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The Devil's Son Paperback – March 12, 2012
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About the Author
Anne Black Gray grew up in Parkersburg, West Virginia. She graduated with a degree in physics from Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, then went on to spend thirty-five years as an engineer and manager in the aerospace industry in Los Angeles. She has now added a writing career to her engineering experience.
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Top Customer Reviews
Few American families can boast more descendant who became lawyers, physician, teachers, law enforcement officers, store owners, and politicians than Devil Ance and Levicey Hatfield. They have been misrepresented in the media.
As a result of diligent research, as well as knowledge of Hatfield family lore, author Anne Black Gray,a former resident of Parkersburg,West Virginia, produced a trustworthy easy to read work. Its focus is the era and the people who lived in it.
This insightful work reveals the folkways of the mountain families and the communities in the era after the Civil War. It was a time of rapid change. Never to my knowledge has an author shown the effects of the feud on the children of the feudist or described the everyday life in the era in such detail.
The Devil's son in the novel is William Anderson "Cap" Hatfield, the 2nd son in the Hatfield family. Less handsome and less willfull than his brother Johnse, Cap is shown as caught between the life he wants to lead and his loyality to his kin.
It may sound flip to call this a "real deal" novel. But it is. It has humor and truth all rolled into one.
Historians, folklorist, and everyday readers will find this novel an educational and engaging addition to feud literature.
Cap, born 1864, died 1930, succeeded in ending the feud between the West Virginia Hatfields and the Kentucky McCoys, but it wasn't easy standing up to the fierce "Devil Anse"-- as the author so graphically and eloquently writes.
"Devil Anse", born 1839, died at the age of 83 in 1921 and a Confederate Civil War veteran, belittled education, while Cap, who was taught to read and write by his wife Nancy, realized that the native cunning of his dad wasn't sufficient to succeed in the industrial post-Civil War era.
Cap wants education so much, Gray writes, that at age 24 he travels to Knoxville, Tenn. to enroll under the assumed name of William Anderson (he didn't want the notoriety of the feud affecting his life in a strange state) in the University of Tennessee law school. He spent less than a year there before he came back in 1889 to end the feud and put the Hatfield family on the road to prosperity as railroad and mining interests come to West Virginia.
The feud wasn't about the ownership of a straying sow and her piglets and it certainly wasn't the "Hillbilly Romeo and Juliet" scenario between Cap's brother Johnson (Johnse) Hatfield and Roseanne McCoy, the author demonstrates. There was animosity between the Confederate favoring Hatfields and the Unionist McCoys over the Civil War, but perhaps a more important element was control of the resources of the Tug Valley, the border of West Virginia and Kentucky. (A geography lesson: The Tug Fork joins with the Levisy Fork at Louisa, KY and Fort Gay, WV to form the Big Sandy River, which empties into the Ohio River eight miles west of Huntington, WV, between Kenova, WV and Catlettsburg, KY).
Interest in the Hatfield-McCoy feud is being fueled by books like Gray's novel and two upcoming television events. F. Keith Davis, the publisher of the Gray novel and an author himself, alerted me about the TV events in an email:
"The History Channel documentary, which will air on Friday, May 25th used this book, along with "The Tale of the Devil" by Dr. Coleman C. Hatfield and Robert Spence (Woodland Press), and "The Feuding Hatfields & McCoys" by Dr. Coleman Hatfield and yours truly (Woodland Press), as resource material for the Hatfield side of the story," Davis wrote me. "There are other books, like 'Images of Logan County: Logan County' (Arcadia Publishing) by yours truly also used for resource material. Woodland Press supplied all the vintage photos, which were part of the Coleman C. Hatfield collection, for the documentary, as well.
"The dramatic mini-series on History Channel airs a few days later, on May 28, 29 and 30th, and features Kevin Costner [as Devil Anse Hatfield and Bill Paxton as Randolph "OlRan'l" McCoy]. I'm not sure what resource materials they used in preparation for this project, although I know they were aware of our books."
Davis added that he was interviewed about the feud for the History Channel documentary, adding that "I found it especially neat that Anne [Black Gray] put flesh and bone to the story -- and her history rings true throughout."
Gray's historical novel digs into the real story behind the legend, putting -- as Keith Davis so eloquently phrases it -- flesh and bone to the story. "The Devil's Son" is a wide-ranging historical epic that breathes life into the individuals and families on either side of the Tug Valley -- and to the east in the boomtown of Logan.
Gray, who grew up in West Virginia and now lives in Los Angeles, takes the reader on a journey alongside Cap, son of a set-in-his-ways patriarch who raises his children illiterate and unguided in an isolated region of late nineteenth century southern West Virginia. The Hatfields originally lived in the western part of Logan County, in an area that became Mingo County in 1895 (The Mingo County town of Matewan, on the Tug Fork, became famous -- or infamous -- as the scene of the Matewan Massacre of 1920. The large Hatfield family earns a living at timbering, floating the logs down the river to mills in Catlettsburg, KY and other areas, but is frequently forced to halt work to engage in deadly battles with McCoys and posses marauding from across the border in Kentucky. The wild frontier between West Virginia and Kentucky changes immeasurably when wealthy and powerful, land and mineral-hungry coal and railroad interests enter the region.
Gray says she decided to write about Cap Hatfield and the feud because of stories she heard as a youngster: "When I was a child, my mother and her sisters often spoke fondly of their Uncle Cap, One Easter, when they were children, he gave my aunts baby ducks and my mother a baby rabbit, by far the nicer gift in her estimation. Mother told me Cap was 'your Granddaddy's friend.' Since Granddaddy was a reserved, well spoken man, a West Virginia mayor, state senator, and judge of the circuit court at one time or another, I pictured my mother's uncle as a man with similar traits and disposition. Cap died six years before I was born, denying me any opportunity to know him personally."
Years later, as an adult, Anne came to learn that "Uncle Cap" was Cap Hatfield, notorious killer and right hand man to his father Devil Anse Hatfield, during the infamous Hatfield-McCoy feuds. It seemed altogether impossible to her that Uncle Cap and Cap the killer could be one and the same. Her book is the result of her efforts, long after her mother's and aunts' deaths, to discover how Cap made the great transition he seemed to have made and, concomitantly, how the Hatfield-McCoy feud ended.