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

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  7,164 ratings  ·  1,302 reviews
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.

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 hi
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published May 7th 2019 by Knopf Publishing Group
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  • Furious Hours by Casey Cep
    Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee
    Release date: May 07, 2019
    Win a *SIGNED* copy of Casey Cep's NYT-Bestseller "Furious Hours."

    Featured on CBS Sunday Morning! TIME calls it one of the best non-fictio

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    Giveaway dates: Sep 17 - Oct 17, 2019

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    Popular Answered Questions
    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...

    Community Reviews

    Showing 1-30
    Average rating 3.85  · 
    Rating details
     ·  7,164 ratings  ·  1,302 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 Ma
    Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep is a 2019 Random House publication.

    The case involving the Reverend Willie Maxwell is one I was completely unfamiliar with. I never heard of him, or Robert Burns or their attorney, Tom Radney- until I picked up this book. As this was all unchartered territory for me, I found the case riveting. I could hardly believe what I was reading. The ease in which Maxwell purchased life insurance policies, not just for relatives, b
    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
    Joey R.
    2.5 Stars — I decided to read “Furious Hours” after reading a magazine review of this book and being very interested in the subject matter of an Alabama serial killer that I never heard of before. The author did a good job of researching certain aspects of the life story and background of the Reverend Willie Maxwell, who was suspected of killing five of his relatives in the 1970’s. His case drew statewide publicity after Rev. Maxwell was shot and killed at the funeral service of his daughter (wh ...more
    May 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Furious Hours is an 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 each characte/>Furious
    Diane S ☔
    Apr 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: lor-2019, 5000-2019
    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
    Casey Cep has written a fascinating account of 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 Burn ...more
    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 wrote a
    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 do
    Despite the title, Harper Lee doesn’t appear on these pages until the last 1/3 of the book and even then it was about her life and her writing, not a trial.

    The book is divided into 3 sections, with a thin thread connecting them all: the first dealing with the serial murderer, Rev. Willie Maxwell, the second was about the lawyer connected to the case, and the third on Harper Lee. The Rev. was an enigma and it’s shocking that he was able to get away with his crimes for so long but his
    Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud And The Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep is a great true crime book it's based around 3 main characters a serial killer ( The Reverend Willie Maxwell) the lawyer (Tom Radney) who defended the reverend and the other killer ( you definitely need to read it to find out what that one did 😏) and Harper Lee an author made famous by her fabulous book To kill a mockingbird, it's also about her issues with the fame after it.
    Harper Lee had a friend from childhood (C
    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 starte
    Jun 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    Utterly brilliant. I was fascinated both by this tale of an actual serial killer in Alabama (and his murder), and the desperate way that Harper Lee tried (and failed) to find in his story and trial her own second act. Casey Cep is also a gifted stylist: this is a work of non-fiction written with elegance and beauty and grace.
    This book can be classified as both true crime and biography. What has made it worth reading for me is what I learned about Harper Lee. I I have a deeper understanding of her as a person. I am comfortable with the author’s, Casey Cep’s, presentation of facts. One has cause to be wary given the huge amount of hearsay and rumors that have swirled about Lee in the press.

    After writing her famed novel To Kill a Mockingbird everyone has been begging for more. Rumors said Lee was working on another book. Go Set a Watchman cam
    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 Re
    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 d
    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
    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 wit
    Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee was the first book of author Casey Cep and an amazing debut it was. Ms. Cep has a delightful way of presenting factual data, of which she researched diligently. Basically the book focuses on the serial murders of a lot of relatives of the Reverend, who coincidentally happened to have taken out large insurance policies on the victims. Also central to this tale is the larger-than-life defense attorney, Tom Radney. He first defended the Re ...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 writer’s block for Lee was alwaywords."
    3.75 stars rounded up - Reverend William Maxwell was an enigma in his lifetime and even after reading this book, he remains so. As Casey Cep relates in her book, not much is known of Maxwell’s early years, but after a stint in the army, he returned home to Coosa County, Alabama, where he met and married Mary Lou Edwards. Although Maxwell worked at powdering (blasting rock) and pulpwooding, his main vocation became the ministry. Known for his eloquent speech, snazzy dress style, and fervent praye ...more
    As one of the millions of people who enjoyed and admired (Nelle) Harper Lee's novel TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, I naturally gravitated toward this new book by a new author, Casey Cep, especially since it promised to add insight to the central riddle of Harper Lee's life: why, after MOCKINGBIRD, she wrote no more books. I had heard just a little about the subject of a nonfiction novel Lee researched and tried to write: the story of "The Reverend," an African-American ordained minister and wood-industr ...more
    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
    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
    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
    Jun 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    3.5 stars rounded to 4.
    Mar 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
    Shelves: arc, nonfiction, 2019
    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, had wanted her toMockingbird,Crusoe,
    Jerrie (redwritinghood)
    My interest often waned with this one, so I sped the audiobook up to 1.5x to finish it. Part 1 deals with the murders Maxwell is suspected of committing. Part 2 deals with the attorney who defended Maxwell’s killer. Finally, Part 3 is sort of a biography of Lee and some of the work she did toward writing a true crime account of Maxwell. Parts 1 & 2 didn’t together very well with Part 3. Part 3 had long discussions of her friendship with Capote to try to support Lee’s interest in writing a tr ...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.

    You can follow her on Twitter (@cncep) and Instagram (@caseycep).

    Cep graduated from Harvard College, then earned an M.Phil. at the University of Oxford as
    “Water, like violence, is difficult to contain.” 4 likes
    “He might not have believed in what he preached, he might not have believed in voodoo,” she wrote of the Reverend, “but he had a profound and abiding belief in insurance.” 3 likes
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