The Feud: The Hatfields and McCoys: The True Story

Written by Dean King
Review by Tony Hays

Within the last year, we’ve been treated to Hollywood’s rendition of the most famous family feud in American history – The Hatfields and the McCoys. It was a long, drawn-out, bloody affair and made for great stage drama. But Dean King’s The Feud sets the story straight. This well-researched, scholarly account of the infamous Hatfields/McCoys brings the affair the sort of professional scrutiny it has long needed. Virgil Carrington Jones’s book The Hatfields and the McCoys, first published in 1948, was an excellent first effort, but King, author of the bestselling Skeletons on the Zahara (Back Bay, 2005), has taken the country’s most famous feud light years beyond that.

King meticulously pieces together, through records and oral history, the origins of the quarrel and shows that there was far more to it than just a stolen pig, as some accounts would have it. What King does is bring flesh and sinew, blood and passion to ancient county records, and breathes life and color into old family tales. No matter what you knew, before reading The Feud, you will find your opinions transformed, sometimes wrenchingly so.

My only criticism is that there is sometimes too much information provided, information that does not always seem germane to the topic. But, in the final analysis, if you are interested in the Hatfield & McCoy debacle, The Feud should be your first stop.