Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trail of Harper Lee by Casey Cep is three stories in one, told in three parts. The first part tells of the story of Reverend Willie Maxwell, a southern preacher and serial killer accused of murdering five people in order to collect the insurance money. Maxwell got away with each crime until he was shot to death at his last victim’s funeral by a family member. The second part of the story features Tom Radney, Reverend Maxwell’s attorney who then defended Maxwell’s killer, Robert Burns. Surprise! And with the trial of Robert Burns comes one Harper Lee. Readers learn about the reclusive author from her childhood, college experiences, and the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird. By the 1970s is appeared that Lee was destined to never publish another book, until she heard about the murder of Willie Maxwell. Lee had helped her close friend Truman Capote when he wrote In Cold Blood, and she was determined to have her own success with a true crime book. To that end, Lee spent a year back in her native Alabama gathering information and even more time writing her account of the trial of the man who killed the serial killer. And yet, the book never made it to fruition. This book is part biography, part history lesson, and part true crime. It’s an interesting exploration of the life and times of Harper Lee, racial issues in the South, and the judicial system. The case of Reverend Maxwell was news to me and the most engrossing portion of the book.
This month Riverinos will we meeting in person to discuss the case of Dr. Linda Hazzard and the book Starvation Heights. See you Wednesday, March 16 at 7pm if you are interested!