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Furious Hours
Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee | Casey Cep
The stunning true story of an Alabama serial killer, and the case that obsessed the author of To Kill a Mockingbird in the years after the publication of her classic novel--a complicated and difficult time in Harper Lee's life that, until now, has been largely neglected. The Reverend Willie Maxwell was a Baptist preacher in rural Alabama who was accused of murdering his first wife in 1970. Over the next seven years, his second wife, his brother, and his nephew all died under suspicious circumstances, too--each with life insurance policies taken out by the Reverend himself. With the help of a savvy lawyer, Tom Radney, Maxwell escaped justice for years, to the dismay and confusion of locals, who came to believe that the Reverend was also a practitioner of voodoo. Then, in 1977, the teenage daughter of his third wife was also murdered. At her funeral, the victim's uncle shot and killed the Reverend in a chapel full of witnesses--and was subsequently acquitted, thanks to Radney, the same lawyer who had represented the Reverend for all those years, and whose previous career as a liberal politician had already made him infamous around the state. Sitting in the audience during that 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 seventeen years earlier. Now, Casey Cep brings this nearly inconceivable, gripping story to life on the page: from the shocking murders and the chicanery of insurance fraud to the courtroom drama and the racial politics of the Deep South. At the same time, it is a vividly told, elegiac account of Harper Lee's quest to write another book after To Kill a Mockingbird, and a deeply moving portrait of this beloved writer's struggle with fame, success, and the mysteries of artistic creativity.
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mhillis
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Hi Littens! Furious Hours was our most recent book club pick! I thought the first part about the true crime was more interesting than the second part about Harper Lee.

Now time for a #BFCr4 update! I‘m happy with my progress on exercise and taking my lunch even though I‘m in the middle of a busy semester!

wanderinglynn Way to go! 🙌🏻 3w
ShelfRighteous Glad to know you're sticking to your goals even when you're busy. Way to go💪🏼💪🏼💪🏼 3w
MatchlessMarie I bought this a couple months ago. It looks super interesting! 2w
48 likes3 comments
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britt_brooke
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Casey Cep interviewed by Margaret Renkl at Southern Festival of Books. This was such a great session! I really enjoyed Cep‘s book, and today she discussed the book‘s organization, the case, and Harper Lee. I loved hearing her thoughts on Truman Capote, too.

TNbookworm This was one of my favorite sessions. Casey Cep was such a good speaker and she and Margaret Renkl had a great rapport. Wish I had spotted you, would have loved to say hello. 1mo
britt_brooke @TNbookworm Oh dang! Sorry we missed each other. One of these days we‘ll meet up. It was a great session. I borrowed the book from the library right when it was published and enjoyed it. I was going to buy a copy and have it signed, but annoyingly, the Parnassus tent was sold out. 1mo
TNbookworm Yep same here. I was going to splurge and do the same! 1mo
britt_brooke @TNbookworm I was pretty mad about it at the time. I did buy Renkl‘s book and got it signed, though. It sounds good! 1mo
83 likes4 comments
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Nitpickyabouttrains
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Pickpick

Not the book I thought I was going to read. A murder case. Harper lee covered it. Talks about her life, her friendships. And what may have happened to this story.

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Chelsea.Poole
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Pickpick

Finished this intriguing #audiobook while multitasking. I'm trying to be a better plant mom and propagated new babies this weekend (pictured) while listening to my book. I found this two-part tale to be quite different but the connection between Harper Lee, and the Reverend Maxwell all makes sense. I enjoyed both parts of the book and learned much about the famous author I didn't know. 🌱

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Chelsea.Poole
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We went apple picking (in our own yard!) and I made baked apples 🍎 while listening to my book. Got a lot of my book done as the boys napped. Now to eat the baked apples over coffee cake my mom made. Multitasking at its finest! Also, the weather is finally cool and rainy, fall feeling. 🍁
#audiobook

LiteraryinLititz This sounds like a perfect fall day! 1mo
Ruthiella 😋 yum! 1mo
Zelma Yum! I love apple season. 1mo
See All 6 Comments
RealBooks4ever What a wonderful day! 💜 1mo
Chelsea.Poole @ruthiella @zelma I have apples coming out of my ears! Wish I could share with you all! 🍎 1mo
88 likes1 stack add6 comments
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Addison_Reads
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Pickpick

This book almost reads like two separate books. The first part being a true crime story about Reverend Maxwell and the mysterious death of his family members. The second part a biography on Harper Lee.

I did enjoy this book, but it was different than I expected. I thought there would be more emphasis on Lee's involvement in the case, instead we receive more of a background on the lawyer involved.

Still an informative read though.

Hooked_on_books I agree about it being different from expected, but I also liked it. I listened to it on audio and don‘t know if there were pictures in the book. Is that Maxwell? Just goes to show you can‘t tell about people. He looks totally trustworthy to me and he definitely was not! 2mo
Addison_Reads @Hooked_on_books I listened to the audiobook as well, but I was curious what he looked like so I found this online. I agree with you too, he does appear trustworthy. Looks can be deceiving, especially in his case. 2mo
28 likes2 comments
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megzlynn
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AutumnRLS On my wish list :) 2mo
85 likes4 stack adds2 comments
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IamIamIam
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Mehso-so

A good, but slow moving account of the Reverend Willie Maxwell who was suspected in the deaths of 5 family members in an insurance scam and the man who murdered Maxwell at his stepdaughter's funeral. Lee didn't feature as prominently as I would have liked but I did find out that she was a Mets fan and would travel to Shea to see them! 😍 Good for lawyers and life insurance brokers but not a casual fan. #Booked2019 #NewIn2019 #Autumn

Cinfhen I‘ve seen other reviews that were similar to yours. This sounds like a #BorrowNotBuy 2mo
IamIamIam @Cinfhen Definitely!!! I'd have been really angry if I bought it and only the very last section was about Lee and also had very little information about her looking into Maxwell. I don't like to disparage authors but it's like Lee was thrown in so this book would sell. That being said, the story of Willie Maxwell was really interesting! 2mo
BarbaraTheBibliophage The author must live near me because she‘s making the rounds of nearby bookstores. I‘m glad to have a review, so I can prioritize other author events. 🤪 2mo
IamIamIam @BarbaraTheBibliophage I'd be interested to hear about how she came by the info about Lee and the Maxwell case but I wouldn't really make an effort to go see her, lol! That sounds so mean! Her talking about Lee and Capote did make me want to pull out his giant biography I've never gotten to, though! There's a bonus! Lol 2mo
40 likes1 stack add5 comments
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IamIamIam
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I know she only wrote 1 book but this is really dragging along.... 😴😴😴

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IamIamIam
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Fun fact: Harper Lee's first name, Nelle, is her grandmother's name spelled backwards, Ellen. She went by Harper because people pronounced her name as "Nellie" and if she told the publishers that she couldn't handle that.

Alwaysbeenaloverofbooks Interesting!!! 2mo
IamIamIam @Alwaysbeenaloverofbooks Right? I'd never heard that before! 2mo
36 likes2 comments
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Billypar
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Mehso-so

Tough book to rate. Starts with a bizarre true crime story from 1970s Alabama involving a reverend who killed spouses and family members after taking out life insurance policies in their names. Then...a biography of Harper Lee. Eventually it gets to her work on what would have been her 2nd book, the true story of the murders. But the quick murder mystery start halts too abruptly: I enjoyed learning about Lee's life, but less would have been more.

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IamIamIam
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I was unaware that I had signed up for a history of life insurance... 🤔

This chapter was unexpected.

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IamIamIam
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Getting this started while I wait for #HollowCity to become available. I have 1 more book for #Booked2019 #summer to go and then I'm set for #Winter! #NewIn2019
@Cinfhen @BarbaraTheBibliophage @4thhouseontheleft

4thhouseontheleft 👏 👏 😃 2mo
Cinfhen Yay!!!! Can‘t believe it‘s almost the final quarter 2mo
IamIamIam @Cinfhen @4thhouseontheleft *bows deeply* I can't believe how quickly it went AND that I was able to keep up!!! LOL 2mo
33 likes3 comments
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Come-read-with-me
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Pickpick

This book is meticulously researched and written with the depth and detachment of a great biography. Cep paints a picture of Harper Lee that is both hopeful and bleak. I‘m guessing that the style of the book would not be appealing to everyone but I enjoyed it.

rather_be_reading i have to talk to u abt this one! 2mo
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DogEaredBooks
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A great surprise awaited my today when I checked the mail! @nelehelen ‘s giveaway package arrived and she went above and beyond! Thank you so much and I can‘t wait to dig in!

nelehelen Yay you got it!! 😊😊😊 2mo
38 likes1 comment
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Come-read-with-me
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My September TBR stack. Now that the term has started I‘m not sure I‘ll make it through my stack. On the other hand sleeping is highly overrated!!

rather_be_reading all great picks!! cant wait to start You! 2mo
Come-read-with-me @rather_be_reading I‘m looking forward to this as well. I got the recommendation from a really great source 🤓 2mo
40 likes2 comments
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Jenken1998
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Pickpick

Interesting. The first section is about an Alabama man, Rev Maxwell, who accused of killing family members for insurance money. He then himself is killed by a relative. The second section is about his attorney who represented Rev Maxwell and then the man accused of killing Rev Maxwell. The third section is about author Harper Lee who attended the trial and was to write a true crime book about it like her best friend Truman Capote. 👇

Jenken1998 I look at it as more of a snapshot of the social and political climate of Alabama during that time. Not so much as an in depth look at Harper Lee. 3mo
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Bookwormjillk
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This book has been unputdownable so far.

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Well-ReadNeck
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PurpleyPumpkin Sounds fascinating!👍🏽 3mo
readtheworld I‘m listening to this right now and really enjoying it! 3mo
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JSW
Pickpick

Intriguing history. Detailed but clear, Cep walks us through a geographical area, politics, history, people, murder, and Harper Lee. Well-organized and absent from didacticism and judgment.

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Redwritinghood
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Mehso-so

My interest often waned with this one. Part 1 deals with the murders Maxwell is suspected of committing. Part 2 deals with the attorney who defended Maxwell‘s killer. Finally, Part 3 is sort of a biography of Lee and some of the work she did toward writing a true crime account of Maxwell. Parts 1 & 2 didn‘t fit very well with Part 3. I also didn‘t get the feeling Lee was “obsessed” with the case and some of the author‘s conclusions were a stretch

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mdemanatee
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Mehso-so

Unpopular opinion time: I was only meh on this. I thought it was two separate books that weren‘t tied together completely. And while I like to Kill a Mockingbird, I am not a Harper Lee fangjrl. The bits about her were interesting but didn‘t feel pointed to or tied in with the case she was studying. This may have been a limit of the sources but 🤷‍♀️

Redwritinghood Just finished this one and felt absolutely the same way about it. 4mo
IamIamIam I'm zoning out so badly but I've got 2.5 hrs left and Lee hasn't even started talking to people about the case yet!! I want to see what she does with it but I should have quit at the life insurance lesson! 😴 2mo
mdemanatee @IamIamIam From my recollection, not much of that happens 2mo
16 likes3 comments
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Floresj
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Pickpick

This book is a slow boil, with each section gaining speed as you read. The first portion describes the murder and fraud of The Reverend, the second portion tells the story of the defense lawyer, and the third details Harper Lee‘s life and her research into the first two parts of this book into her own true crime novel. The Harper Lee portion of the book was difficult to put down and makes me want to reread TKAM and In Cold Blood again.

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Mitch
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Pickpick

Part literary biography, part murder mystery, part courtroom drama Cep skilfully makes sense of a complex case, introducing us to the key players & politics of the day. It felt like 2 books in 1. In the first half Cep has written the book that Harper Lee meticulously researched but struggled to write & in the second half we get the story of Lee, the loneliness, the struggles with race politics, ethics, family, friends & fame that shaped her life.

Suet624 I love reading about Harper Lee. I'll have to search this one out. 4mo
76 likes2 stack adds1 comment
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CaramelLunacy
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Left to its own devices, the world will never transform into words...

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CaramelLunacy
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I am not versed in Alabama law, but the author's explanation of the difference between accessory and accomplice seems backwards to me...

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megzlynn
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Pickpick

I love Harper Lee, true crime, and Alabama history. This book ties all of that together for me. The first part of the book hooked me. It started out by talking about the history of a man made lake by Alabama power. My towns history is similar to that. My only complaint is sometimes she gave history of things that was not pertinent to the story. The part about Harper Lee also seemed disconnected to the true crime section. ⭐️⭐️⭐️

88 likes3 stack adds
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nelehelen
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Pickpick

3.5/5
A very soft pick. The 1st part of the book about Reverend Maxwell, his murders & insurance fraud is fascinating. But, as I moved through the second and last parts of the book, I started to lose interest. It was a little too dry and the whole thing felt a little too long-winded for me. I did really appreciate her biography of Harper Lee at the end, but wished it went more in depth about her connection with the Maxwell murders.

#Booked2019

BarbaraTheBibliophage Nice review—what prompt are you using it for? 4mo
nelehelen @BarbaraTheBibliophage for the genre-busting prompt! 😊 4mo
CaramelLunacy I have to say, after reading this, I would have loved to have heard more about her legwork for Capote's In Cold Blood, too 4mo
27 likes3 comments
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megzlynn
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#pennyapage was a success. Now to take my husband lunch at work. It‘s been a good day. I‘ll show you guys later what I got and how much I saved!

MyNamesParadise What bookstore is that? Looks like a books-a-million. 4mo
Crazeedi Looks awesome! Lucky you 4mo
brit91 My happy place!!😍📚 4mo
103 likes4 comments
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everlocalwest
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Pickpick

The best thing about this book is how Cep structured it. The murders lead into the trial and end with a quasi biography of Lee and her attempts at her own version of In Cold Blood. I definitely would have loved to read Lee's book and we had much debate in book club about why she was unable to complete it. This is a fantastic book club pick by the way, a lot to dig in to.

mhillis We are reading this next for book club! 4mo
ElishaLovesBooks Ooooooh! I just read the inside flap of this one -I‘m glad to hear it‘s good! 4mo
Blaire I‘m very excited for this one! It is sitting on my kitchen counter waiting to be read. 4mo
See All 6 Comments
everlocalwest @mhillis Awesome! You will have a great meeting!! 4mo
everlocalwest @ElishaLovesBooks Everyone I've talked to has really enjoyed it! 4mo
everlocalwest @blaire Knowing you have a good book waiting at home is the best feeling! 4mo
35 likes2 stack adds6 comments
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Jen2
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Pickpick

Very good.

HLouiseM Ooh! I heard the author on the Longform Podcast; Can‘t wait to read it! 5mo
86 likes7 stack adds1 comment
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RealBooks4ever
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My June round-up! Favorite book: FURIOUS HOURS. I learned about a true crime I‘d never heard of before! Least favorite by a long shot: UNDERRATED. A pile of crap. Thought I‘d like CREATURE TECH more than I did. I‘d follow Russell Brand to the ends of the earth. I read THE GENTLE TAMERS cuz I luv me some Western History! DREAM STALKERS was pure escapism. 💜📚

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RealBooks4ever
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Pickpick

The story of murder and fraud was great. I also learned a bit more about Harper Lee too! Recommended! 💜

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EmMcKee

"Whatever had Lee spooked, she found a familiar way of handling that stress and all the others: the shortage of facts, the lack of an ideal protagonist, her unfamiliarity with the lives of African Americans, a certain uncomfortable moral muddiness concerning black criminality in a criminally racist society, and a related discomfort with her own deep delight in the self-serving mythologies of the southern Gentry."

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EmMcKee

(Harper Lee, in a letter to Gregory Peck)

"Writing is easy; all you do is sit staring at the blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead."

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Kluckleesie
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A perfect evening

britt_brooke I really liked this one - enjoy! 5mo
8 likes1 comment
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teainthelibrary
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Pickpick

One part true crime, one part courtroom drama, and one part biography of Harper Lee, Furious Hours was a fascinating look at the book that never was and the murders that inspired it. While I enjoyed the entire book, I fell in love with the last third - Harper Lee has always held a special place in my heart, and I found those chapters to be a tribute to her person and her vision. I admire her so much - she truly was an amazing woman and author.

MrBook Great review! 5mo
readordierachel You've really made me want to read this! 5mo
teainthelibrary @readordierachel hahah good! I want everyone to read it 😍 5mo
43 likes1 stack add3 comments
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teainthelibrary

On Nelle Harper Lee aka me: “She wouldn‘t wear hats or makeup, and she didn‘t dance or date; she smoked constantly, stayed awake all night reading the Victorians, and cursed like the boys her classmates‘ mothers warned them about.” 🖤

batsy 😍 5mo
30 likes1 comment
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mklong
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Pickpick

The first half of this lays out the story of Rev. Maxwell, a suspected serial killer in 1970's Alabama, without much style or fanfare. This choice makes more sense in the second half where she explores Harper Lee's investigation and decision not to publish a book about the case. If Cep had tried to write about the case with any kind of flair, it would be hard for a reader not to compare her choices with what could have been if Lee had written it.

ClairesReads Looking forward to this one 5mo
54 likes1 stack add1 comment
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frenky_muller
Pickpick

Finished. It was entertaining. And at the same time like... like... mmm... i was like kid on swings. Whoosh - and can't stop reading, whoosh - and can't even turn the page.
And also it was like three lil books under one cover. Author tried to intersect them but mostly they were running on parallel lines. But entertaining.

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MallenNC
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Pickpick

This book has three distinct parts -- if you're looking for Harper Lee, she appears in the opening and then not again until the third section. The case of The Reverend Willie Maxwell is more than enough to keep the reader interested. I appreciated that Casey Cep lets each part build its own momentum. There are a few mysteries in this - including why Harper Lee never wrote another book. It's a fascinating look at her painful writing process.

27 likes3 stack adds
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Pruzy
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Pickpick

Wow! This is one of the best books I‘ve read in 2019! If you thought Harper Lee called it quits on writing after finishing To Kill a Mockingbird, you‘d be wrong! Partly a biography of Lee, partly a true crime story of “The Reverend”, which was the focus of Lee‘s 2nd book (that she never finished)and partly a legal thriller. I empathize with Lee‘s struggles after Mockingbird, and wow, I‘d consider visiting Alabama (crazy politics aside)!

megzlynn Come visit! I live here and love everything except the state government lol. 😂 5mo
LibrarianJen You‘ve got me sold! On the book part, not so sure on Alabama... 5mo
Pruzy @megzlynn Sounds like a solid endorsement of Alabama to me! 5mo
See All 6 Comments
Pruzy @LibrarianJen That‘s 100% understandable 5mo
LeahBergen I‘m looking forward to this one! 5mo
Pruzy @LeahBergen I‘m in a book hangover from it! I don‘t know what to read next...time to stare at my shelves. 5mo
69 likes6 stack adds6 comments
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Pam.Kokomo
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Pickpick

A look at the case Harper Lee tried to write about for years before handing all her work back to the family.

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britt_brooke
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Pickpick

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Part murderous true crime, part Harper Lee biography, this book dips a toe in some fascinating southern history. Initially, I wanted more Rev Maxwell and more Lee, but Cep accomplished what she intended. To go further in depth would‘ve yielded too much information for one book. Impact would‘ve been lost. This well-written account is organized in distinct parts. For me, this worked, but I can see how some might prefer more commingling.

WellReadCatLady Just put this book on hold! 5mo
britt_brooke @WellReadCatLady I look forward to hearing your thoughts! 5mo
Reviewsbylola Def stacking! 5mo
See All 6 Comments
Pruzy I was amazed that Lee was still writing essentially the whole time after Mockingbird was published...definitely not something they taught in high school! 5mo
britt_brooke @Pruzy I was surprised, too, but now it makes total sense. I want to get my hands on a full-on Lee biography now. 5mo
Pruzy @britt_brooke Or a book of her letters! Seems like that would be where her literary output post Mockingbird would be found 5mo
101 likes8 stack adds6 comments
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Carleneishere
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Summer stacation in Alabama

Bklover Staycations are wonderful!! Enjoy! 5mo
teainthelibrary I'm also reading this - it's pretty fantastic! 5mo
Pruzy If that is a mint based alcoholic beverage next to you, sign me up! 5mo
Carleneishere Sadly, I‘m dieting, so it‘s like sparkling water with ice and tequila 5mo
13 likes4 comments
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jfount
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Pickpick

An intriguing book about things that can‘t be known, really. It‘s not just about a murder case, or why Harper Lee only wrote one book, or even just the south and how outsiders and natives do or don‘t understand it. It‘s about all those things together and separately I guess I‘d say.

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MallenNC
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I work at a college and when #SchoolsOut for students we get half-day Fridays. It‘s rainy here today so I‘m spending the afternoon reading. This book is great! #SongsofSummer

Alwaysbeenaloverofbooks Yay!!! 📚❤️ 5mo
OriginalCyn620 I love to stay inside and read when it‘s raining out! 😊 5mo
39 likes1 stack add2 comments
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teainthelibrary
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Good morning! ☀️☕️ I‘m ridiculously excited to start this one today! Anyone else read it or have it stacked?! 📚

LeahBergen I‘ll be buying this one. 👍🏻 5mo
marleed Stacked to read! 5mo
Theaelizabet Read it, liked it! 5mo
See All 7 Comments
teainthelibrary @Theaelizabet I‘m about halfway through - really enjoying it! 5mo
Pruzy I read and and very thoroughly enjoyed it! How are you finding it? 5mo
teainthelibrary @Pruzy super good so far! I can't wait to get to the parts about Harper Lee 🙂 5mo
Pruzy @teainthelibrary It‘s definitely as good if not better than the other parts! 5mo
41 likes2 stack adds7 comments
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Well-ReadNeck
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Pickpick

One of my favorite reads of the year!!! This book tells the stories of (1) a preacher turned serial killer (2) his lawyer who represented the preacher and then represented his vigilante killer and (3) Harper Lee, her career and her time investigating the preacher and his murder in anticipation of writing a book that never happened. Fabulous!!!

MicheleinPhilly Glad to hear it! I just picked this up yesterday. 5mo
Blaire I really want to read this one! The review in the nyt made it sound fascinating! 5mo
Susannah I don't know if you'll want to answer, but SPOILER request: Why did Harper Lee never write the book? 5mo
Well-ReadNeck @Susannah That wasn‘t firmly resolved. A couple of speculations included that she couldn‘t find a way to organize the material or that she ultimately lost interest or didn‘t think it was a good enough story. 5mo
Susannah Interesting. Thank you! 5mo
88 likes5 stack adds5 comments