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The Ballad of Tom Dooley (Ballad #9)

3.6  ·  Rating Details ·  2,097 Ratings  ·  429 Reviews
A literary triumph; what began as a fictional re-telling of the historical account of one of the most famous mountain ballads of all time became an astonishing revelation of the real culprit responsible for the murder of Laura Foster

Hang down your head, Tom Dooley; The folk song, made famous by the Kingston Trio, recounts a tragedy in the North Carolina mountains after t
Hardcover, 311 pages
Published September 13th 2011 by Thomas Dunne Books (first published August 28th 2011)
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Anthony Chavez
Oct 12, 2011 Anthony Chavez rated it it was ok
This was a Goodreads First Read giveaway ARC.

Thank the Lord I'm done with this book! I can't tell you how happy I am to be finished with this book. For a book that I was initially really interested in reading, this was a 336 page trial.

Summed up in 3 words: Dry, Slow, Repetitive

Sharyn McCrumb, your novel's may get their share of good reviews but not from this reader. The only saving grace in giving this novel 2 stars versus the 1 star I originally intended at around the 250 page mark was the en
Nov 10, 2012 Hannah rated it liked it
Rating clarification: 3.5 Stars

I recently finished a local history book called: Death in North Carolina's Piedmont: Tales of Murder, Suicide and Causes Unknown, and one of the true crime mysteries featured was the murder of Laura Foster and the hanging of Tom Dooley in 1860's North Carolina. It peaked my interest, so when I saw that Sharyn McCrumb had actually featured the story in one of her "Ballad" novels, I was excited to read it. I didn't realize I had gotten so far behind in her "Ballad" s
This historical fiction is getting good reviews, so don't let me put you off reading the book if it sounds like something you'd enjoy, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to be the odd (wo)man out on this one.

I like the idea of the book – learning the story behind the ballad of Tom Dooley. The problem I had was with the telling of the story. I like more history in my historical fiction, and this one has too much speculation for me. It goes into the mind of a relatively minor person in the real stor
Sep 27, 2011 Lori rated it did not like it
It isn't often that I get the opportunity to read a book written from the point-of-view of a sociopath. This novel did not encourage me to do it again soon.

I have generally been drawn into Sharyn McCrumb's novels to the point that finishing them is like waking up from an evocative dream that you wish just went on and on. I never got that sense here. Perhaps it is because there wasn't a single character in this novel who was wholly (or even half) likable, with the possible exception of James Melt
Apr 20, 2012 Carol rated it did not like it
What did I think? I'm not sure you really want to know!

Repeat after me:
“Ann is beautiful and lazy.
Tom is a ne’er do well.
Ann is beautiful and lazy.
Pauline is a loose, vicious woman with the pox.
Ann is beautiful and lazy.
All of the above love a roll in the hay (and not particularly choosy).
Ann is beautiful and lazy.
James is kind, hard-working, and a wimp of a husband.
Oh, and Ann is beautiful and lazy.”
Now, read that about 100 times and you have the gist of this book! I have never seen so
Feb 16, 2012 Rae rated it really liked it
Wow. What an unpleasant set of characters McCrumb had to work with--Pauline is manipulative, selfish and unemotional; Ann is narcissistic to the hilt; and Tom is pretty much only interested in the pleasures of life after having them taken from him during the war. He's a real ne'er do well. Usually a story has at least one sympathetic character, but I disliked them all!

Despite that, I loved McCrumb's historical research and efforts to get to the bottom of this legendary crime (and I love her Bal
John Hood
Sep 25, 2011 John Hood rated it it was amazing
Bound: Hang Down Your Head
Telling the Tall Tale Behind the Ballad of Tom Dooley
SunPost Weekly September 22, 2011 | John Hood

On May Day, 1868, in the town of Statesville, North Carolina, a man named Tom Dula was hanged for murder. The victim, a slip of a woman named Laura Foster, had been stabbed to death and hastily buried on a ridge in nearby Wilkes County. Dula was believed to have been the last person to see her alive. More damagingly, Laura had told folks she and Tom were
Aug 25, 2016 Petra rated it liked it
This is the second of Sharyn McCrumb's "Ballad" series that I've listened to. She takes obscure, lesser known murders that have had ballads written about them and fills in the vague, recorded stories.
In this one, sociopath Pauline Foster sets in motion a series of events that leads to Tom Dula's execution. Her thought processes alone make this book interesting. What a cold, hard person!
That said, none of these characters is "nice". This is the saddest, vainest, pathetic bunch of characters to
Tom Mathews
Although this book is considered one of Sharyn McCrumb's Ballad Series books, it is not set in modern times nor does it have anything to do with Tennessee Sheriff Spencer Arrowood. Rather, it is a telling of the events that inspired the song "Tom Dooley". Set in the North Carolina hill country in the years after the Civil War, it is bleak, depressing tale with few reputable characters. Even so, lovers of folklore like myself will enjoy having gained an understanding of the events surrounding a s ...more
Aug 01, 2011 Waven rated it liked it
Sharyn McCrumb makes an interesting case for alterations to the tale of Tom Dooley (Tom Dula), whose story is widely known from song and legend. In a style that mirrors the classic Wuthering Heights, readers are welcomed to the story by the voice of Zebulon Vance, a high-profile Carolina politician forced back into the practice of law after the Civil War and appointed as one of Tom Dula's defending attorneys. He speaks from years beyond the Dula trial, as if writing his memoirs, and shares littl ...more
Dec 05, 2013 Carol rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
If you don't like reprehensible characters don't even get started as the main character, Pauline Foster, is one of the most manipulating, wicked ones I've come across. Zebulon Vance, Dula's pro-bono lawyer calls Pauline a "monster of depravity". He is right on. Somehow though I delighted in her story. McCrumb creates a fitting character to explain how that poor boy Tom Dooley (Dula) hangs and what part the other Foster women, Anne Foster Melton and Laura Foster contribute to the love triangle.

May 27, 2013 Hannah rated it liked it
This is not supposed to be a mystery; the author insists several times that this is not a "whodunnit," because everyone has known for over a hundred years who stabbed Laura Foster through the heart and got away with it. Based on her read of the court transcripts and old documents, Sharyn McCrumb offers a possibility of WHY.

In her version, we have a sociopath narrator pulling strings to take revenge on her enemies. And what a sociopath she is! There would be no way to ever know whether these mot
Oct 22, 2012 Carrie rated it it was amazing
I grew up hearing the Kingston Trio's song "The Ballad of Tom Dooley", so I was very excited to see that this book tells the story behind the song. I was a bit put off though when I heard the sordidness of the truth, but Sharyn McCrumb is able to get the ugliness across without being graphic. The song leads you to believe that the story is the eternal triangle, but in reality, it is an infernal pentagon. Tom Dula (Dooley) is a ne'er-do-well, good-looking young man in the hills of western North C ...more
I take umbrage with comparing The Ballad of Tom Dooley with Wuthering Heights. The two are really nothing alike, and what makes Wuthering Heights shine falls flat in Ms. McCrumb's novel. At least there are some sympathetic characters in Wuthering Heights, whereas in The Ballad of Tom Dooley, every key character is guilty of something thereby extinguishing the reader's sympathy before it has a chance to take root. Still, the story of Tom and Ann, Pauline and Jim, is a fascinating one, especially ...more
Karen Blinn
Aug 21, 2011 Karen Blinn rated it really liked it
Until I read this book by Sharyn McCrumb, I only knew about Tom Dooley in terms of the ballad about him. In a nutshell, Tom Dooley and his neighbor, Ann Melton, were lovers since they first discovered sex in their teen years. This episode took place in the backwoods of North Carolina immediately after the end of the Civil War. Melton's cousin, Pauline Foster, arrived on her doorstep looking for work while she was being treated for syphilis. Melton had a husband and some children, although wheth ...more
Nov 13, 2011 Deb rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2011-books-read
Sharyn McCrumb has explored many folk ballads in her previous novels. In this one, she has researched the origins of "The Ballad Of Tom Dooley". Her research has been turned into a novel presenting her conclusions as to the veracity of the ballad. Tom Dooley is in reality, Tom Dula, a feckless Confederate veteran who has an adulterous affair with his childhood sweetheart Ann Melton. The story is told from two different perspectives: Pauline Foster, a cousin of Ann's who lives the Meltons and wor ...more
Nov 29, 2011 Abby rated it did not like it
Though well written, this novel was Hugely lacking in interesting characters. By the end, there was not one person that I cared a fig about. In the author's own words: "I relished the challenge of crafting a novel in which the principal narrator is a sociopath - one who feels nothing - and the beautiful heroine is a narcissist linked with an amiable ne'er-do-well."

The three main characters are a sociopath (who is a scheming slut with a vendetta against basically every person she meets), a narci
Sep 24, 2011 MissSusie rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed, lter
I expected to really like this book but I didn’t. The chapters about the lawyer completely took me out of the story and I don’t think served any purpose he could have had the first and last chapter just to tell us what happened after Tom was hanged (no spoilers if you’ve heard the song you know that happened).

The characters in this book are all awful people, Pauline a syphilis carrier who has absolutely no qualms with spreading this disease to everyone she can. She comes to work for her cousin A
Oct 31, 2014 Candice rated it liked it
That old Kingston Trio song was based on a killing in the mountains of North Carolina just after the Civil War. Although this is a fictional retelling of the murder and the events leading up to it, it has been meticulously researched. The narrator of most of the story, Pauline Foster, is one of the nastiest characters you will ever meet. She is despicable, entirely without empathy or a sense of right and wrong. Tom Dula (not Dooley) is a Civil War veteran much in love with Ann Foster Melton, a b ...more
Sep 06, 2012 Michelle rated it it was ok
I was really hoping that this book would be as great as the title made it seem, but I was disappointed. It's hard for me to get into a book where the narrator is so past feeling, cruel, and conniving. The book is set in the post Civil War South, and people are living in hard times. So it stands to reason that the 20-something narrator, having had to take care of herself through the war by prostitution, is hardened to others and their situations. However, she purposefully wants to make other peop ...more
Nov 24, 2011 Laurie rated it really liked it
Shelves: ebooks
Interesting historical fiction of the death of Laura Foster inspried by the song Tom Dooley by the Kingston Trio. The author through her research is able to give a plausible account of the mysteries which have surrounded this case since right after the civil war and one in which many folk tales and songs have been based on. Set in Wilkes County, North Carolina right after the civil war when times were extremely difficult. It tells the tale of Tom Dula which was his real name not Tom Dooley who w ...more
Emily Ross
Sep 27, 2011 Emily Ross rated it it was amazing
I am giving this book a five though I have some minor quibbles with it. Being that it was a true story there's no way for the author to change the ending to suit my preference for justice! I had heard of the song and knew the basic love triangle plot but agreed with McCrumb that when you look at it things do not add up. I loved how she retold the story with the two narrators. The sociopath was chilling and I really wanted her to get her just desserts, *SPOILER* Ann may have been to blame but she ...more
Oct 09, 2011 Carol rated it really liked it
I have loved most of Sharyn McCrumb's books. She does everything from the ballad novels to humor. I'd recommend them all.

With this book, I was surprised and pleased. I would not have thought I would enjoy a book without any likable protagonists. I did, however, and it was a page-turner.

All of Sharyn's research with historians, librarians, genealogists, and others in the area paid off handsomely. She came up with feasible scenarios, and fleshed out a story that has been sung, but not really know
Jan 04, 2012 Laura rated it liked it
Reviewers seem to love or hate this book,a fictional retelling of the true story behind the Kington Trio's "Ballad of Tom Dooley," and there are good reasons for both perspectives. On the plus side, the story is well-researched and the author incorporates some material that changes the traditional end of the story. The writing captures the tone, rhythm and voice of the region. This is the first fo McCrumb's books I have read, and I will probably read more. The negatives: for a story of murder, t ...more
Dec 27, 2011 Bobbi rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, appalachia
Sharon McCrumb's books are well written and fun to read. I wouldn't call this great literature but it's good to read something lighter for a change.

Tom Dooley (Dula) loves women, drinking, and doing much in particular. He falls in love with the lovely, married Ann Melton who's just about as lazy as he is. Ann's cousin, Pauline, comes to live with them and is one of the narrators of the story. Paula is somewhat of a sociopath, which adds (oddly) a lot of humor to the story. Zeb Vance, North Carol
Nov 30, 2011 Leslie rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery, book-club
The best thing about this book is that the story takes place in the mountains that I call home. The worst thing about this book is that the story takes place in the mountains I call home. While it isn't a saga of stereotypical hillbillies, the impression it leaves is that the people in the area are bawdy, crude, drunken and not very smart. The sad thing is that the story is true, and probably so are the actions and traits of most of the characters. But a little more balance in the portrayal of t ...more
Lois Bouchard
Jan 21, 2012 Lois Bouchard rated it liked it
I liked this book quite a bit. Sharyn McCrumb is a great story teller, and had obviously done her research. There really were no sympathetic characters. Tom Dula, himself, was kind of a lazy, take whatever comes along kind of man, and he was probably the most sympathetic character in the book.

It's a fascinating book. She captures the characters very well. I'd say my 2 main problems with the story were the repetitiveness of Zebulon Vance's narration and the sometimes weak motivations for why peo
Diane S ☔
Sep 24, 2011 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it
3.5 Life was tough for the mountain people in North Carolina, and more so after the civil war. Few marriageable men were alive and woman, during the civil war, did many things they would not normally do only to survive. This is a retelling of the murder of Laurie Foster and the love story of Tom and Ann, though Ann was married to another. This is a gritty, bleak novel, Wuthering Heights type of dark brooding novel, but set in North Carolina. The characters are not very likable, though some are s ...more
Judie Dooley
May 09, 2015 Judie Dooley rated it really liked it
I wanted to read this book because I assumed the name Dooley when I married along with the question "OH like Tom Dooley"? Of course I'd head the song, but never heard the story. Well now I know the story. The story and characters were interesting--along with the setting, and the fact that free sex is nothing seems the women of that era were doing it with everyone and anyone. Did Tom Dooley kill the girl because she gave him the "POX" or was it someone else. You'll have to read it to find ...more
Holly Morey
Sep 22, 2012 Holly Morey rated it it was amazing
This book is the author's interpretation of the legend of Tom Dula, a ladies young man, who was convicted of murdering Laura Foster. This story has no redeemable characters, but the writing of the story is excellent. Ms McCrumb researched the story and interviewed numerous people to write her version of the legend. Although only Tom and Ann know what really happened to Laura Foster, the author's interpretation was fascinating and very believable. I am looking forward to reading more from the "Ba ...more
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Pauline 2 27 Nov 26, 2011 12:23PM  
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Sharyn McCrumb is an American writer whose books celebrate the history and folklore of Appalachia. Educated at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Virginia Tech, she has also taught Appalachian studies. She is married to David McCrumb, a corporate environmental director, and has two children, Laura and Spencer.
More about Sharyn McCrumb...

Other Books in the Series

Ballad (1 - 10 of 11 books)
  • If Ever I Return, Pretty Peggy-O (Ballad, #1)
  • The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter (Ballad, #2)
  • She Walks These Hills (Ballad, #3)
  • The Rosewood Casket (Ballad, #4)
  • The Ballad of Frankie Silver (Ballad, #5)
  • The Songcatcher (Ballad, #6)
  • Ghost Riders (Ballad, #7)
  • The Devil Amongst the Lawyers (Ballad, #8)
  • King's Mountain (Ballad, #10)
  • Prayers the Devil Answers

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