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Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  2,937 ratings  ·  520 reviews
“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, best-selling author of Killers of the Flower Moon

The stunning story of an Alabam
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published May 7th 2019 by Knopf Publishing Group
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Casey Cep Hi, thanks so much for this great question! If you make your way to Chapter 22 of the book, a chapter called "Horseshoe Bend," then you'll see that…moreHi, thanks so much for this great question! If you make your way to Chapter 22 of the book, a chapter called "Horseshoe Bend," then you'll see that "furious hours" comes from a talk that Harper Lee gave on the historian Albert James Pickett. There's more about the phrase in that chapter, and more about Lee's connections to the Creek War Battle of Horseshoe Bend.(less)
Casey Cep The audio version is narrated by Hillary Huber, and can be purchased from any audio book retailer: https://www.penguinrandomhouseaudio.c...

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3.90  · 
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 ·  2,937 ratings  ·  520 reviews

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Apr 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
Divided into three parts, Furious Hours tells the true story of Alabama serial killer the Reverend Willie Maxwell. In the 1970’s he was accused of murdering five family members in order to collect the life insurance money. With the help of a very clever lawyer, ( although rumour had it that Maxwell used voodoo to aid his success) he escaped justice, but at the funeral of his last victim, he was shot dead by one Robert Burns.

The first part of the book illustrates the life of Willie Maxwell, the m
Diane S ☔
Apr 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5000-2019, lor-2019
She wrote one book, a book that defined a time period. A book that made her wealthy, but took away the privacy she cherished. She became recognizable everywhere, and though writing was her passion, this she little expected. Why did she write only one book, when everyone who knew her said writing was her passion, that she was always writing.

The case of the Alabama minister, a man whose nearest and dearest were murdered for their insurance money. He pretty much got away with it, until the last and
May 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Furious Hours is a truly engrossing documentary style book, which brings three enthralling stories together around a series of events involving a serial killer. Each part focuses on the perspective of a renowned personality; Reverend Willie Maxwell (Serial Killer, Preacher), Tom Radney (Lawyer) and Harper Lee (Author).

The structure of the book feels more like 3 shorter stories with a theme, rather than 3 integrated parts in the one story. Each part covers the biographical background of e
Jun 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely fabulous and gripping! The novel tells three incredible stories of Reverend Maxwell, a murderer of five members of his own family, of Tom Radney, a lawyer who defended both Maxwell and the man who eventually killed Maxwell, and of Harper Lee, who came to the trial and followed it in hope of writing another novel. Personally, I found Part 3 most interesting as I knew next to nothing about the author of one of the greatest American classics. Casey Cep wrote a gem in the category of non- ...more
Casey Cep has written a fascinating account about Harper Lee's obsession with writing a true crime novel about the Reverend Willie Maxwell, who murdered five family members in Alabama for the insurance policies he took out on them and got away with it. After giving a eulogy for his stepdaughter (one of the five relatives he was suspected of killing) at her funeral in 1977 he was infamously shot dead in front of 300 people by Robert Burns, an uncle of the dead girl. Harper Lee not only attended B ...more
Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)
Mar 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc
4.5 stars

I was fascinated with the character of Scout Finch in Harper Lee's masterpiece To Kill A Mockingbird when I was a kid.  
When I re-read the novel for my high school lit class, I was in awe of the layers of the story and its topics that are only complicated by growing up.  Scout kept it honest and that's what made her the perfect narrator; the adults are what complicated matters.

I knew Harper Lee had never published another novel but when I decided to look into work she'd done in the foll
May 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I must start by saying that Furious Hours is probably the best true crime work I have had the pleasure of reading; it has so much more to it than one would initially imagine and that's what makes it such a gripping book. It's an amalgamation of true crime, American history, legal thriller and biography of Harper Lee, which is a very interesting mix and works well. For many years Lee was obsessed with one particular case - that of church minister Reverend Willie Maxwell, and set in the context of ...more
May 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Harper Lee was intrigued with the true-crime story of the Reverend Willie Maxwell. She did an amazing amount of research, and then floundered when she tried to write a tale that would appeal to her many fans. Cep has succeeded where Lee failed.

Willie Maxwell was born in Alabama in 1925, served two tours in the Army, and earned a Good Conduct Medal. He married Mary Lou in 1947, worked two jobs and preached at three different churches. At least, he did so until people around him started dying—firs
Jun 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best nonfiction books I've read this year.

"Furious Hours" is both the story of a true crime in 1970s Alabama and the story of famous writer Harper Lee. I was interested in the particulars of the crime, which involved a sketchy preacher who was linked to a series of suspicious deaths, and I just lovedlovedloved the section on Harper Lee, which included interesting details of her longtime friendship with Truman Capote.

I'm impressed with how Casey Cep managed this feat: she wrot
Louise Wilson
May 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story of an Alabama serial killer and the true - crime book that Harper Lee worked on obsessively in the rears after To Kill A Mocking Bird.

The Reverend Willie Maxwell is a preacher who's been accused of killing five of his family members for the insurance money. But Willie always got off scott-free. He was shot in front of three hundred people. The man who shot him was defended by the lawyer that Willie used. He also managed to get the shooter off despite there being several witnesses. This
May 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Seventeen years since the publication of, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Harper Lee lat in a courtroom in Alabama. She was planning to write a true crime book about the case she was watching, but that book was never published. In this volume, author, Casey Cep, writes not only a compelling explanation as to why this book never appeared, but also combines true crime and biography, in a riveting account of a crime and the characters involved.

She begins by looking at the murder victim, the Reverend Willi
Jun 05, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a true crime story about Reverend Willie Maxwell who was implicated in the deaths of 6 people over the course of 7 years. He was tried and acquitted once and was murdered by the uncle of his purported final victim before charges could be brought against him. Suspiciously, he had bought life insurance polices insuring the victims; in the case of his second wife, at least 17 policies. The accusations against Maxwell kept his attorney, John Thomas Radney, busy for years. Ironically, it was ...more
"Nothing writes itself. Left to its own devices, the world will never transform into words."

Furious hours is an account of a sensational murder trial that captivated a small town in Alabama and one of its home grown heroes, the reclusive novelist Harper Lee. Known best for the Pulitzer Prize winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee struggled over her lifetime to produce another book. There has been much speculation over the reason(s) behind this. It’s highly unlikely that it was a mere case of w
Jun 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I chose to read this book even though I normally wouldn't be drawn to a story about a serial killer. I was drawn to it because it was Harper Lee's (AKA Nelle Lee) story - a mystery in itself.

Furious Hours is a description of Andrew Jackson's final engagement with the Creek Indians, but it also describes the lifetime of tormented hours Lee spent battling her writing demons, those demons that prevented her from completing her nonfiction account of the Maxwell murders. Perhaps it also describes the
Jill Meyer
May 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee", by Casey Cep, is my favorite type of book. It's a work of non-fiction that reads like fiction. It's a bit of a strange book - Cep writes three different stories that she doesn't bring together til the end, but somehow, it comes together beautifully.

Harper Lee, long famed for "To Kill A Mockingbird", never published another book during her lifetime. After her death in 2016, an unfinished manuscript was published by her estate. The
Apr 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Rev. Willie Maxwell is a preacher who is well known for being accused and/or suspicioned of killing five of his family members for insurance money. But Willie has a good lawyer (or else he’s very good at casting voodoo spells which some people believe) and he’s always gotten off scot-free. That was so until the death of his stepdaughter when the girl’s uncle, Robert Lewis Brown, shot and killed the Reverend at the girl’s funeral. Now Brown must face his own trial for murder and unbelievably, ...more
Jessica Woodbury
This is a book about a book that never got written based on real life events that were never all that well documented, so you need to go into it not expecting it to be particularly lurid or twisty true crime. Cep is generally absent from the narrative and it's a very Just the Facts, Ma'am kind of story, which I appreciated most of the time.

The central story of the Reverend Maxwell and the trail of suspicious dead relatives in his wake is the limiting factor here and there isn't all that much to
May 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Harper Lee spent nearly a decade struggling to write a true crime book about Willie Maxwell's alleged crimes and his subsequent murder, an effort that was ultimately unsuccessful. Casey Cep has had far more success in creating a book that covers the same true crime territory, but surrounds it with biographical information about Thomas Radney, the attorney first for Maxwell and later for his killer, but most of all about Harper Lee.

The book is divided into three segments, The Reverend (Maxwell),
Mar 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, nonfiction, arc
Among the many already-written books keeping Lee company in her apartment was a copy of Daniel DeFoe's Robinson Crusoe, which she had read, as she put it, umpteen times. Crusoe had been shipwrecked twenty-eight years, and Lee must have identified. Ages had passed since she had published Mockingbird, yet there she was surrounded by loneliness, struggling with a book that didn't seem to want to be written, on what must have felt, at times, like her own Island of Despair. Her father, like Crusoe's,
Biblio Files (takingadayoff)
The book is in three parts, each of which seems almost like a different book. The first part is the most compelling, it's a true crime narrative, about the murders of five family members of Reverend Maxwell, committed shortly after he took out life insurance on them. Although the murderer is apparent, the local law officials can't make a case that will stick. The second part is of the trial - not the trial of the Reverend, but the trial of his murderer. This part I found a bit problematic - the ...more
Nancy Oakes
Jun 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, 2019

The inside blurb says that this book is "the stunning story of an Alabama serial killer and the true-crime book that Harper Lee worked on obsessively in the years after To Kill A Mockingbird. " Yes and no. What that blurb doesn't tell you (and I think egregiously so), is that in the late 1970s, Harper Lee met and spoke with the attorney handling the case of a man accused of murdering the Reverend Willie Maxwell; she was so taken with the case that she deci
May 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Lee had committed herself to a book built from facts, but when it came to the story of the Reverend Maxwell, those were hard to come by, and harder still to verify ... History isn’t what happened but what gets written down, and the various sources that make up the archival record generally overlooked the lives of poor black southerners … A writer trying to fix the life of Reverend Willie Maxwell on the page was mostly at the mercy of oral history, which could be misremembered or manipulate
Carmel Hanes
Jun 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Carmel by: Melissa
My favorite book of all time is To Kill a Mockingbird. I love everything about it, and I've always been fascinated that Harper Lee produced this book and then did not release any other books until Go Set a Watchman so many years later. Not only that, but she steadfastly refused to submit to interviews or really go out there and try to promote her book. If I could bring a person back from death and have a cup of coffee with her, it might just be Nelle Harper Lee.

It's little wonder this book reach
Jun 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars rounded to 4.
Sharon Barrow Wilfong
I went to Books a Million and the salesclerk volunteered information that I had never known. As someone employed by the local university (I'm a musician; I don't teach) I get a discount card for free AND every purchase 20% off. Well, sign me up!

What this mostly means is I get a lot of cheap coffee, but I must admit my book purchasing at BAM has increased. Those wily sales team marketers in BAM administration know what they're doing.

Which is why I bought a book I never would have otherwise. I mea
Jun 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
Casey Cep has written an interesting book that is very well-researched and documented. It tells three stories: a minister, who seems to have gotten away with murder and collecting life insurance proceeds several times, the minister's lawyer who defended him successfully and helped him collect from the insurers, but who seemed by all other accounts to be a moral person with political aspirations, and finally, Harper Lee who thought she might write a book about the case. Some of the chapters about ...more
Neelam Babul
Jun 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating and captivating read that cast a spotlight on Harper Lee, a mysterious writer who is the author of "To kill a mocking bird". Divided into three parts, Furious Hours narrates the true story of the Reverend Willie Maxwell, alleged to be a serial killer who murdered several of his family members over two years. His main motive for his horrific actions was to collect the life insurance money from several policies he had with a few insurance companies.

With the help of a very clever law
May 22, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
It is rare that I can't finish a book - especially a murder book! But my god. This is not a book about a serial killer. This is a book that gives a painstaking detailed history of the largest lake in Alabama and the life insurance industry. I'm almost halfway through and it's too unbearable to finish. It really feels as though the author wanted to tell the story of the murders but didn't have enough material so she just fluffed it up - but with the dryest, most boring fluff to ever exist. Google ...more
May 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Maybe 4.5 stars
This book is actually divided into 3-sections. The first has to do with a man who, in the 1970s, kept buying life insurance covering members of his family in which he is the beneficiary. Guess what. Five of them die under strange circumstances. He is stopped when another relative, at one of the funerals, fatally shoots the suspected relative.
The second section is about the lawyer who defended the suspect each time he was brought up on charges, then becomes the defense attorney for
Katie Long
The first half of this lays out the story of Rev. Maxwell, a suspected serial killer in 1970's Alabama, and his own murder at the hands of a vigilante, without much style or fanfare, just laying down the facts. This choice makes more sense when Cep moves into the second half where she explores Harper Lee's investigation and ultimate decision not to publish a book about the case. If Cep had tried to write about the actual case with any kind of flair, it would be too hard for a reader not to compa ...more
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Casey Cep is a writer from the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her first book Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee was an instant New York Times bestseller, and comes recommended by David Grann, Helen Macdonald, and Michael Lewis. Cep graduated from Harvard College, then earned an M.Phil. at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker ...more
“Water, like violence, is difficult to contain.” 2 likes
“Nobody recognized her. Harper Lee was well known, but not by sight, and if she hadn’t introduced herself, it’s unlikely that anyone in the courtroom would have figured out who she was.” 1 likes
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