Furious Hours

Furious Hours

Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee

Book - 2019
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9
"The stunning true story of an Alabama serial killer, and the trial that obsessed the author of To Kill a Mockingbird in the years after the publication of her classic novel--a complicated and difficult time in her life that, until now, has been very little examined. Willie Maxwell was a Baptist reverend in Alabama; he also happened to be a serial killer. Between 1970 and 1977, his two wives and brother all died under suspicious circumstances -- each with hefty life insurance policies taken out by none other than the Reverend himself. With the help of a savvy lawyer, Maxwell escaped justice for years. Then, the teenage daughter of his third wife perished. At the funeral, the victim's uncle shot the Reverend dead in a church full of witnesses--and was subsequently acquitted of the murder, thanks to the same savvy lawyer who had represented the Reverend for all those years. Sitting in the audience during the trial was Harper Lee, who had traveled from New York to her native Alabama with an idea of writing a book about the case. Now, Casey Cep brings this nearly inconceivable, gripping story to life on the page: from the shocking murders to the chicanery of insurance fraud to the courtroom drama. At the same time, it is a vividly told, elegiac account of Harper Lee's quest to write a second book after To Kill a Mockingbird, and a deeply moving portrait of this beloved writer's struggle with fame, success, and the mysteries of artistic creativity"--
Publisher: New York : Knopf, 2019
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9781101947869
1101947861
Branch Call Number: 364.15232 M4514C 2019
Characteristics: xii, 314 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, map ; 25 cm

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SherryMarieJ
May 07, 2020

Recommended by Kris Rusch

d
dzroka
Jan 10, 2020

Furious Hours is an interesting read with a unique set up. It has two distinctive parts, although the book is broken into three parts. The first two parts tell the ominous tale of a Reverend suspected of committing multiple murders in order to collect on life insurance policies and the jury trial of the guy that ultimately kills the Reverend. The dialogues quoted in the trial are from actual court transcripts, per the Notes at the end of the book. Harper Lee shows up in part three. This part provides insight to her life and personality, in particular her relationships with her sisters, father, Truman Capote, neighbors, and friends. It also provides insight to the life of a writer, one that gained immediate success and publicity with one book and then struggled for decades to write a second. But more than this, the book offers a glimpse of the Southerner and the pride of Alabamians. Harper Lee understood that it was not uncommon for Southerners to oppose the Ku Klux Klan but at the same time support segregation. It was the New York editors that had her rework her original manuscript that left Atticus Finch as the archetype of justice and equality. I can see why this book was on Obama's 2019 reading list.

o
oldwestfan
Dec 03, 2019

I agree with some of the other comments that at some points the author goes meandering into backgrounds and histories that are not directly germane to the story, and I found myself skipping ahead to where she gets back on track. I can't tell if this was deliberate padding or she was just having so much fun she couldn't help herself, and neither did the editor.

That said, this is an extremely well written book about the public-averse Harper Lee, and a strange serial murder case that she unsuccessfully tried to make her long-awaited 2nd book, Along the way it delves into Lee's personal history including her friendship with Truman Capote and her involvement with In Cold Blood. It's an overall excellent read for those interested in the subject.

b
brigpa1
Sep 28, 2019

I really liked this book. The story of The Reverend was a true story of the Old Soth. I liked the trial and also am always fascinated with the bios of HL and Capote. My only criticism is, as mentioned previously,TMI about insurance policies and other trivial info about courts and over detailing about HL's later life. But I found I could not wait to get back to it.

4
4ntrvlr
Jun 16, 2019

I don’t get why this book is so highly rated. IMHO it would’ve been good as one or two long-form articles, but as a book it seems padded. The book is divided into 3 sections- about the murderer & murders; about the attorney (WAY too long!) and basically a biography of Harper Lee. While the writing is excellent, you have to be really interested in Harper Lee & Alabama to be blown away by this book. (The former could explain why the NYC literati gave this book raves. )

Hillsboro_ElizabethH Jun 06, 2019

While I understand this is the true crime Harper Lee wanted to write, I don't think that this would be it. Much too wordy, and honestly, too much information. Good try, though.

p
pondgrl
Jun 06, 2019

I tried. I really did - way too much gratuitous information. I got to the point that I would skip several pages, hoping it would get better, but it was just difficult to get through. If just the facts were presented, perhaps the novel would have been a too short - I'm not sure.

lrule207 Jun 04, 2019

It takes the reader's patience for the two stories of the murder and Harper Lee to come together in this book. The first half of the book details the murders and trial. The second half is about the Harper Lee connection - finally. The author took two very loosely connected stories and wrote about one, then the other. It's all good though as the author is a compelling writer and the material lends itself to this approach.

debwalker Apr 18, 2019

True crime and Harper Lee.

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