by Casey Cep - £9.99 Cornerstone (2020)
paperback ISBN 13: 9780099510598 | ISBN 10: 0099510596
SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2019 BAILLIE GIFFORD PRIZE FOR NON-FICTION
SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2020 CWA ALCS GOLD DAGGER FOR NON-FICTION
A BARACK OBAMA BOOK OF THE YEAR
A SUNDAY TIMES BOOK OF THE YEAR
AN ECONOMIST BOOK OF THE YEAR
A SPECTATOR BOOK OF THE YEAR
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. As Alabama is consumed by these gripping events, it's not long until news of the case reaches Alabama's - and America's - most famous writer.
Intrigued by the story, Harper Lee makes a journey back to her home state to witness the Reverend's killer face trial. Harper had the idea of writing her own In Cold Blood, the true-crime classic she had helped her friend Truman Capote research. Lee spent a year in town reporting on the Maxwell case and many more years trying to finish the book she called The Reverend.
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.
This is the story Harper Lee wanted to write.
This is the story of why she couldn't.
(Price & availability last checked: October 2020)
In booklists: Crime, Criminology and Criminal Justice, Women Writers and Women in Literature, Books About Books!, In categories: Society, Welfare, Justice & the State, Feminism & Women, Poetry & Writing, Humour, Gifts & Seasonal,