True crime lovers and literary historians are going to love Furious Hours by Casey Cep, which bills itself as the story of the last trial of Harper Lee and the story behind the manuscript she never finished. It’s got murder, law, politics, and literary history, and I loved the audiobook. Set in three parts, the story tracks the story of Reverend Willie Maxwell, lawyer Tom Radney, and author Harper Lee, and the ways their lives intertwined.
When the Reverend Willie Maxwell was murdered in front of 300 people at a funeral, it didn’t take long for everyone to talk about it. When it went to trial, famed author Harper Lee, almost twenty-years past the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird, was sitting in the room, taking meticulous notes. She spoke to the attorney who had represented Maxwell’s killer, as well as Maxwell himself during life, and the story of the Reverend is in and of itself a fascinating true crime tale of murder, voo doo, and insurance fraud, but the way the story unfolds in Alabama…wow. I don’t want to give too much away, and I recommend you don’t Google much about the cases before you listen to the way they are told in this book, but it’s fascinating. There’s a huge true crime element, but there’s also a lot of talk of politics and basically a mini-biography of Harper Lee. It’s a lot going on in one book, definitely, and while some of the “background” of the major characters (especially Radney..) could have been dropped, it’s ultimately a really compelling read.
I can definitely see this becoming a movie one day. The story of Maxwell is crazy, so crazy I’m sure it’s inspired many a Law & Order or Criminal Minds episode, and Radney seems like a character. Plus, now that all the main players are dead, it’s easier to talk about them without fear of lawsuit. Fingers crossed this book gets its due on screen, but until then, I highly recommend the audiobook with its great narration.