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

Furious Hours is an intense true-crime thriller in which through impeccable fact-checking weaves two life stories, one of the Reverend Willie Maxwell, a rural preacher whose family members seem to die under mysterious circumstances which always somehow leads to the Reverend being able to collect a life insurance policy he had on them, and the beloved author of To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee, who decides to write a book about the trial of the man who killed Maxwell at the wake of Maxwell’s step-daughter.

But the book delves much deeper into both their life stories. The Reverend, who is shot point blank in front of many witnesses by a man who believed the Reverend not only had been scamming and killing people for many years but had an incredibly illegal past, (especially for a clergyman) who was never charged with any crimes due to many factors. His past and the trial of his killer are incredible drama with the outcome of the trial even more unexpected.

Lee, who had not written a book since Mockingbird, decides after reading about the Maxwell case to research the Reverend and the murder trial as well as the outcome of the trial itself. It delves deeply into her thought process and hours of research both by investigating and interviewing as many of the witnesses as possible.

Furious Hours is also a concise biography of Lee’s life, her trials and tribulations, her love of her family, her on and off love affair with alcohol and her decades long writer’s block that seemed to cast a shadow on her both in the publishing community, but more so in her own psyche as she seemed not to be able to live up to her own perfectionism.

It also suggests theories as to why she and her life-long friend, Truman Capote, stopped talking. It suggests that her assistance as his researcher during the writing of his book In Cold Blood was one of the inspirations for her to begin her own research on the Reverend Maxwell case.

There is also a mystery within the book which sadly is still unsolved to this day. Although Lee told people she had begun the writing process of the book on Maxwell…at least four chapters which were allegedly read by someone, the book was never found in her possessions when she died. Had she finished the book? If so, where is it? Or who has it? Unfortunately, the answers to these questions may only be known to the reclusive Harper Lee who took them with her when she died.`

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