For those of you who enjoyed Sharyn McCrumb’s ballad series, you are in for another aspect of life in Appalachia unlinked to her other works or characters. This time McCrumb takes you to the year 1866 to explore the real truth in the crime of the legendary Tom Dooley.
The Civil War has just ended. Tom Dula (Dooley’s real name) vows to take life easy after being released from a Union prison camp. He returns home to Wilkes County, North Carolina and continues to see his life long sweetheart, self-absorbed Ann Melton, who has since married in order to survive the hard times. In comes Pauline Foster, Ann’s cousin, who is the catalyst that brings about the demise of three people.
McCrumb combs period records, maps and trial transcripts to rewrite the myth of Tom Dooley in this fictionalized, but fact-based version of how Tom came to be tried and hung for the murder of a young woman. Even though few of the characters are sympathetic, McCrumb has a very readable style that engages the reader and makes the pages flow quickly. The fact that the story is based on the latest evidence makes it that much more compelling.
If you have an interest in how people create legends, in how to separate myth from truth or what life was like in the post-war South, then this is the book to read. Likewise, you might just be a fan of all things Appalachian. If that is the case, you won’t want to miss reading The Ballad of Tom Dooley.