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Blood Feud: The Hatfields and the McCoys: The Epic Story of Murder and Vengeance

3.34  ·  Rating details ·  1,089 ratings  ·  160 reviews
America’s most notorious family feud began in 1865 with the murder of a Union McCoy soldier by a Confederate Hatfield relative of "Devil Anse" Hatfield. More than a decade later, Ranel McCoy accused a Hatfield cousin of stealing one of his hogs, triggering years of violence and retribution, including a Romeo-and-Juliet interlude that eventually led to the death of one of M ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published February 5th 2013 by Lyons Press (first published January 1st 2012)
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Average rating 3.34  · 
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 ·  1,089 ratings  ·  160 reviews

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Start your review of Blood Feud: The Hatfields and the McCoys: The Epic Story of Murder and Vengeance
Really a 3.5, but I rounded up.

I watched History Channel's Hatfields and McCoys mostly because I love Westerns (okay, it was an Eastern, but men with guns on horses, c'mon. Costner is always entertaining if you give him a horse and gun). Much to my surprise, I actually liked it ( Costner aside, it was the History channel). The writing was good, and so was:

among others (there was actually more naked male flesh than female in this movie).

I didn't know much about the feud. I could tell that the Hi
Dec 26, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I feel as though giving this book one star is generous. I cannot begin to describe how disappointed I was in this book. I had such high hopes since it is such an interesting subject matter but it failed to deliver.

The first part of the book deals with the actual history of the feud and describes those involved as well as the events. I found it very difficult to keep track of those involved especially since so many of them had the same or similar names. There is supposedly a family tree on the in
Katherine Addison
Hearsay is not evidence.
Jul 02, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting topic but the book is weakly constructed -- it reads more like a college term paper than a historical book. Odd mix of the author's personal views and family connection to the McCoys, rehashing of the Hatfield-McCoy feud chronology, followed by analysis of other Appalachian feuds. I really don't like purported history books full of footnotes with snarky editorial comments, but you will find several of those here. ...more
Jun 10, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I wanted to give this book four stars, but I felt some of the information added at the end was superfluous. After covering the feud, the author discusses some other topics. I enjoyed the chapter on other feuds and wanted more of that. Her discussion of possible reasons for the feud was also superb, and her look at Appalachian culture was interesting. Some of the material on her own genealogy was relevant, but some seemed to drag on a bit, and the author seemed to repeat herself at times.

You will need a genealogical chart to follow the events in this book. The lives of the infamous Hatfields of West Virginia and McCoys of Eastern Kentucky are intricately intertwined. Alther not only reports the bloody fued events as accurately as she can - she also analyzes the effect their publicity has had on the people of Appalachia. Known thereafter as ignorant hillbillies (arguably accurate in many cases), the stereotype stayed with the mountain people from the post civil war years up until ...more
Jul 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My husband's family descended from James McCoy. I have long been interested in the Hatfield-McCoy feud because my daughter is a McCoy. This book provided valuable information served up with great storytelling and a dash of humor. The inclusion of information about other feuds during the same period was interesting as were the chapters on the aftermath and the selling of the story by Hollywood. I would suggest this book to anyone who is interested in Appalachia or the period directly following th ...more
Jeff Jellets
Oct 19, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction

A great book! Just stop reading after Chapter 12 . . .

Author Lisa Alther sifts through often contradictory folklore to give us as close to an accurate account of the Hatfield-McCoy feud as is ever likely to be written. The task is not easy. Documentation regarding the origins and events of the feud are hard to come by and, of what is available, much is besmirched by bias – depending upon whether the author of the material was more inclined toward the Hatfield or the McCoy side of things (or, j
Dennis Goshorn
Jul 01, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ibook
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.

The book 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 w
Jul 24, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, history
I remember a kid in grade school named David McCoy who told me all about how his family came from the McCoys of the Hatfield and McCoy feud. I had no idea what he was talking about, I'm sure, but enough of his playground description stuck with me that I've always been vaguely curious about the subject. I'm from Northeastern Ohio rather than Appalachian Kentucky or West Virginia, but there's little rhyme or reason to what subjects interest me when I'm looking for a book, and specialized history b ...more
Pamela Aidan
After seeing the new made-for-TV movie about the legendary feud, I was eager to learn more about it. The first half of Ms Alther's book was interesting, but as even she admits, the stories that accompany every incident in the long years of the feud are many and varied. The many accounts finally gets so twisted and turned around that even the hope of a coherent time-line must be abandoned. I can't help but think that a better arrangement of the varied accounts might have assisted the reader--a ch ...more
Carol Coston
i've been trying to make a decision about whether I would recommend this book. interesting. but short on the titled subject, namely, the Hatfields and the McCoys. only 50% of the book actually discussed the history of and the actual feuding. well, i should be fair, another 10% (perhaps) discussed genealogical, historical, psychological, sociological, and geographical factors that may have influenced the development of this particular feud (and other feuding in the area). sometimes i felt as thou ...more
Deirdre Chatham
While I enjoyed the back stories of Abner Vance and the border wars during the War Between the States and England and Scotland, as well as the presentation of the borderland folkways, I felt as if the author's true purpose was in her attempt to lay her fear of the Cumberlands with her ancestry. Ms. Alther's idea that you "inherit the psychic fallout from traumas endured during their lifetimes," has certainly provided lively discussion around our table. I am re-examining the competitive spirit of ...more
Wesley Roth
After watching the mini-series on the Hatfields and the McCoys a couple years ago, I remember that this book by Lisa Alther came out about the same time. I picked it up at a used bookstore a couple months ago. It is clear that the author did hear research, and was able to piece together a narrative of the famous "Blood Feud" that lasted for decades between the two families. She does a great job trying to separate fact from legend, and tries to offer both points of view. I would encourage others ...more
Catherine Chesebro
I was so interested in this saga of Americana but I am overwhelmed by so many family members and the writing does not give the impact of an epic story. (Reading on Kindle so i don't know if there are diagrams, etc) I made a family tree for both families so I could remember who was with whom. Story is insteresting but not enough to keep my attention for more than 20 pages at a time, so I am reading it bit by bit. ...more
Jun 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not only does Lisa Alther cover the events of the feud, but she also explores the possible causes such as the lack of schools and a possible genetic disease found on the McCoy side. The book is easy to read and very informative. Alther includes all accounts from the sources she gathered and leaves it up to the reader to decide for themselves what they believed happened during the feud.
Jun 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting read, although nobody will really know the truth. Both sides told radically different stories for each feud event. The only thing that could be agreed upon was the body count. The prevailing attitude was "an eye for an eye", and the law basically looked the other way. I did appreciate the analysis of the culture and the impact of current events at the time of the feuds. ...more
Mary Frances
Dull, very speculative, basically not very good writing. If I were not suffering from vacation insomnia I would probably have abandoned it, but I had a mild curiosity about the history so I stuck it out. Not recommended to, well, anyone.
Jul 15, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It felt very thoroughly researched, and I believe the author put a lot of work and effort into this but it just... didn't quite work for me. After the beginning I found myself getting more and more distracted by the poor presentation and blatant bias. There was so much dogmatic speculation, I couldn't tell if it was the author's opinion or she was trying to communicate the perspective of those she was writing about. Regardless, it was a turn-off. It was only the ideas that "it might get better" ...more
Reza Amiri Praramadhan
I think Montagus and Capulets are nothing compared to the gun-toting, moonshine-stilling, Hatfields and McCoys, who feuded during 19th century. Guns were blazing, people were killed indiscriminately, all because of (popularly claimed) the stealing of a hog, although the author pointed out that the bad blood had already run before that with the murder of Harmon McCoy on the hands of Jim Vance. The scorecard tended to tilt towards the Hatfields, since it killed more people than McCoy could. My sym ...more
Mar 08, 2020 rated it liked it
2.5 stars. I didn't know anything about this topic, and I'm not sure what I expected. I found the narrative to be confusing. Lots of similar names, and it was hard to keep track of how everyone was interrelated. There was a note on one of the front pages that I could reference a family tree 'on the inside of the front cover,' but there was no family tree in the edition I was reading. Eventually I just ignored all that. Really, it's just a collection of anecdotes of people killing each other. And ...more
Jul 13, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It's a story, but it's not so epic. If anything, it read like a slapdash collection of family anecdotes that was so paltry that it had to be padded with equally sketchy accounts of other feuds in the region and a dollop of confused psychobabble meant to explain the families' bloodthirsty behavior. And despite her protestations to the contrary, the participants did, in fact, come across as stupid, dirty, volatile hillbillies steeped in a prehistoric social order of drunken men and dullard, submis ...more
Mar 16, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Overall, I was disappointed by Alther’s telling of the Hatfield-McCoy rivalry. While the content of the feud itself proved interesting, I found the writing was of a poor quality. The complex relationships within feuds were often not clearly presented, the material was repetitive, and the editorial comments inserted did not add much. The book also covered the feud in first 125 pages. The rest of the book was an examination of the aftermath, an attempt to explain the reasons behind the feud, the a ...more
This book is an interesting take on the Hatfield-McCoy feud. One thing I appreciated about it is that the author is very clear about the many situation in which it is difficult to impossible to determine what "really" happened. The later sections of the book place the feud in more context, by discussing other feuds, the culture in which it occurred, and other factors.

The book also considers the massive changes to the region that occurred in the 19th and 20th centuries. It's a well written take o
Jan 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought the book was pretty good. I thought it was interesting that the author was a decendant of the McCoys. I wasn't real impressed from chapter 12 on. This is where the author tries to explain why the feud may have happened. I like some of the other reviews think that those chapters could have been left out. It was a different time in history and the reasons died with those involved. ...more
Joan Colby
Oct 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A detailed account of the Hatfield and McCoy families tracing the famous feud, its causes and casualties. Most interesting are the portraits of the various characters and the history of the region which has via the media been largely fictionalized.
Barbara Hoke
It was a really dry book to read. If you watched the History Channel it had the same thing. It is sad that so many lives was destroyed over a hog. It was interesting to read about the other feuds that went on that was never made public.
Jerrill Wyler
3.4 stars
Michael Kearney
Nov 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You get info on the feud, plus commentary with this book.
Ruth Conrad
I found it interesting to learn more about this feud and Alther's insights into Appalacian culture. I had a very hard time reading all the detailed accounts of the years of violence. ...more
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