Wednesday, August 08, 2012


This book report is about the book THE BALLAD OF TOM DOOLEY by Sharyn McCrumb.

Hang down your head, Tom Dooley

Hang down your head and cry

Hang down your head, Tom Dooley

Poor boy, you're bound to die...

The above lyrics are part of a popular song sung by the Kingston Trio in my formative years. I had no idea it was about a real person. It should have been Hang Down Your Head Tom Dula, Poor boy, you’re going to die. His real name was Tom Dula. Maybe Dooley sounds more catchy.

Sharyn McCrumb took the legendary song, did her research and wrote a novel about the details.  At the end of the book she acknowledges that the reader might be concerned with just how much of it was based on documented historical facts.  Her answer to her own self-inflicted question was something like:  As much as possible.

I immensely enjoyed the book because I like historical novels based on true facts and on behalf of my great-grandfather William A. Hunter, I identified with Tom Dula, as a western North Carolinian.   William Hunter and Tom Dooley both were in the Civil War as Confederates soldiers.  William was in the 39th NC Infantry, Company I and Tom Dula was in the 26th Infantry, Company J.  While I read the book I thought they were in the same infantry outfit but now see that were not.  They both had grandfathers that were in the Revolutionary War battle at King’s Mountain.  And  both Tom and William were involved in  killings after the war that caused them problems with the law.

Ms McCrumb uses real facts and real people that did exactly what the history records show.  I looked up Tom Dooley on Wikipedia  and the whole report was name by name a summary of her book.   The characters actually existed and if they didn’t say and do exactly what McCrumb said I think they came pretty darn close.
Tom did not fight with a weapon in the war.  He was a drummer.   He beat a cadence for the men to march in ranks.  After the war he was pretty much a lazy person who did not exercise any ambition unless it was making advances to members of the opposite sex.  It seems his primary sex partner was a married woman Ann Foster Melton.   They apparently made love almost openly right in front of her husband.  The book is told by two people: A  former-North Carolina governor Zebulon Vance, one of Dooley/Dula’s court appointed lawyer and Ann Foster Melton’s cousin Pauline Foster, who biggest occupation was to survive.

I felt the book was a great read. It was well written and keeps your attention.   I don't want to give too much away because my wife Anna is next to read it.

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