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 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.
As Alabama is consumed by these gripping events, it’s not long until news of the case reaches Alabama’s – and America’s – most famous writer. Intrigued by the story, Harper Lee makes a journey back to her home state to witness the Reverend’s killer face trial. Harper had the idea of writing her own In Cold Blood, the true-crime classic she had helped her friend Truman Capote research. Lee spent a year in town reporting on the Maxwell case and many more years trying to finish the book she called The Reverend.
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.
This is the story Harper Lee wanted to write. This is the story of why she couldn’t.
Furious Hours is available in ebook and hardback now. You can purchase your copy using the link below.
To Kill A Mockingbird is one of my all time favourite books. I’ve still got my broken, dog eared copy from when we did it at school and take it out to re-read regularly. I was therefore very excited to learn that this book existed and I could learn more about one of my favourite authors.
The author does a great job of including historical facts into this story in a way that makes the story surprisingly gripping and not at all dry like some non fiction can be. I found all the background information interesting, especially the fight for civil rights which I didn’t know much about and how life insurance used to be used. I always enjoy learning about new things so found this particularly fascinating.
The actual case was very intriguing and I enjoyed following it from the very beginning through to the court case. For me it was a very thought provoking book as I wondered how such a case would have been solved today as, to me, it seemed quite an open and shut case. The reader is taken through the court case from the beginning and I especially enjoyed seeing how the two sides put forward their case. The differences in the way things were done then compared to now was quite marked at time which surprised me.
The book is divided into three parts the murderer, the lawyer and the author which gives the reader an in-depth look into the whole case and more of an insight into Harper Lee’s life. I found the book very gripping and I struggled to put it down at times as I was so absorbed in the story which never normally happens with non fiction.
This is the author’s debut book and I very excited to read more from her in the future. If you are a fan of To Kill A Mockingbird or American history then you’ll love this book.
Huge thanks to Random House Publishers for my copy of this book via Netgalley.
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.