Cep book

Author Casey Cep said former Outlook editor Alvin Benn, left, and former reporter Jim Earnhardt, right, helped her with her novel on the Coosa County murders. Cep will be at the library 5:30 p.m. Wednesday for a Q&A and signing.

Author Casey Cep will host a question-and-answer session on her new novel “Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee” about the 1976 Coosa County murders and Lee’s involvement trying to write about it at Adelia M. Russell Library on Wednesday.

Lee attempted to write about the murders tied to Rev. Willie Maxwell and his murderer Robert Burns. Local attorney Tom Radney defended both Maxwell and Burns.

Cep said she was covering Lee’s release of “Go Set a Watchman” in 2015 in Monroeville when she heard about the author spending time in Lake Martin. Cep wrote about what Lee did in the Lake Martin community to gather information.

“It’s partly about the Rev. Maxwell and those murders, partly about (his lawyer Radney) and his political and legal career and a lot of it is about Harper Lee as a writer and what made her interested in this case,” Cep said. “It was an interesting example of what could you prove and what could you document and what evidence was there for either theory.”

Cep said she learned a lot of about Lee including how friendly she was.

“A lot of people experienced her as friendly and gregarious and they had these great conversations with her about the case and about history and about personalities around town in Alabama, so that was a little bit of a surprise to me,” Cep said.

It took Cep four years to write the book including doing research in the area and talking to The Outlook former editor Alvin Benn and reporter Jim Earnhardt, who originally reported the cases.

Cep said she decided to have a question-and-answer talk in Alexander City because she met so many people who helped her here.

“It’s already been the case people come out of the woodwork with new stories and new information, so I think it will be fun and I’m hoping people come with even more information and stories about (Lee’s) time in town and about (Radney) and that original case,” Cep said.

Cep said her novel is available at Alabama Booksmith, Books-A-Million and Amazon.

The question-and-answer talk will be at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. The library is at 318 Church St.

Reporter