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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 15 mins
4 out of 5 stars (6 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

"She explains as well as it is likely ever to be explained why Lee went silent after To Kill a Mockingbird. (The clue’s in Cep’s title.) And it’s here, in her descriptions of another writer’s failure to write, that her book makes a magical little leap, and it goes from being a superbly written true-crime story to the sort of story that even Lee would have been proud to write." (Michael Lewis, The New York Times Book Review)

"A compelling hybrid of a novel, 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)

"Cep delivers edge-of-your-seat courtroom drama while brilliantly reinventing Southern Gothic.... The result is an enthralling work of narrative nonfiction - Cep’s debut - and a poignant meditation on a book that never was." (O Magazine)

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    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.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Nancy Carlton Bendinger
  • 2019-06-30

wonderful book, poor pronunciations of towns

enjoyed it very much but feel narrator should've researched correct pronunciations of towns mentioned .

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Alissa Marshall
  • 2019-06-29

Wonderful book, poor reader

The quality and depth of research that Ceps lends to this story is quite something, although the murder story is far less interesting than the half of the book she spends on Harpee Lee, which is revelatory. To Kill a Mockingbird is certainly in my top 10 all-time favorite books, a true Bildungsroman with perhaps the best use of the first-person detached point of view in American literature. So Harper Lee, with all her enigmatic seclusion, is fascinating fodder for any lit-lover. But the reader of this recording added nothing to the book. In fact, she drove me crazy with certain faux-pas such as "MayCOMB" instead of " MAYcum." Horrific!!

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    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 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.

17 of 20 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
  • 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.


17 of 20 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    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.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    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.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    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.

17 of 22 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Leila's Lass
  • 2019-09-24

Compelling Story...Annoying Narrator

The book itself is engaging and quite captivating but right off the bat, I took an immediate dislike to the narrator. She has a very annoying habit of giving odd emphasis to words that often comes off as robotic. I actually bought both the Audible version and the Kindle version. Initially, I thought it’d be a nice story for my husband and I to listen to in the car on long drives but after just 10 minutes, I regretted using my Audible credit on this one. We just finished a 3 hour trip listening to this and I’ve already decided I’m going to read the rest on my Kindle. It’s a shame a better narrator wasn’t chosen for this interesting story.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Claire
  • 2019-05-27

Ruined by Narrator

This promised to be an amazing book. However, the narrator lacks the gravitas required. Additionally, why is she negligent in looking up the the author, James Agee?

4 of 6 people found this review helpful