Having watched the series on the History Channel, I was wanting to learn more. I downloaded the sample of this book and was hooked. Unfortunately, the beginning of the book is much better than the remainder.
Blood Feud, The Hatfields and McCoys: The Epic Story of Murder and Vengeance by Lisa Alther starts strong and there is a lot of good information and it appears to be well researched. The book begins to disintegrate towards and middle and end. Granted, putting together a “history” based on so much conflicting oral stories had to be difficult and it appears that Ms. Alther was even-handed and balanced in her interruptions.
I agree with this reviewer: “Alther throws in some fatuous psychological conjecture, opining that the feud can give us fresh insights into the political situations in Bosnia, Rwanda, and Darfur, that the men in both families were merely acting out their Oedipal urges, and that she herself inherited the psychic trauma of the violence of Appalachian culture in the 1800s.” There was too much of that in the book.
Her opinions on character and her interruption of photographs bordered on ridiculous. Take for instance her thoughts on the photograph of Bud McCoy: “Having your father murdered when you are three years old, and your older brother when you are twenty-four, might put anyone in a permanently bad mood. A photo shows a young man with very dark hair and eyes, and a full mustache. He looks crazed, but possibly because his ears stick out like handles on an urn.” REALLY? Alther would have been better leaving the pop-psychology to herself.
I’m glad I read the book and did learn some things. I am dismayed that the History Channel took the liberties it did (for instance, Anse Hatfield and Randall McCoy were not in the Civil War together as depicted in the opening scenes of the series) with the story line. I understand that some things have to be changed and condensed, but they deviated from the history too much for my liking; but, then again, the History Channel is a disappointment to begin with—Pawn Stars? REALLY? We used to joke that the History Channel was the “Hitler channel” or the “WW II channel”—I wish they’d go back to those days.