1. Books

'Furious Hours' author Casey Cep finds a nonstop book club as she tours the U.S.

Casey Cep’s latest book is “Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee.”
Published Jun. 27

As America prepares to celebrate its birthday, we caught up with Cep. Her debut book, Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee, is a deep dive into the later work of one of this country's most beloved authors. It recounts Lee's efforts to tell the story of Willie Maxwell, a rural Alabama preacher suspected of murdering five of his family members for insurance money. Although Lee's true-crime story, tentatively titled The Reverend, was never published, through Furious Hours readers learn the details of Maxwell's life (and surprising death) and also gain insight into Lee's life after the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird. Cep, a Maryland native, is a graduate of Harvard University and studied as a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times and the New Republic.

What's on your nightstand?

I'm usually reading more than one book at a time, so right now there is a stack on my desk for an article I'm finishing about women's suffrage. The best of that bunch, and the one everyone should read for the anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, is Elaine Weiss' The Woman's Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote. There are two stacks by my bed. One contains books I read often, and that includes my favorite Robert Frost collection, West-Running Brook, which I would recommend to anyone who likes thinking about marriage, fireflies or gardens, or almost anything else. In the other stack are books I'm reading for what I hope will be my next book. I'll have more to say about that soon.

As you travel for your book tour, what has stood out?

What I've loved most about my book tour so far is how much it feels like a nonstop, multicity book club. Sometimes people are reading my book, which never stops astonishing me, but we also end up discussing all the books that helped me write it, and all the writers who inspired me along the way, which is why I got to talk about Ursula Le Guin with a professor in Montgomery, Harold Bloom with a librarian in the Mississippi Delta, John Grisham with a paralegal in Knoxville, Zora Neale Hurston with a store manager in Birmingham and Flannery O'Connor with a priest in Harrisburg. I've never felt so sanguine about the future of reading. I know that a lot of people spend time worried about the fate of the written word, but almost all of the things I love are said to be dying, not just books, but also the church, magazines, newspapers, postal mail, and yet they continue to live, and for that I am grateful.

How will you be spending the Fourth?

I'll be at my family's farm on the Eastern Shore of Maryland for an afternoon cookout on Independence Day. Later on, my wife and I will head to a spot on the Miles River where we can sit in our kayaks and catch two sets of fireworks. I can't think of anywhere I'd rather be.


  1. Author Jami Attenberg Courtesy of Zack Smith Photography
    ‘All This Could Be Yours’ brings dark humor and insight to the story of the dysfunctional Tuchmans. | Review
  2. USF professor and author Steven Murawski spotted a statue of naturalist Alexander von Humboldt in Havana, Cuba. CASTILLO  |  courtesy of Steven Murawski
    The USF professor also recommends Thomas Friedman’s ‘Hot, Flat, and Crowded.’
  3. Novelist Jami Attenberg will be in conversation with fellow author Kristen Arnett on Dec. 2 at Tampa's Oxford Exchange. Courtesy of Zack Smith Photography
    John Cinchett will sign ‘Vintage Tampa Signs and Scenes’ in Tampa as well.
  4. The Bookstore at the  Oxford Exchange during its First Friday event on 09/06/13. TIMES (2013)  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Plus other Instagram-worthy spots around Tampa Bay.
  5. Ace Atkins will discuss and sign his book "Angel Eyes" at Tampa's Oxford Exchange on Thursday. Courtesy of Joe Worthem
    Plus, Ibram X. Kendi’s talk at the University of Tampa is sold out.
  6. Candice Anderson, left, and Alsace Walentine, co-owners of Tombolo Books, rearrange books as attendees of the Times Festival of Reading leave the University Student Center behind them. [Jack Evans | Times]
    The shop plans to open next to Black Crow on First Ave. S before the new year.
  7. Author Ace Atkins Courtesy of Joe Worthem
    In the 47th book about the Boston investigator, he’s searching for a starlet gone missing. | Review
  8. Julie Andrews, right, and her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton, take fans' questions in a Q&A at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater on Nov. 13. JAY CRIDLIN  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The stage and screen icon came to Clearwater to discuss her new memoir ‘Home Work’ and a wide range of other topics.
  9. The book cover for Jean Fruth's "Grassroots Baseball: Where Legends Begin." Sports Publishing
    Actor Maulik Pancholy will also talk about his debut novel for kids at Oxford Exchange.
  10. Meg Tilly Penguin Random House
    In her own romance thrillers, she aims for both darkness and light.