Furious Hours Book Summary By Casey Cep

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"Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and The Last Trial of Harper Lee (2019) is a gripping exposé that focuses on two of the most mysterious cases of the 1970s: the alleged serial killer William Maxwell, and the career of celebrated author Harper Lee.

Through this book, we get to explore how these cases interweave and uncover the true crime story behind them.

We also gain insight into Harper Lee's own motivations in writing stories that focused on such disturbing topics.

This book promises to be an eye-opener as it sheds light on some of the most shocking and controversial cases of our times.

It is sure to shock you with its revelations about what really went on during these dark hours.

Furious Hours Book

Book Name: Furious Hours (Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee)

Author(s): Casey Cep

Rating: 4.4/5

Reading Time: 21 Minutes

Categories: Book Summaries

Author Bio

Casey Cep is the author of the best-selling book 'Furious Hours'.

She's an incredibly talented writer who has earned a degree in English Literature from Harvard University as well as an MPhil in Theology from Oxford University.

What's more, she was even a Rhodes Scholar!

Her writing has been featured in respected publications such as the New Yorker, the New York Times and the New Republic.

This shows how esteemed her writing is by both professionals and readers alike – something that bodes well for anyone looking to pick up Furious Hours.

Unravel The Mystery Of Harper Lee’s Involvement In The William Maxwell Murder Case

Harper Lee's

Harper Lee, author of the acclaimed novel “To Kill a Mockingbird”, was reportedly determined to write a second book.

If you’ve ever wondered what kept her from actually doing so, then Furious Hours is the book for you.

In this remarkable piece of writing, you’ll uncover the secrets behind Harper Lee’s elusive second book and why she never got around to writing it.

You’ll learn all about the double mysteries surrounding William Maxwell and his involvement in her case in Alabama during the 1970s.

You’ll see how voodoo, murder, greed and vigilantism collided with each other in a small African American community.

You’ll even explore what stopped Harper Lee from actually telling this remarkable story for herself.

By reading Furious Hours, you’re sure to discover more about why Harper Lee’s second novel was never written – whether that be due to her own personal reasons or interference from outside sources.

With care taken from author Casey Cep, you’ll uncover a wealth of information and new insight into this complicated story.

The Robert Burns Trial And Harper Lee Unveil The Brutal Crime Of William Maxwell

The tragedy began in 1970, when people close to William Maxwell started dying suspiciously.

The first victim was his wife – Mary Lou Maxwell.

On August 3rd, she had gone out late in the night to pick up her husband after he had crashed his car.

But by morning, she was found dead – her body badly bruised and bloody inside her car on a deserted highway.

This led police to immediately suspect Maxwell of having killed his wife.

But it was only the beginning of the sinister events that were unfolding around this man.

The police investigation revealed that this wasn’t an isolated incident – over the next two years, four more individuals connected with Maxwell died suddenly and under mysterious circumstances.

Amid growing suspicion and increasingly vocal accusations against him, Maxwell prepared for court trial .



but he wouldn’t live to see it; just before the trial, he died mysteriously himself!

With all these circumstances coming together, Robert Burns was accused of killing Maxwell in 1977 before an audience including famous author Harper Lee in attendance who wrote “To Kill a Mockingbird” 17 years earlier..

Is William Maxwell Accursed Or A Murderer? An Exploration Of The Suspicious Deaths Around His Life

William Maxwell, the protagonist of Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee, married his second wife in highly suspicious circumstances.

Just sixteen weeks after being acquitted of his first wife Mary Lou’s mysterious murder–a death for which there were no witnesses or clear suspects–Maxwell wed neighbor Dorcas Anderson under a thick cloud of controversy.

Aside from the speed with which he chose to move on from his first wife’s passing, Maxwell’s new bride had also been married until recently–and her husband had died too conveniently.

Doctors had predicted Abram would live two to three more years before passing suddenly from pneumonia; however, some believed that Maxwell had poisoned him with antifreeze instead.

That was enough for tongues to start wagging about the validity of the new marriage and Maxwell’s conduct before it.

Unfortunately, Dorcas’ matrimonial bliss was cut short when her husband continued to find himself surrounded by people who met tragic ends–with Mary Lou and Abram only being a few examples of this tendency.

Maxwell’S Trail Of Death Leads To Questions Of Foul Play


In the years after his second marriage, Maxwell’s extraordinary bad luck continued.

He was accused of burning down a barn that was owned by one of his tenants and later was charged with murder when the body of a young woman was found on the side of road near his property.

Although he was later acquitted, the court case caused considerable damage to Maxwell’s reputation.

In addition, Maxwell’s business struggles continued and he eventually lost most of his property in foreclosure.

On top of that, three days before Christmas in 1977, one of Maxwell’s sons died in an unrelated farming accident at just 17 years of age; another tragedy that weighed heavy on Maxwell’s already strained psyche.

Yet even as life seemingly revolved around him, deep dark secrets from the past still lingered throughout rural Alabama.

And no matter how many times or how hard Morse attempted to solve it all through her investigation for Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and the Last Trial of Harper Lee – she often found herself returning again and again to this beautiful but mysterious land where questions still remain unsolved about Maxwell’s suspiciously unlucky life.

The Cold-Hearted Profit Maximizer: The Story Of William Maxwell And His Unexplained Life Insurance Profits

Throughout the 1970s, more people who encountered William Maxwell experienced untimely deaths.

Following his marriage to Ophelia Burns, Maxwell’s cousin James Hicks was found dead in a car.

Not long after, Shirley Ann Ellington, Ophelia’s adopted 16-year-old daughter, was crushed to death as she tried to change a tire by the side of the highway.

These losses only added to Maxwell’s growing fortune as he held life insurance policies on each of these victims.

After Mary Lou’s death, he wrote to ten insurance companies and won nearly every claim in spite of being under suspicion for her murder.

With help from his lawyer Tom Radney, Maxwell made hundreds of thousands of dollars from this scam – money which never went towards clearing any large debts that he supposedly owed around the state.

The locals began to fear him as they realized that anyone they knew could be his next victim; it seemed no one was safe from Maxwell’s scheme and profit-motivated crimes.

As time went on, it became clear that enough was enough and something had to be done about this terrible situation.

The Strange Trial Of Robert Burns: From The Voodoo Accusations To Mark Twain’S Presence In The Court

It was a scene that no one would have expected – William Maxwell, the man accused of murder and voodoo, being felled in front of hundreds of shocked eyewitnesses.

On the day of Shirley Ann’s funeral, people gathered to remember her life, though the service was interrupted when her sister Louvinia screamed out that she knew Maxwell had killed her sister.

The shockwave of emotion following Louvinia’s outburst sent Robert Burns into action.

The adopted uncle pulled out his gun and fired 3 bullets into Maxwell’s skull, holding him instantly accountable for his alleged crime before anyone had a chance to react.

Approximately 300 witnesses can attest to this event taking place in the church on this fateful day.

In response, Burns requested that William Maxwell’s own lawyer, Tom Radney, come forward and defend him against these charges.

Radney argued that Robert Burns suffered from temporary madness when he shot Maxwell and blamed it on those same rumors about Maxwell practicing voodoo; he even attempted to claim that this drove Robert insane enough to cause homicide.

Yet perhaps the strangest part of all was the fact famous author Harper Lee was there watching as everything unfolded – making an already chilling story just that bit more unbelievable yet entrancing all at once.

The Generous Gift That Brought Harper Lee’s Masterpiece, To Kill A Mockingbird, To Life

Harper Lee's

In 1960, Harper Lee proved to the world that she was a force to be reckoned with when she published the world-renowned novel — To Kill a Mockingbird.

It was admired for its unflinching portrayal of racial discrimination in the American south and for offering hope for a better future.

However, despite selling over a million copies worldwide and topping best-seller lists around the world, Harper Lee did not have any immediate follow up success after Mockingbird’s publication.

In fact, despite trying desperately to write another book that could top her previous masterpiece, she struggled mentally and emotionally.

Her attempts at creating something even more enduring were constantly thwarted by her own perfectionism and self-imposed pressure, leading her to reject her own writings as inadequate.

Moreover, after losing her father in 1962 to a heart attack, Harper also battled alcoholism during this tumultuous period.

Ultimately, it appeared as if Harper Lee had completely dropped off the literary map by the 1970s — leaving many people wondering what had ever happened to this promising writer who lived reclusively in Monroeville Alabama.

Harper Lee Set Out To Prove True-Crime Writing Could Be Accurate And Compelling

Harper Lee had been instrumental in the publication of Truman Capote’s 1966 classic, In Cold Blood.

Her comprehensive research and insights helped to create a compelling narrative which showcased her clear understanding of the true-crime writing genre.

This was when Harper Lee decided it was time for her to make her own foray into the true crime world.

Inspired by the mysterious case of William Maxwell – the murderous voodoo preacher who was killed at his victim’s funeral – Lee, set off for Alabama in the summer of 1977 to embark on humanizing and accurate true-crime storytelling.

She soon realized that she had an opportunity to prove that stories from behind bars could be as captivating as other fiction works, yet still be honest, factual accounts of events that occurred rather than fictionalized accounts with added details or edited conversations.

Armed with this idea, she intended to make sure that every fact presented was correct, hoping that readers would be more likely to believe and accept them as truth as well as creating greater journalistic credibility for herself and a more solid foundation for her new project”.

The Unfinished True-Crime Tale Of Harper Lee: The Authority Problem With Writing About Black Victims

Black Victims

In 1977, Robert Burns eluded the law, found innocent due to temporary insanity at the hands of Tom Radney.

This stunning defeat for justice outraged many and similarly delighted local citizens who considered Burns a hero — free from accountability of his alleged crimes.

For mystery novelist Harper Lee, the verdict brought forth an equally captivating phenomenon: one of her own creation.

Lee had spent five years researching and revealing a true-crime story surrounding William Maxwell and the potential insurance fraud that followed him.

The lack of concrete information about Maxwell’s victims hindered Harper Lee’s access to dark details within the case.

Additionally, with African American subjects at play, there was also an issue of limited recourses as white authorities typically didn’t find record black lives in a fascinating light.

Rather than spread falsehoods about voodoo magic reported by Maxwell’s acquaintances within their community, Lee decided not to pursue her story any further— resulting in no second novel from the author although there still had been much more to discover about this mysterious case beyond what was captured with To Kill a Mockingbird.

While Lee passed away in 2016, we may never know why she chose to give up on her long-awaited project as another literary genius has eluded the world and will remain forgotten until it decides otherwise.

Wrap Up

The book Furious Hours by author Casey Cep is a gripping look at Harper Lee’s failed attempt to tell the story of Reverend Willie Maxwell and the lives he affected.

Maxwell was suspected in the deaths of six people close to him and he collected substantial life insurance payouts from each incident.

Although Capote presented an account of the case in his book In Cold Blood, Harper Lee wanted to go deeper into what really happened, but sadly never completed her research.

This story serves as a final warning that justice doesn’t always prevail and shows how money can corrupt even those who appear most pious.

It is an incredibly gripping tale that entwines fiction and fact in a masterful way, allowing readers to make up their own minds on what really happened all those years ago.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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