From the bestselling author of KINFLICKS and KINFOLKS comes BLOOD FEUD, a riveting new narrative history of America’s most infamous fighting families, the Hatfields and the McCoys. Lisa Alther, a native of Appalachia whose distant ancestors stood on the fringes of the clan violence, offers a fresh, new take on the feud that gripped a nation and ripped a region apart in a bitter family rivalry that has become legendary in American folklore.
Alther uses reminiscences from the two families, public records, and previously published accounts to create a balanced version of the events that led up to the well-known pig dispute in 1878, which spawned a spree of killings, raids and abductions that traumatized the region and its inhabitants for decades. From the murder of Unionist Harmon McCoy in 1865 by Confederate "Logan Wildcats," to the rise of "Devil Anse" Hatfield and Ranel McCoy as clan leaders, to the Romeo and Juliet-like courtship between Roseanna McCoy and Johnse Hatfield, Alther paints a gripping picture of family honor gone horribly wrong, infecting generations to come with its hatred and violence.
BLOOD FEUD combines historically accurate details with family anecdotes in order to give both sides of this horrific story. According to the author, "Each episode in the feud has several versions, depending upon where the teller’s sympathies lay. BLOOD FEUD attempts to meld together those accounts to create what I consider the most fair and plausible rendition of events so far."
Alther draws on newer research that links the Civil War activities of the eventual feudists to the eruption of violence afterwards and places the Hatfield-McCoy enmity in context with other feuds going on in Kentucky at the same time. She also offers an array of possible explanations for the violence and personal insights into the long-term impact the legendary feud has had on later generations of Appalachian people, including herself.
BLOOD FEUD is the story of rage, revenge and sometimes even redemption between two families that operated from a moral code of their own making in days when eye-for-an-eye retaliation was mightier, and more blood-thirsty, than the law.
“Blood Feud joins a host of key paradigm-shifting books about mountain identity, including Miners, Millhands, and Mountaineers by Ronald Eller and The Mind of the South by W.J. Cash. Alther’s personal connection classes her book also with great Appalachian memoirs, such as John O’Brien’s At Home in the Heart of Appalachia.” – Asheville Citizen Times
“An exhaustively researched, well written, and beautifully produced volume. … an impressive document that considers not only the events of the feud and their consequences but the complex web of unique circumstances—historical, geo-political, psychological, educational, spiritual, and socioeconomic—that allowed the conflict to continue for so long.”
-Knoxville News Sentinel
“The Hatfields of West Virginia and the McCoys of Kentucky, history’s most famous feuding families, come to lurid life (and usually die unnatural deaths) in this well researched and finely written history. … It's wonderful, awful stuff, rife with ambushes, horrific murders of men, women, and children, revenge and betrayal, and void of anything resembling justice or mercy.”
-Minneapolis/St. Paul Star Tribune
“A narrative look at the feud that combines research with [Alther’s] personal feelings and connections to the feud. … It also touches on the implications of the feud and the long-term impact it has had on the Appalachian region.”
- Kentucky Forward