Title: Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee
Author: Casey Cep
Publisher: Knopf 2019
Genre: Nonfiction - True Crime
Rating: 3/5 stars
Reading Challenges: Library Love
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.
I really wanted to like this book, but it just didn’t happen for me. I was annoyed by the structure and perceived lack of big idea. I didn’t love how the book was split into thirds. And then each section meanders throughout the main line. Cep took way too many side tracks about various topics (seriously multiple pages on the history of the life insurance industry was not necessary) and felt like a ton of padding. I wanted so much more about the murders and aftermath, but Cep speeds through that section to spend so much more time with the lawyer and Harper Lee. And please, do not get me started on the lawyer. His adamant support of the murdering Reverend was just too much. Not a book for me at all…
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