First Line: What did I know about murder cases that a man's life should lie in my hands?
Author Sharyn McCrumb had been approached numerous times to write a story about Tom Dooley, but it's such a well-known tale that she really didn't want to touch it. I'm glad she changed her mind.
If you read this book expecting a long written version of the Kingston Trio's "Tom Dooley", think again. McCrumb did her research, tracking down as many of the original documents and trial transcripts as she could. As she read, certain points in the legend didn't make sense, so she dug deeper. The end result is The Ballad of Tom Dooley.
Tom Dula (Dooley is a corruption of his surname) was a handsome young man who survived the Civil War and was coasting along, subsisting as much as possible by his smile and by playing an occasional song. Ever since their early teens, Tom and Ann Foster loved each other. Ann was a renowned beauty. In order to escape a drunken slattern of a mother and an unending passel of siblings, Ann married James Melton, a man of principle and a bit of property. Ann and Tom were undeterred by Ann's marriage and continued to meet.
Down from the mountains walked Pauline Foster, a relative of Ann's. Pauline was born into poverty, and the Civil War only made it worse. Having had to prostitute herself in order to survive, Pauline caught a venereal disease. Seeking treatment from a local doctor after her journey, she hired on at the Meltons, working for room, board, and a small wage she used to pay her doctor bills. She had no love for Ann, and closely guarded every one of selfish Ann's slights to her. Once she saw what Ann and Tom were up to, she knew just how to plot her revenge.
Oftentimes I do not read author's notes or acknowledgements in a book. I did not make that mistake this time. In her notes and acknowledgements, McCrumb lays out how she did her research and arrived at her conclusions. As McCrumb says, "...I did not invent anything: every conclusion I made stems from a fact in the original trial transcript." She also says that she wishes people wouldn't read this book as if it were an episode of CSI. After all, "It can hardly be a mystery when practically anybody in Wilkes County will tell you on first acquaintance that 'Ann did it.'"
The Ballad of Tom Dooley may not be a mystery, but it is the most chilling portrait of a sociopath that I've ever read. Pauline Foster literally made my blood run cold. Some soft-hearted people may try to blame her behavior on the Civil War. Pauline herself will tell you that she was born the way she is. The Civil War only honed her into a sharp blade.
As I devoured this book, something kept tap, tap, tapping at my subconscious. By book's end, I had the answer. The story of Tom and Ann is in many ways an Appalachian version of Wuthering Heights. The parallels are uncanny.
Once again, Sharyn McCrumb has woven a story that kept me spellbound.
The Ballad of Tom Dooley was one of the most heart breaking novels i have ever read. Ms McCrumb has based this novel on truth from much research.
Tom Dooley (real last name Dula)is the story of murder.
Laura Foster, a simple country girl wanting nothing more than to get out from under her father and all his children, left for her to care for after her mother dies has been with Tom many times and is planning on running away to start life over with the man she loves.
Tom is handsome, restless and lives off his momma and his women friends. Don't get me wrong, he is a kind heart, way to kind. He is also deeply in love with Ann Melton who possessed beauty that could control any man & whom was married to James. James was also..way to kind.
Ann and Tom met when they were children and had been in love all their lives. But Ann saw fit to marry James after the war to put food in her stomach and a roof over her head as Tom never did like to work. But her love for Tom never diminished. After her marriage Ann and Tom continued to see each other almost daily. They both understood Toms visits to other women were only that...visits...his heart was Ann's. Laura was Ann's cousin... one of the other women. If i go into more detail the story will be ruined. There is yet so much more to tell.
The author has written this with such feeling that it often brought tears to my eyes and the ending was not what i wanted but it is what truely happened and i went to bed sobbing. I honestly feel sorry for Tom.
The author lives in these Appalachian mountains so the description of life back in the 1800's has been handed down for generations. She is an awsome story teller. I loved this novel so much. It left my heart disturbed and yet wanting more.
Note: I had waited for 2 years for this on my wish list and it never moved so i found it at the library. This may be where you might find it also.
I'm normally a fan of Ms McCrumb, and have read most of her books. This one I did not finish. I was interested initially, to learn more about the truth/legends of Tom Dula. I read the Author's Note and Acknowlegements. After about 60 pages of the book itself, I decided the Eight Deadly Words applied in my case. These are "I don't care what happens to these people." Except for Zebulon Vance, I did not want any further acquaintance with anyone I had met so far. I word this to myself as "if I would not welcome these people into my home, why would I let them into my head?"
Like 1860s era Jerry Springer. The narrator was just ... yucky. Although it was fast paced enough for audio, and well written, I couldn't get past the first two CDs due to the ick factor.