Furious Hours

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

Summary (from Goodreads):

“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.

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 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.”

This is divided into three sections. The first focuses on Willie Maxwell, the second on the lawyer who defended the man who murdered Maxwell and the third on Harper Lee. Each section is fascinating for different reasons and I think the book focuses on my three favorite things: true crime (section one), politics (section two) and literature (obviously section three). If there’s ever been something that’s more perfectly for me and my interests, I’m not sure what it is.

Like a lot of actively literate people, I love To Kill a Mockingbird and its author. I read Go Set a Watchman and I think I would’ve preferred this book be published. (I’m guessing that her notes and drafts really were destroyed—as she wrote to someone—because otherwise, this would’ve been released, too.)

I would have loved it if this were three books, each one a more thorough telling of each section of this book. It’s succinct and flows well, but I would’ve liked to learn more (and to spend more time with Harper Lee, which was probably my most favorite part).

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