The Legend of Nance Dude

Maurice Stanley, Author John F. Blair Publisher $17.95 (253p) ISBN 978-0-89587-081-0
This succinct but moving first novel is based upon a horrifying crime that occurred in the Appalachian mountains in the early years of this century. In 1913, 65-year-old Nancy Ann Kerley pled guilty to second degree murder in the death of her two-year-old granddaughter, Roberta Putnam, whom she apparently buried alive in a cave on a North Carolina mountainside. Dubbed Nance Dude because of her relationship with a man named Dude Hannah (for whom she deserted her husband and young son), she is still today invoked as a bogeyman to admonish young children. From these bare facts, Stanley spins a fictional web that explores both Nance Dude's motivation for destroying a youngster she loved and the social conditions surrounding that event. Traumatized as a child by the mauling of her younger brother by a bear, the fictional Nance Dude becomes an introspective, driven woman who does what she must to survive. And survive she does--in fiction as in fact--serving a 15-year prison term and returning to live at home until her death in 1952 at age 104. This powerfully understated story of poverty and despair, augmented by photographs of the real Nance Dude and the scene of the crime, will stun readers with its evocation of a bleak corner of America. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/01/1991
Release date: 04/01/1991
Paperback - 253 pages - 978-0-914875-43-7
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