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The True Story of Tom Dooley: From Western North Carolina Mystery to Folk Legend (True Crime) Paperback – May 3, 2013


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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Dr. John E. Fletcher is a retired research scientist and former professor of mathematics. Although he grew up in Watauga County, North Carolina, and personally knew many of his relatives in Wilkes County, North Carolina, he was unaware of his personal connections to the Tom Dula saga until later in life. Dr. Fletcher holds degrees in engineering and applied mathematics from the North Carolina State University and a doctor of philosophy in applied mathematics from the University of Maryland. He worked for Lockheed Aircraft and the National Institutes of Health during his career and also taught mathematics in a number of colleges and universities during his working years. He authored or coauthored over fifty scientific articles and reports during his career. Since retiring, he has authored a number of genealogical articles for historical journals.
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Product Details

  • Series: True Crime
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: The History Press (May 3, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1626190437
  • ISBN-13: 978-1626190436
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,091,957 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Straight Arrow on August 9, 2013
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This is a readable, thoroughly researched, book based on the known and extant documents relating to the Murder of Laura Foster and the subsequent hanging of Tom Dooley (Dula) for the crime. First, the author's extensive genealogic research untangles the knotted relationships of many of the participants (uncles, grandparents, fourth cousins etc) in the drama. Second, by sticking to the known evidence and painstakingly sifting the extant summaries of the trial testimonies, the author produces a solid and relatively straightforward analysis of the murder. The result is the "de-dramatization" of various legends, hearsay, and personal accounts (some recorded years after the events unfolded) that have colored, shaped, and often mythologized the narrative.

The events from March 1 to May 24-25, 1866 that led to the murder are drawn with a fine pen by the author. Tom's subsequent flight and his capture by Colonel Grayson (dispelling one romantic notion from the ballad) are presented without ornamentation. The bias of the man who led the search party that discovered Laura's body is clearly indicated by the author. The source of the sexually transmitted disease that provided the motive for the killing is, I believe, correctly identified by the author. However, as he notes, Tom Dula believed that this individual was the source and the jury evidently concurred. The identification of anyone else is not relevant to Tom's motive for the killing nor the jury's judgment.

The post-Civil-War political intrigues that influenced the lawyers for the prosecution and those for the defense are presented without prejudice to either side. Witness lists and other trial documents are offered to the reader for their own examination and evaluation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By laurie allen on September 8, 2013
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Dr. Fletcher has presented every factual record available with personal knowledge, family ties and upbringing in the area. The records are not complete, making his personal knowledge and agenda to dispel myths and folklore paramount. Ann Foster Melton was my great great grandmother, however I only knew as much as the song, I do not know any relatives from my father's side and I live in the north.

The details available with the geography descriptions has allowed a true understanding of reality. I am reading the folklore/few facts books now and am so thankful that I am not being misled by the embellishments. Most important is that it was never documented that Laura Foster was pregnant with Tom Dooley's child.

I will go back and read Dr. Fletcher's book again with more attention to all the details that got lost on me the first time around. I hope to put a visit to Elkville NC and Whippoorwill Academy Museum on my bucket list. Thank you Dr. Fletcher for you wonderful book of truth. This is a treasure and I bought extra books to pass onto my children. Without you, the true story would never be known.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Grood on July 22, 2013
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This book is probably the most balanced and straightforward of those available on the topic of the legendary murder of Laura Foster and hanging of Tom Dula (Dooley) for the crime in post-Civil War North Carolina. A great deal of confusion exists as to what is fiction and what is fact in the legend, and this book does a pretty good job of sorting a lot of that stuff out. It's a pity that some key items such as Tom's supposed written confession (created in a jail cell by an illiterate boy?) and photos of the main characters in the drama or the cabins they lived in or the actual place of the shallow grave where the murder victim was discovered aren't included, and it would have been nice to hear more about what the condemned man spoke about for apparently a whole hour before his end, but much of this content just don't seem to exist and may never have been written down or photographed to begin with so one can't blame the author for the lack of any compelling visuals to accompany the text. The author's conclusion about who was apparently responsible for spreading the contagious disease which may have been the motive for the murder seems to be the incorrect one to have drawn from the known facts as presented, and that bit consequently comes off as odd, but the rest of the information here appears to be in good order. Recommended as probably the least-biased and least-fictionalized and therefore best reference on the subject even if it, as is true with other books about the legend, was also written by a descendant of one of the families of the people involved in the crime.
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By customer on February 12, 2014
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Well written, extremely thorough, and yet an engrossing read on a very interesting story. I highly recommend this book. Good book
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Larry Klutz on July 31, 2013
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The story suffers from the lack of understanding of the time of these events, the conditions in that place in the days before Reconstruction began.
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