Casey Cep, Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee
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, Harper Lee - a Society Library member - and her struggle with fame, success, and the mystery of artistic creativity.
A New York Times bestseller, Furious Hours was named one of the best books by 2019 by Time, LitHub, Vulture, Glamour, O Magazine, Town and Country, Suspense Magazine, and Inside Hook and mentioned by Barack Obama as one of his favorite books of the year.
Casey Cep is a staff writer at The New Yorker. After graduating from Harvard with a degree in English, she earned an M.Phil in theology at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. She lives on the Eastern Shore of Maryland with her family. Furious Hours is her first book. caseycep.com