New York Times Best Seller
“Compelling . . . 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
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 seventeen 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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
After writing her masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee worked on a true crime book about the murder of suspected Alabama serial killer Willie Maxwell for years—but never finished it. Decades later, New Yorker journalist Casey Cep more than delivers on the promise of Lee’s work with the engrossing Furious Hours. Lee spent years tracking the real-life saga of Alabama preacher Willie Maxwell, who escaped conviction on five counts of murder only to be killed by vigilante Robert Burns. Cep explores the facts of both men’s crimes and their intertwining backstories, brilliantly weaving in Southern history and a mesmerizing portrait of a famous—and famously private—writer.