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Furious Hours

Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee
Written by: Casey Cep
Narrated by: Hillary Huber
Length: 11 hrs and 16 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (2 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

New York Times Best Seller

“Compelling . . . at once a true-crime thriller, courtroom drama, and miniature biography of Harper Lee. If To Kill a Mockingbird was one of your favorite books growing up, you should add Furious Hours to your reading list today.” (Southern Living)

Reverend Willie Maxwell was a rural preacher accused of murdering five of his family members for insurance money in the 1970s. With the help of a savvy lawyer, he escaped justice for years until a relative shot him dead at the funeral of his last victim. Despite hundreds of witnesses, Maxwell's murderer was acquitted - thanks to the same attorney who had previously defended the reverend.

Sitting in the audience during the vigilante's trial was Harper Lee, who had traveled from New York City to her native Alabama with the idea of writing her own In Cold Blood, the true-crime classic she had helped her friend Truman Capote research 17 years earlier. Lee spent a year in town reporting and many more years working on her own version of the case.

Now Casey Cep brings this story to life, from the shocking murders to the courtroom drama to the racial politics of the Deep South. At the same time, she offers a deeply moving portrait of one of the country's most beloved writers and her struggle with fame, success, and the mystery of artistic creativity.

©2019 Casey Cep (P)2019 Random House Audio

What the critics say

"It’s been a long time since I picked up a book so impossible to put down. Furious Hours made me forget dinner, ignore incoming calls, and stay up reading into the small hours. It’s a work of literary and legal detection as gripping as a thriller. But it’s also a meditation on motive and mystery, the curious workings of history, hope, and ambition, justice, and the darkest matters of life and death. Casey Cep’s investigation into an infamous Southern murder trial and Harper Lee’s quest to write about it is a beautiful, sobering, and sometimes chilling triumph." (Helen Macdonald, author of H Is for Hawk)

"A triumph on every level.... Casey Cep has excavated this mesmerizing story and tells it with grace and insight and a fierce fidelity to the truth." (David Grann, best-selling author of Killers of the Flower Moon

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Rick
  • 2019-05-12

Brilliant!

‘She liked to sleep late, start writing around noon, take a break for dinner, then carry on until deep into the night. She tended to write longhand first, and then, at the end of every day, she typed a fresh copy of her draft—“picking out the nut from the shell,” she called it—on the Olivetti typewriter she’d finally bought to replace her faithful old Royal.

‘“I work very slowly,“ Lee acknowledged. “A good 8-hour day usually gives me about one page of manuscript I won’t throw away.”’

Yet, after 30 years, Harper Lee stopped working on her only novel after “To Kill a Mockingbird”—it turned out that “Go Set a Watchman” had essentially been a first draft of her monumental work. The serial killer saga of the Rev. Willie Maxwell was meant to take its place alongside the true crime pioneer “In Cold Blood,” on which she’d worked with her friend from childhood, Truman Capote.

“Furious Hours” nearly writes that unfinished book to get to the complex story of the enigmatic Nelle Harper Lee herself. It is beautifully written and elegantly structured. It’s almost two books in one: there is such a whirlwind of real-life murders, you almost forget that Harper Lee is involved. By then you’re nearly halfway through, and the adventure plunges ahead again.

Casey Cep has penned a revealing, engaging, and genre-spanning opus, impressive in its detail and especially delightful in audiobook form. Don’t miss it.

13 of 15 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Tybee Boi
  • 2019-06-11

Exploitation

While Cep's narrative of the murder was engaging, we learned nothing not already known in the public domain. My problem is more of resentment that once again Harper Lee is being exploited for personal gain. I firmly believe that Harper Lee never meant for GO SET A WATCHMAN, a first draft of MOCKINGBIRD, to ever be published. And now we have a book written about a book never written by Harper Lee.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • william
  • 2019-05-10

Confusing. A very difficult book to “hear”

Perhaps this book would be better if one were to read rather than listen to it. Harper Lee might think even less of this book if she heard the mispronunciations of important words or names like Evelyn Waugh or Studs Terkel. I did hear some interesting information about the author & the history of her time.

Largely very disappointing book—perhaps the author could add an advanced organizer to help guide the reader.


15 of 18 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Joseph Wu
  • 2019-06-06

Great book, needs a Southern narrator

The book itself is fascinating, particularly being from central Alabama and having some familiarity with the area around Lake Martin that serves as the setting for the book. I learned much about the history of the area that I did not know before, and about Harper Lee's life. Unfortunately, the narrator detracted from my listening with mispronunciations of places and people's names. A narrator from the South, particularly one from Alabama, would have made this more atmospheric and enjoyable.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Ecarrico
  • 2019-05-19

Narrator is difficult to listen to

I’m having trouble keeping up with the story because of the bland, robotic like voice of the narrator.

15 of 20 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Gail
  • 2019-07-08

Didn't care for narrator

I found this narrator to have an odd habit of putting the stress on the wrong syllables in words, or reading a long sentence in a monotone. I wish I had read this one vs. listening to it, as the story is fascinating.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Mollie
  • 2019-06-16

Know how to say the place names

The court case that is being followed is fascinating!

There are times when the author deviates too far off topic into some connections that are interesting, but not necessary (the voodoo/hoodoo part is a good example).

A lot of people have complained about the narrator, but I didn't think she was that bad. However, I'm from the area the book is about, and the narrator cannot say the names of many of the places connected to it. That's annoying. An example is the city of Opelika. She keeps saying "Oh-puh-leek-ah," but it is pronounced "Oh-puh-lie-kah." Just an observance that maybe things like that should be checked out before committed to audio.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Ted
  • 2019-05-09

Slow

Had a hard time getting into the book. Very slow and too much explanation on the insurance side.

8 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • C. Taylor
  • 2019-07-16

Story is interesting. Locations are mispronounced

I am from this area and was disheartened at the multiple mispronunciations of locations. The person reading this did not have a dynamic voice and didn't even take the time to learn how to pronounce the locations of Kowaliga or Opelika. As for the story, it was slow at times and interesting in others. This book takes several long winded tangents unrelated to the story. I didn't need to know the history of insurance. I found the lives of the people interesting.

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Joyce
  • 2019-07-12

Terrible Narrator

I had just finished listening to an interview conducted by the mighty Joe Donahue on my local PBS Station (WAMC) when I ordered this book. The interview was with New Yorker staff writer and author, Casey Cep, and the author of Furious Hours. She spoke with such clarity I just knew her research and writing were sure to be impeccable. In short, I had to have this book, As it turned out, I was barely able to bear it through Chapter 1. I gave it up and decided to write this review.

I should add I have severe Macular degeneration and, as I can no longer read, am dependent on Audio for the ingestion of all written material. Unfortunately, I was so excited about the prospect of 'ingesting' Furious Hours, that when placing my order i forgot my Ironclad Rule when ordering audio books, which is (as I can't read the reviews) LISTEN TO THE SAMPLE!!

I hate to come down hard on anyone trying to hack out a living in these difficult times. However, the narrator's voice is grating and nasal. Her selection as narrator for this probably impressive book is unfair to her, to me and most importantly to Casey Cep.

I may soldier on, or may give up and return it. JBS