Author of Furious Hours and New Yorker Contributor
Photo credit: Kathryn Schulz
About Casey Cep
Casey Cep’s Furious Hours tells the stunning story of how one of America’s most beloved and enigmatic authors became obsessed with the story of the Reverend Willie Maxwell, a rural Alabaman preacher accused of murdering five of his family members for insurance money. Harper Lee, the renowned author of To Kill a Mockingbird, traveled back to her native state in the 1970s, hoping to write her own true-crime classic in the mold of In Cold Blood, which she had helped her friend Truman Capote research seventeen years earlier. With the help of a savvy lawyer, Maxwell had evaded 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. But despite the incredible story and years of obsessive research, Lee never finished her book. In Furious Hours, Cep picks up her mantle, bringing the remarkable tale of shocking murders, courtroom drama, and racial politics to life, while also offering a deeply moving portrait of Lee, her struggle with fame and success, and the mystery of artistic creativity.
In her talks, Cep spotlights Harper Lee’s life after To Kill a Mockingbird, and tells the heartbreaking story of why she struggled to release another book. In addition to her lectures about Harper Lee, Cep recounts the fascinating origins and current implications of the true-crime genre, and the history of frauds in American film, literature, and life.
Cep’s work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, and The New Republic, among other publications. She graduated from Harvard College before earning a master’s degree in theology from the University of Oxford, where she studied as a Rhodes Scholar. She lives on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee
This lecture is a look into the life of one of America’s most beloved and enigmatic authors, focusing on the true-crime project that captured her attention in the years after To Kill a Mockingbird. Casey Cep brings to life the shocking murder story that Harper Lee tried to tell together with the heartbreaking story of why she never could.
The Truth About True Crime
True crime is one of the most popular genres today, dominating the page, podcast, and screen. In this talk, Casey Cep recounts its fascinating history, explores its current popularity, and grapples with the many aesthetic and ethical issues for those who tell these stories and those who consume them.
Fraud in Film, Literature, and Life
This fascinating survey of fraud begins with the incredible life insurance scam that caught the attention of writer Harper Lee, but takes audiences back to the origins of the insurance industry and considers some of the greatest scams in American history.
Praise for Casey Cep
Praise for Furious Hours
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
Books by Casey Cep
Media About Casey Cep
- 212 572-2013
- Casey Cep travels from Maryland
“A triumph on every level. One of the losses to literature is that Harper Lee never found a way to tell a gothic true-crime story she’d spent years researching. Casey Cep has excavated this mesmerizing story and tells it with grace and insight and a fierce fidelity to the truth.”
—David Grann, author of Killers of the Flower Moon