive as I’ll Be Gone in the Dark. After assisting Truman Capote in his research for In Cold Blood, Harper Lee found the inspiration for her second book. She spent years pursuing the strange case of a reverend who got away with murder, the man who shot him in front of hundreds of witnesses, and the lawyer who defended them both. But despite all her efforts, progress stalled and her work was never completed. In this riveting book, Casey Cep untangles the knotted narratives that so captivated Harper Lee and pays homage to the enigmatic author and her complicated legacy. Filled with backstories on everything from the sordid history of life insurance to the secretive culture of voodoo in the South, it makes for a fascinating read and a worthy addition to the literary journalism canon. Recommended By Lauren P., Powells.com
A series of suspicious deaths in Alabama in the 1970s were so intriguing and harrowing that Harper Lee set out to write the book about them. She didn’t. Now, Casey Cep has nested three books into one in order to tell the story Lee never did and why she didn’t. The resulting book is more intriguing and harrowing than Lee could’ve imagined. Recommended By Keith M., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
Reverend Willie Maxwell was a rural preacher accused of murdering five of his family members for insurance money in the 1970s. With the help of a savvy lawyer, he escaped justice for years until a relative shot him dead at the funeral of his last victim. Despite hundreds of witnesses, Maxwell’s murderer was acquitted — thanks to the same attorney who had previously defended the Reverend.
Sitting in the audience during the vigilante’s trial was Harper Lee, who had traveled from New York City to her native Alabama with the idea of writing her own In Cold Blood, the true-crime classic she had helped her friend Truman Capote research 17 years earlier. Lee spent a year in town reporting, and many more years working on her own version of the case.
Now Casey Cep brings this story to life, from the shocking murders to the courtroom drama to the racial politics of the Deep South. At the same time, she offers a deeply moving portrait of one of the country’s most beloved writers and her struggle with fame, success, and the mystery of artistic creativity.
"A compelling hybrid of a novel, at once a true-crime thriller, courtroom drama, and miniature biography of Harper Lee. If To Kill a Mockingbird was one of your favorite books growing up, you should add Furious Hours to your reading list today." Southern Living
"Cep's is an account emotionally attuned to the toll that great writing takes, and shows that sometimes one perfect book is all we can ask for, even while we wish for another." Time
"[Cep] explains as well as it is likely ever to be explained why Lee went silent after To Kill a Mockingbird. (The clue's in Cep's title.) And it's here, in her descriptions of another writer's failure to write, that her book makes a magical little leap, and it goes from being a superbly written true-crime story to the sort of story that even Lee would have been proud to write." The New York Times Book Review
“A triumph on every level. One of the losses to literature is that Harper Lee never found a way to tell a gothic true-crime story she’d spent years researching. Casey Cep has excavated this mesmerizing story and tells it with grace and insight and a fierce fidelity to the truth.” David Grann
About the Author
Casey Cep is a writer from the Eastern Shore of Maryland. After graduating from Harvard with a degree in English, she earned an M.Phil in theology at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, and The New Republic, among other publications. This is her first book.
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