The Ballad of Tom Dooley

The Ballad of Tom Dooley

A Ballad Novel

Book - 2011
Average Rating:
Rate this:
A story inspired by a true crime made famous by the Kingston Trio's folk song recording reimagines the events surrounding the murder of North Carolina mountain girl Laura Foster and the hanging of her lover, Tom Dula, in a meticulously researched accountthat reveals additional information that may prove Dula's innocence.
Publisher: New York : Thomas Dunne Books, 2011
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780312558178
Characteristics: 311 p. ; 25 cm


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
PimaLib_ChristineR Jul 07, 2018

If you are a big fan of historical fiction...this novel may not be for you, but the afterword may.

McCrumb did some serious digging into the story behind the The Ballad of Tom Dooley, tracing it to a Civil War veteran, Tom Dula; and his married lover, Ann Melton. Melton's cousin, Laura Foster was murdered and Tom hangs for it. What McCrumb uncovers will interest history buffs, but if you're not a fan of reading unlikable narrators, this probably isn't for you. Despite that, I found this to be an entertaining story. McCrumb tells the story from the point of view of a minor witness in the trial, Ann Melton's cousin, Pauline Foster. McCrumb makes Pauline the catalyst for the actions, and a complete psychopath, possibly sociopath. Honestly, I still liked her better than Rachel from Girl on the Train; at least Pauline was openly manipulative and unfeeling.

While I didn't really get the Wuthering Heights thing (Tom was certainly no Heathcliff), I did really enjoy the counterpoint of Tom's defense attorney, Zebulon Vance. While his sections could be repetitive, the more he revealed about himself, the more he showed himself to be more like Pauline Foster than he would ever like to admit. It was a nice little twist.

This book could have easily been called American Psycho if the name hadn't already been taken.

Apr 06, 2017

Fascinating narrator. Great storytelling.

This mystery is based on a true crime, the stabbing death of a young woman, in the Smokey or Appalachian Mountains just after the Civil War. I didn't know the famous folk song ("Hang Your Head Down, Tom Dooley") was based on an infamous crime. The trial revealed the perfect mix of sexual shenanigans and violence which universally attract public interest. Nothing is more fun than salivating over the sins of others and feeling justifiably judgmental & superior!

And this novel is great fun also.

Feb 27, 2017

Solid historical research. Dialog/dialect rings "true,"

Jun 28, 2015

Not her best work. The book was apparently too short so the editor told her to go back and add the lawyer's story to fill it out. I skipped the last two of those asides and doubt I missed much. Still, it is a good story, mostly well-written and engaging. Not bad enough to keep me from looking forward to finishing her substantial list of titles.

Jul 06, 2013

This is an excellent fictional adaptation and reinterpretation of the facts behind the legend. As someone who grew up in North Carolina, I can vouch for the authenticity with which she paints the background. The author accomplishes no mean feat in telling most of the story through a psychopathic character who drives the tragedy forward.

Mar 26, 2013

Thought this would be a good read and I would learn the background story of the song. It was kind of good; not horrible, but not that great. If you need to "love" a character in order to love a book, skip this one -- Not many characters in the book are even likeable. I gave it three stars because even though the storyline was lacking, I did want to see how it ended. However, I rarely put a book down and decide not to finish it.

Jan 22, 2012

Yuck. Narrator is a sociopath, who often mentions that she doesn't understand what makes a person prefer one man over any other: so, then, *not* the best person to tell the tale of star-crossed lovers. Author says resemblance to Wuthering Heights is intentional. I didn't notice, but I didn't care for WH either IIRC. Cast includes the sociopath, a narcissist, a man-child, and a village where everybody is sleeping with everybody else, except the woman's husband who doesn't seem to get any but doesn't mind, erm, watching. Author says civil war success story Zeb Vance is included mainly to show that not EVERYONE from this part of the world is psychologically sick. Also, the story drags! Writing style is up to par, I have such high expectations of this author, I'm really disappointed I'm not sensing any of her usual magic.

Dec 05, 2011

A slow read. I had to finish as I did not know the background to the song/story. Pauline Foster, the murdered girl's cousin and a leading female character in this book, is pure evil. Machiavelli move over.

Terrible read, could not get through it, did not hold my interest at all. Didn't finish it as I have so many more on my list and shelves to read.

debrajjackson Oct 03, 2011

McCrumb's talent shines again in this folklore story that mixes fact and fiction. A terrific read!


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number

Subject Headings


Find it at SBL

To Top