Furious Hours Book Summary - Furious Hours Book explained in key points
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Furious Hours summary

Casey Cep

Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee

4.4 (57 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.

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    Furious Hours
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    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.

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    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.

    Furious Hours Review

    Furious Hours (2019) is a captivating true crime story that we recommend delving into. Here's what makes this book a compelling read:

    • With its fascinating blend of crime investigation and courtroom drama, the book keeps us hooked from start to finish, unraveling a real-life mystery.
    • It offers intriguing insights into the life of a renowned writer and her unfinished work, giving us a unique glimpse into the world of literature and justice.
    • Through detailed research and interviews, the author brings the characters to life, making their stories relatable and allowing us to immerse ourselves in their lives.

    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. 

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    Furious Hours FAQs 

    What is the main message of Furious Hours?

    The main message of Furious Hours is a compelling exploration of crime, justice, and the power of storytelling.

    How long does it take to read Furious Hours?

    The reading time for Furious Hours varies depending on the reader's speed, but it typically takes several hours. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Furious Hours a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Furious Hours is a captivating read that unravels a gripping true crime story and sheds light on the complexities of justice.

    Who is the author of Furious Hours?

    Casey Cep is the author of Furious Hours.

    What to read after Furious Hours?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Furious Hours, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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