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Furious hours : murder, fraud, and the last trial of Harper Lee
2019
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Summary
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.
Trade Reviews
Booklist Review
Harper Lee's crucial work with Truman Capote on In Cold Blood (1966) has been much scrutinized as part of the ongoing mystery regarding her struggle to write after the runaway success of To Kill a Mockingbird (1960), but Cep is the first to reveal in full Lee's efforts to write her own true-crime chronicle, one that, unlike Capote's, would stick to the facts. Lee, who quit law school just weeks before graduation, chose a scandalous case involving the much-feared African American reverend Willie Maxwell, who profited from life-insurance policies on five family members who died under extremely suspicious circumstances; Robert Burns, a relative who shot Maxwell dead at the funeral of his last alleged victim; and attorney Tom Radney, a rare white Alabama liberal who represented Maxwell, then defended his killer. With zeal for research and a gift for linguistic precision, Cep delves into Alabama's history, tells the striking stories of all involved in this macabre saga, and chronicles Lee's extensive investigation, including attending Burns' trial and speaking with Radney and others touched by the killings. Yet Lee could never bring her book to fruition. Cep has vividly and insightfully retrieved a grimly fascinating true-crime story and done Lee justice in a fresh and compelling portrait of this essential American writer.--Donna Seaman Copyright 2019 Booklist
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First Chapter or Excerpt
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Table of Contents
Prologuep. 3
Part 1The Reverend
1Divide the Waters from the Watersp. 7
2Minister of the Gospelp. 16
3Death Benefitsp. 29
4Seventh Son of a Seventh Sonp. 41
5Just Plain Scaredp. 50
6No Exception to the Rulep. 62
Part 2The Lawyer
7Who's in the Stew?p. 79
8Roses Are Redp. 88
9The Fight for Goodp. 96
10The Maxwell Housep. 101
11Peace and Goodwillp. 110
12Tom v. Tomp. 120
13The Man from Eclecticp. 130
14What Holmes Was Talking Aboutp. 142
Part 3The Writer
15Disappearing Actp. 149
16Some Kind of Soulp. 153
17The Giftp. 165
18Deep Calling to Deepp. 180
19Death and Taxesp. 192
20Rumor, Fantasy, Dreams, Conjecture, and Outright Liesp. 209
21Coming Back Until Doomsdayp. 222
22Horseshoe Bendp. 238
23The Long Good-Byep. 256
Epiloguep. 275
Acknowledgmentsp. 277
Notesp. 281
Bibliographyp. 307
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