Book Recommendations

Furious Hours by Casey Cep

After reading Go Set a Watchman, and then the biography of Harper Lee, this book was an obvious next step.  Casey Cep tells us of yet another untold story of Harper Lee, set against the woods and lakes of east-central Alabama.

Furious Hours

by Casey Cep
New York; Knopf, 2019

Cep does an almost obsessive job at unearthing drowned details of a most unusual trial, one that never made it into book form for Harper Lee.  She does this by detailing the events in three parts.  The first part details the scene and the characters of the crimes. The second part details the secondary characters affected by those crimes, and the third part involves Lee’s relation to the trial and the families involved as she attempted to create a non-fiction book from the trial.

First, if you are a resident or sometime resident of Lake Martin, reading this book is a must.  I know that it has become a place of peace and tranquility for many in Georgia and Alabama – but its origins were anything but.  The history behind this manmade lake made my skin crawl – and I think that was Cep’s point.

Where Insurance and Voodoo Collide

Because of the nature of the crimes, both insurance and voodoo get a fascinating spotlight in this book. The Reverend Willie Maxwell created a lake-wide fog of myths with his persona and actions.  Before this book, I never knew I wanted to know so much about the origins of the insurance industry.  Truthfully, that trivia will stay in my mind for decades just waiting for the chance to use in a cocktail conversation.

In the second part of Cep’s book, the drama and heartache caused by the crimes of the Reverend Willie Maxwell and his killer make the pages fly.  You cannot stop reading because you are anxious for this guy to be caught in the act.  What motivated him?  Who motivated him? Who will catch him?

Finally, Cep delves deep into the life and work of Lee.  Lee worked with her childhood neighbor, Truman Capote, on a large project in Kansas.  It was her first time assisting someone on research for a crime novel. Cep suggests it fueled her drive to write about the Maxwell crime story in Alabama.

Cep shows that Lee was hugely successful in research, if not in novel productivity.  Capote produced countless works to her two. In addition, Capote’s flashy personality was a foil to Lee’s:

“Lee, by contrast, was so elusive that even her mysteries have mysteries: not only what she wrote, but how; not only when she stopped, but why”

p. 256, New York: Knopf, 2019

And now you see why I’m currently obsessed with Harper Lee.

Last Warning

Aside from the expected and tired Ivy League assumptions this author makes about the South, I enjoyed this book.  If you want to dig deep into real-life crime for a good solid 3-5 days, this is your jam.  If you enjoy learning just a tad bit more about one of the most reclusive authors in American history, this is for you.

Rabbit Hole (and spoiler) Alert

Lee did not end up writing about this crime.  Cep says that a couple of interested parties contacted her for financial arrangements with her research, and partnership, but she declined both.  One of those people was Madison Jones, who apparently wrote a book about a series of murders in Columbus, GA.

Where I used to live.

So yes, now I am going to find and read his book: Season of the Strangler.

Columbus, GA.

Furious Hours

by Casey Cep
New York; Knopf, 2019

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