cover image The Feud: The Hatfields and McCoys: The True Story

The Feud: The Hatfields and McCoys: The True Story

Dean King. Little, Brown, $27.99 (448p) ISBN 978-0-316-16706-2

The late 19th-century feud between two families in southern Appalachia has taken on near-mythic proportions—it’s spawned numerous TV shows and films, it’s been immortalized in song by Waylon Jennings, and the phrase “fighting like the Hatfields and McCoys” has become common. In this fast-paced tale, journalist King (Skeletons on the Zahara) draws on previously unseen materials to recreate the fascinating and lurid tale (“squirrel meat and white lightning” are traded at least once for sex) of the star-crossed families and their colorful patriarchs, Devil Anse Hatfield, who kept bears as pets, and Randall McCoy. Antebellum relations between the clans were harmonious, but the declaration of Civil War loyalties set the scythe swinging. King points out that many factors likely contributed to the feud, among them a Hatfield killing young Harmon McCoy near the war’s end, the accusation of hog theft leveled at a Hatfield by Randall, and Devil Anse’s son Johnse’s romance with Roseanna McCoy. Ultimately, the dispute would claim a dozen lives—the last a result of a Supreme Court decision that led to the execution of Ellison “Cotton Top” Mounts for his role in the murder of Alifair McCoy several years prior. King’s entertaining chronicle sheds new light on a legendary chapter in American history. 20 b&w photos, 1 map. Agent: Jody Rein, Jody Rein Books. (May)