Join us for a reading with Casey Cep, author of Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee. This event will be free and open to the public.
New Yorker writer Casey Cep’s Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee tells 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.
The page-turning narrative begins with Reverend Willie Maxwell, a rural preacher accused of murdering five family members for insurance money in the 1970s, and with Tom Radney, the savvy Alabama lawyer and politician who defended him for years, in both his murder cases and against the insurance companies. When Maxwell was murdered himself—in retribution, in front of 300 witnesses, at the funeral of his final victim—Radney defended the killer, too, in a widely publicized trial. Cep weaves these narrative threads together with the largely unknown story of Harper Lee’s later years. Lee was fascinated by the Maxwell case and attended the trial; she had traveled from New York City with the idea of writing her own In Cold Blood, the classic she helped Truman Capote research seventeen years earlier in Kansas.
Furious Hours brings this unbelievable story to life—from the shocking murders to the courtroom drama to the racial politics of the Deep South—and deftly explores southern culture, voodoo, race, Alabama politics, and our criminal justice system. Beyond the incredible tale Cep tells, she peers at the mystery of artistic creativity and offers a compelling, empathetic, and unusual portrait of one of America’s most beloved writers.
Cep’s reporting is based on new materials no one has yet written about, including a surviving first chapter Lee wrote of her book called The Reverend.
"A triumph on every level. One of the losses to literature is that Harper Lee never found a way to tell a gothic true-crime story she’d spent years researching. Casey Cep has excavated this mesmerizing story and tells it with grace and insight and a fierce fidelity to the truth."
—David Grann, author of Killers of the Flower Moon
About the Author: Casey Cep is a writer from the Eastern Shore of Maryland. After graduating from Harvard with a degree in English, she earned an M.Phil in theology at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, and The New Republic, among other publications. This is her first book.
Photo Credit: Kathryn Schulz