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on May 21, 2013
"One look at the eye-catching Rosanna McCoy with her wavy auburn hair and Johnse (Hatfield) was captivated." This was a classic Romeo and Juliet saga played out in Appalachia, the best-known family feud in America.

But bestselling author Dean King makes it clear that the McCoys and the Hatfields of legend were cut from the same cloth, united in their distrust of government and their hard-won adaptation to a hostile environment. The long-standing animosity between them sprang from many causes, not just the elopement of Rosanna and Johnse as often depicted.

King has a way of evoking long-ago events in cinematic style: "Wall (Hatfield) sat on the schoolhouse porch with a double-barreled shotgun across his lap. By ten o'clock, Sally's crying, praying and pleading for mercy neared hysteria. This was irritating and set the men on edge." The book puts us in the frame, chronicling the rise of the powerful Devil Anse Hatfield and his clan, pitted against Randall McCoy and his kin, all of them willing to have "a shooting match, with live targets." A dispute about a hog becomes bloody murder; simple gossip results in violent reprisals. The skirmishes along the Tug Fork River bordering Kentucky and West Virginia continued from before the Civil War, well into the 20th century. Following the ethos of the old country where family was the most important unit, the isolated denizens of the Appalachian region would do whatever necessary to look after their own.

Although there have been other books about the Hatfield-McCoy feud, King's work draws on all available sources to bring this story alive for modern readers. Public hangings, movie-style shootouts, murderers hiding out in the woods communicating with animal calls, and marauding violence against men and women alike figure in this account. Peppered with photographs, maps, family trees, and the political and legal background to the events, THE FEUD highlights the backwoods moral code in which strangers might be welcomed and neighbors generously assisted, but if a family member were crossed, "wrong would be returned for wrong."

King's descriptions of everyday life present a vivid picture of what it would have been like for Rosanna when she eloped with Johnse, switching her family loyalty possibly irrevocably, and living in the Hatfield cabin where everyone shared a single bedroom. These intrepid mountaineers ate grouse, turtle, groundhogs and possums, made up to 1,300 gallons of untaxed "apple mash" at a time for consumption and sale, and buried feud victims without the help of clergy. In one harrowing scene, a family watches helplessly as two matriarchs are beaten to the point of near extinction as a warning from their enemies, who attack in the middle of the night wearing masks and wielding a cow tail whip.

King suggests that the feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys died out gradually with political and economic changes in the region --- better policing, more enlightened governance, the connection of isolated homesteads to central systems. King makes it plain that many descendants of the two clans coexist peacefully now in the region. Most recently, they signed a "peace treaty" to show a united front in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott
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on July 29, 2013
I am related to both the Hatfields and McCoys and grew up where the feud took place and lived there for 40+ years. I enjoyed Dean King's book, The Feud. Nobody knows all the facts, but the one fact that remains true today. Both the McCoy and Hatfield families in Kentucky and West Virginia and all over the world have a high respect for one another. The Hatfield and McCoy family would like to thank Dean King for all his research on THE FEUD. It's not everyday a bestselling author decides to write a book about our family. For years Hatfields and McCoys have read books that were one sided. Dean King is the first Hatfield McCoy feud author that took no sides. If you would like to see what the REAL descendants of the Hatfields and McCoys have to say visit THE HATFIELD MCCOY JURY facebook page.
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on June 9, 2013
I have always been fascinated by the Great American Feud, as I'm sure many American history readers have. "Fighting like the Hatfield's and McCoy's" is a buzz phrase countless people have used. This book tells you why. Dean King's book is well researched, well written, and thoroughly explained. The breadth of this feud spans for decades in some of the rawest and wildest parts of Eastern America that are still, in many ways, the same today. It also shows how the scars of the War Between the States affected close friends and families in their different beliefs, and in some cases is still true today. Mr.King's anecdote in the forward is a case in point where he drew gunfire during his terrain walks in the area because he had the wrong guides(i.e. forest rangers vice Hatfield guide). The book is easy to read, notes are plentiful, and references are pertinent. The sections on the main events of the feud, the hog case, Johnse and Roseanne, the killing of Ellison, the execution of the McCoy sons, the McCoy cabin burning, Bad Frank Phillips and the bounty hunters, and the Battle of Grapevine Creek are all there and explained in complete detail. This book is a must read for fans of Americana, students of the Feud, and readers fascinated in the wild lawless times of the late nineteen century Appalachia.
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on January 4, 2015
A fascinating and highly entertaining account of one of America's most notorious legends. From the lingering bitterness of the Civil War to the principles of protecting what's yours, be it the fruits of the land or your family's honor, all related influences are examined in reconstructing the contentious bitter foundation on which this feud was built. Seemingly small matters are blown out of proportion by the spilling of blood. A domino effect is inevitable and far reaching. The author introduces us to these characters so intimately you can sympathize with their motivations if not their actions. If you want the whole story look no further. King supplies the unvarnished facts without romanticizing the legend.
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on July 25, 2014
All in all an excellent telling of the Hatfield - McCoy feud. King does a great job of bringing you into the story, and the narrative is well paced. If you don't have more than a cursory knowledge of the feud, you'll come away with the full story after reading this book. In reading it, I found it interesting how easily things spiraled and how easily the key players in the events found it to do away with one another, in an almost matter-of-fact manner. And maybe more interesting is how the two clans intermarried so often, even during the height of their conflict. Very well told!
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on June 3, 2014
This true story of the age old feud of two families was excellent reading. The social mores of these families and their neighbors was much different than now. Nevertheless, I accept the explanation of their history and agree that basically these were good country people that practiced what they believed was the right way of doing things. Yes, there were brutish episodes in the book, but somehow I found nothing in their behavior that was different as written in history of our expansion West. Read it.
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on August 30, 2013
This is well-told history. The material has a natural drama to it. King wisely preserves this tension in the primary and secondary sources while adding a sprinkling of his own refinements. He enlivens the history without sensationalizing it--a tough balance. So many biographers and historians nowadays spoil the soup with too many spices.

Several other narrative techniques recommend King's latest book.

For one, he chooses his paragraph breaks wisely. They preserve clarity while driving the story forward.

Second, his word choice is masterful. He chooses words from the Anglo-Saxon word bank and throws in local slang and wordplay. These give teeth and authenticity to the writing.

Third, he aptly balances quotes from the feud principals with his own descriptions. The quotes are inserted in the scenes where they are most informative and punchy. Also, King refrains from interrupting his set pieces with interpretation. Interpretation happens selectively, inviting the reader to render his or her own judgments.

Finally, the frequent gunfighting is told realistically. Fear on both sides of the feud is in evidence. King brings it a sense of loss to the legend, too. There is a sense of wildness, fertility, and danger in the landscape.

I look forward to more works from this author.
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on May 3, 2015
Nice to get some sense of the truth as well as it can be established. A lot of characters to keep straight in a very winding story. Kevin Costner did not get much right beyond the costuming and scenery! Fascinating...
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on July 9, 2013
Yes a good read. I was upset for several days after reading this book. I knew most of the details as mother, Alma Mary Hatfield granddaughter of Anse's daughter Mary had recounted to me.
It's what she left out. The atrocities . Much of that had been sanitized out of our family story.
Frankly I used to be proud of my lineage. My blood is tainted by murder.
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on August 21, 2013
U. Grant Browning...well, more accurately, I am Ulysses Grant Browning, aka the great, great-grandson of Devil Anse Hatfield. Our version as to how Anderson Hatfield was assigned the non de plume of "Devil" was because, as a captain in the confederate army, he and his band of Logan Wildcats, although greatly outnumbered, won a battle at "Devils Knob" and was forever after called "Devil Anse."

As his great, great-grandson, I have read every book I could find about the feud, and Dean King's book on this subject is the best written and fairest treatment of this subject by far. It is not like the writer who wrote an unbiased history of the war between The North and the South from a Southern Point of View.

Dean's book is painfully fair to the descendants of both the Hatfields and the McCoys. This book is a history book which reads like a novel.

Thank you, Dean, for finally bringing to us a basis from which we may continue pursuing this subject from a sound foundation.
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