The stunning story of an Alabama serial killer and the true-crime book that Harper Lee worked on obsessively in the years after To Kill a Mockingbird.
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 seventeen years earlier. Lee spent a year in town reporting, and many more 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.
Furious Hours was the book club pick for the few local ladies I’ve made friends with and read with each month. It’s not something I would normally pick up of my own volition. If I read non-fiction its usually memoirs. The true-crime I read has been all because of book club. I actually read To Kill a Mockingbird last month for one of my college classes. I don’t think I would have liked this book at all if I hadn’t already read it.
This book is told in three parts. Part one follows the Reverend who is thought to have killed six people in order to collect their life insurance. But no one was ever able to prove it or take any legal action. His life ends at the funeral of his stepdaughter when one of her relatives shoots him three times and kills him. This man is arrested, then hires the lawyer that the Reverend had used to fight the insurance companies to get his money.
Part two of the book follows the lawyer. This was the part that I had the most trouble with. It goes over the lawyer’s whole history. His political goals and attempts to be elected in several elections. I found myself wondering what the point of his part was and why he was given a whole section of this book. His life history was not needed. I understand his role in the story but it was not deserving of an entire third of this book. When we finally get to the part where the lawyer is defending the man that killed the Reverend, the story picks up again. I really enjoyed the process that the lawyer takes to make sure to win the court trial. It was really interesting to see his process and the things he did to win.
The third and final part is where we finally got to the details about Harper Lee. I only enjoyed learning more about her life because I’d actually read her book. From a writer’s point of view, it was really interesting to read about her publication journey and then absolutely terrifying to see her completely fail to write another book.
Overall, I liked parts of this book and didn’t understand the inclusion of other parts. It was a mostly interesting book that was written well enough like a story for me to enjoy. If you like true crime and/or Harper Lee, you might like this book.
Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.
The Trial of Lizzie Borden tells the true story of one of the most sensational murder trials in American history. When Andrew and Abby Borden were brutally hacked to death in Fall River, Massachusetts, in August 1892, the arrest of the couple’s younger daughter Lizzie turned the case into international news and her trial into a spectacle unparalleled in American history. Reporters flocked to the scene. Well-known columnists took up conspicuous seats in the courtroom. The defendant was relentlessly scrutinized for signs of guilt or innocence. Everyone—rich and poor, suffragists and social conservatives, legal scholars and laypeople—had an opinion about Lizzie Borden’s guilt or innocence. Was she a cold-blooded murderess or an unjustly persecuted lady? Did she, or didn’t she?
The popular fascination with the Borden murders and its central enigmatic character has endured for more than one hundred years. Immortalized in rhyme, told and retold in every conceivable genre, the murders have secured a place in the American pantheon of mythic horror, but one typically wrenched from its historical moment. In contrast, Cara Robertson explores the stories Lizzie Borden’s culture wanted and expected to hear and how those stories influenced the debate inside and outside of the courtroom. Based on transcripts of the Borden legal proceedings, contemporary newspaper accounts, unpublished local accounts, and recently unearthed letters from Lizzie herself, The Trial of Lizzie Borden offers a window onto America in the Gilded Age, showcasing its most deeply held convictions and its most troubling social anxieties.
I received this book as an ARC thanks to NetGalley. I was very excited to read this because I am actually distantly related to Lizzie Borden. So, I was really interested in reading a book about her history. Sadly, this book was a bit hard for me to get through. I found the material dry because it was filled with a majority of direct quotes from research and not a lot of storytelling. I thought I was going to get more of a true crime novel in a storytelling format, but instead, I got a whole lot of info dumping via quotes and dialogue. I was also disappointed with the “new information” that wasn’t really anything solid. I thought there was going to be this big reveal when really, we were just told that there’s more information out there but we don’t know what it is and will likely never have access to it. Overall, I feel like I learned a lot while reading, but I didn’t enjoy the reading experience.
Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.
In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, they rode in chauffeured cars and lived in mansions.
Then, one by one, the Osage began to be killed. Mollie Burkhart watched as her family became a prime target. Her relatives were shot and poisoned. Other Osage were also dying under mysterious circumstances, and many of those who investigated the crimes were themselves murdered.
As the death toll rose, the case was taken up by the newly created FBI and its young, secretive director, J. Edgar Hoover. Struggling to crack the mystery, Hoover turned to a. former Texas Ranger named Tom White, who put together an undercover team, including a Native American agent. They infiltrated this last remnant of the Wild West, and together with the Osage began to expose one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history.
Killers of the Flower Moon was the book club pick for my local book club in the month of January. It’s definitely outside of my usual reading pick. Despite that, I ended up getting engrossed in the story. This is a true crime novel and it totally blew me away. As I get older, I’m finding more and more stories that really should be taught in history classes. This was definitely one of them. The fact that this is something I’d never heard of before this book was incredible to me.
This book tells the story of the injustices against the Osage Indians. They were used and abused and treated inhumanely. They were declared incompetent so that they couldn’t control their own money. They were made to move once, twice, three times before settling in Oklahoma on undesirable land. All of this was done by the government, by the American people. This is why it’s not talked about. Why would the government want to admit the horrible things they’d done and let happen to the Osage people? Treating them as less than people, not even allowing them to be in control of their own money, by doing these things, they allowed all of the horrible things that happened by regulating the Osage this way.
This book is told in three parts. The first following Mollie Burkhart as the family she loves is dying around her, the second from the perspective of FBI Agent White, and the third from the author. I’m still a bit undecided whether or not I liked this. I definitely liked the first two parts. It was interesting to see how it all started from Mollie’s point of view and then to see how it was all wrapped up from White’s point of view, but then the author comes in and says, “Oh you thought it was over? Jokes on you, there’s SO much more.” I liked how it was written, I think I’m just bothered by the ‘but wait, there’s more’ twist. I know it’s not really a twist because it’s literally our history and this is not a plot twist in a fiction novel. I was just very unsatisfied with the idea that there was so much more to the story that no one did anything about despite knowing about it.
Killers of the Flower Moon tells of countless injustices against the Osage people. It was incredible to me just the immense amount of conspiracy and corruption went on during this time. All of the people that should have been doing their jobs to help the Osage Indians did exactly the opposite of that. I’m just still reeling from the events I learned about and I finished this book over a week ago. If you have never heard of this story, you definitely need to read it.
Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.