Furious Hours Book Summary - Furious Hours Book explained in key points
Listen to the Intro

Furious Hours summary

Casey Cep

Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee

4.3 (55 ratings)
21 mins

Brief summary

"Furious Hours" by Casey Cep explores the life of Harper Lee and her attempt at writing a true-crime book. It revealingly touches on race relations, southern gothic culture, and Lee's personal life.

Table of Contents

    Furious Hours
    Summary of 8 key ideas

    Audio & text in the Blinkist app
    Key idea 1 of 8

    In 1970, people close to William Maxwell began to die in suspicious ways.

    On a sweltering afternoon in September 1977, onlookers fanned themselves in an Alabama courthouse and waited for the jury to reach a verdict. The defendant was Robert Burns, accused of first-degree murder. In addition to the principal charges, three other elements made this particular trial extraordinary.

    Firstly, the victim whom Burns was accused of slaying, William Maxwell, was himself a suspected serial killer. Secondly, Burns’s lawyer, a man named Tom Radley, was Maxwell’s lawyer when he was still alive. And perhaps most extraordinary of all, present at the proceedings was Harper Lee, the author who had penned the best-selling novel To Kill a Mockingbird 17 years earlier.

    How did these remarkable circumstances arise? Well, to understand that, we must go back 7 years before the day of the verdict.

    On August 1st, 1970, William Maxwell, an African American veteran of World War II, was living in Nixburg, Alabama, with his wife of 21 years, Mary Lou. Although Maxwell was a Baptist preacher, he was rumored to be less than virtuous in his spare time, and had a reputation for regularly cheating on Mary Lou.

    But on the night of August 3, 1970, tragedy struck. According to the couple’s neighbor, Dorcas Anderson, Mary Lou got a late-night telephone call from Maxwell saying that he had crashed his car and needed her to pick him up. Worried about her husband, Mary Lou went to Dorcas’s house to tell her what had happened before rushing out to find him.

    By the next morning, Mary Lou was dead. Her bruised and bloody body was found inside her car on a lonely stretch of highway. She’d been viciously beaten to death. Upon hearing Dorcas’s version of events, the police immediately suspected Maxwell of Mary Lou’s murder.

    Maxwell claimed that Dorcas had it wrong. According to him, Mary Lou had actually gone out that evening to visit her sister. When she drove home, she had obviously encountered trouble that resulted in her death. But the police weren’t buying Maxwell’s version of events, and on August 6th, 1971, a grand jury indicted him for Mary Lou’s murder.

    Want to see all full key ideas from Furious Hours?

    Key ideas in Furious Hours

    More knowledge in less time
    Read or listen
    Read or listen
    Get the key ideas from nonfiction bestsellers in minutes, not hours.
    Find your next read
    Find your next read
    Get book lists curated by experts and personalized recommendations.
    Shortcasts New
    We’ve teamed up with podcast creators to bring you key insights from podcasts.

    What is Furious Hours about?

    Furious Hours (2019) shines a light on the twin mysteries of a 1970s serial killer and the career of the celebrated author Harper Lee. By exploring the shocking case of the alleged serial killer William Maxwell and his victims, these blinks retrace Harper Lee’s steps and finally tell the true crime story that Lee always wanted to write.

    Who should read Furious Hours?

    • True crime addicts looking for their next scare
    • Bookworms who want to learn more about the life of a celebrated author
    • Law enthusiasts interested in courtroom dramas

    About the Author

    Casey Cep is a writer with a degree in English Literature from Harvard University and an MPhil in Theology from Oxford University. Cep was a Rhodes Scholar, and her writing is featured in the New Yorker, the New York Times and the New Republic. 

    Categories with Furious Hours

    Book summaries like Furious Hours

    People ❤️ Blinkist 
    Sven O.

    It's highly addictive to get core insights on personally relevant topics without repetition or triviality. Added to that the apps ability to suggest kindred interests opens up a foundation of knowledge.

    Thi Viet Quynh N.

    Great app. Good selection of book summaries you can read or listen to while commuting. Instead of scrolling through your social media news feed, this is a much better way to spend your spare time in my opinion.

    Jonathan A.

    Life changing. The concept of being able to grasp a book's main point in such a short time truly opens multiple opportunities to grow every area of your life at a faster rate.

    Renee D.

    Great app. Addicting. Perfect for wait times, morning coffee, evening before bed. Extremely well written, thorough, easy to use.

    People also liked these summaries

    4.7 Stars
    Average ratings on iOS and Google Play
    29 Million
    Downloads on all platforms
    10+ years
    Experience igniting personal growth
    Powerful ideas from top nonfiction

    Try Blinkist to get the key ideas from 7,000+ bestselling nonfiction titles and podcasts. Listen or read in just 15 minutes.

    Start your free trial