Category Archives: McCrumb, Sharyn

Sharyn McCrumb. King’s Mountain. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2013.

kingsSharyn McCrumb is a descendant of the Overmountain Men, the 18th century backcountry fighters who turned the tide of the Revolutionary War by their defeat of British forces and Tory sympathizers at King’s Mountain. One of those Overmountain Men, John Sevier, narrates much of the novel, and readers see the events leading up to the battle, the fight, and its aftermath through his eyes.

Sevier, and other historical figures such as Isaac Shelby and Col. William Campbell, come to life through McCrumb’s description and dialog.  Readers get a good sense of what motivated Sevier to settle where he did, the dangers of moving the the west side of the mountains, and why the threats from British army major Patrick Ferguson prompted Sevier, Shelby, and their kin to act.  The battle and its human cost are well portrayed, and readers will feel interest in both the historical figures who exploits they already know of and the purely fictional characters whose stories round out the narrative.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Historical, McCrumb, Sharyn, Mountains

Sharyn McCrumb. The Ballad of Tom Dooley. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2011.

If you grew up in the Appalachians of western North Carolina, chances are you’ve heard the tale of Tom Dooley at least once. You may even have heard the song made famous by the likes of Frank Proffitt, the New Lost City Ramblers, and Doc Watson: hang down your head, Tom Dooley…hang down your head and cry… a sordid tale of love, betrayal, and murder set in the years following the Civil War. But fact often proves more shocking than the tale. Author Sharyn McCrumb, after spending hours consulting the legal evidence, trial transcripts, and speaking with experts, determined that something didn’t add up. The answers she found in her lengthy research hint at a dark, Brontë-like pentagon of individuals trapped by disease, starvation, racial boundaries, and the after-effects of armed conflict.

Zebulon Baird Vance, the educated sometime-Governor of North Carolina,  represented Tom Dooley during his trial for murder. In McCrumb’s telling, he is convinced that Dooley is innocent. While his narrative reflects on the aftermath, the voice of servant-girl Pauline Foster recounts the tale from its origin. Survival during the war meant Pauline had to sell her body to passing soldiers for food, but she escaped death. Unfortunately, she didn’t emerge entirely unscathed. Infected with syphilis, she makes her way from her home county of Watauga to neighboring Wilkes, in hopes of staying with one of her cousins there while seeing a doctor. She chooses her wealthy relation Ann Melton, who allows her room and board in exchange for servant work. Ann is narcissistic and spoiled, and the sociopathic Pauline quickly determines that she will bring suffering to her cousin’s door, no matter the consequences for others. When Pauline realizes the depth of love between the married Ann and Tom Dooley, a former Confederate soldier and Ann’s childhood sweetheart, she hatches a terrible plan for revenge that inflicts tragedy across the entirety of Wilkes County. Expertly researched and written, history and fiction lovers alike will find this a fascinating read.

Frank Proffitt and his banjo

Click here for a clip of “Tom Dooley” as sung by Doc Watson, and here for a clip as sung by Frank Proffitt, both courtesy of the Southern Folklife Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill. The songs, and many others, are available on CD and vinyl in the Southern Folklife Collection, which like the North Carolina Collection, is located in Wilson Library. While you’re here, check the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog for the availability of The Ballad of Tom Dooley.



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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Historical, McCrumb, Sharyn, Mountains, Watauga, Wilkes

Sharyn McCrumb. St. Dale. New York: Kensington, 2005.

This funny, touching novel is a modern-day retelling of the Canterbury Tales, following a group of unlikely friends on the Dale Earnhardt Memorial Pilgrimage. The “Number Three Pilgrims” travel to several of the sites of prominent victories of the late NASCAR legend and North Carolina native. In the course of their journey they visit Piedmont North Carolina, “the land of textile mills and furniture factories, of tobacco fields and hog farms — and race tracks.” At stops at the Richard Petty museum in Randolph County, the North Carolina Motor Speedway in Rockingham, and the Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Concord, the pilgrims find solace and inspiration in the life and legacy of Earnhardt.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC Library Catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2005, McCrumb, Sharyn, Piedmont

Sharyn McCrumb. Ghost Riders. New York: Dutton, 2003.

Set primarily in the North Carolina mountains, Ghost Riders tells three distinct stories. The interwoven tales involve Rattler, a current-day recluse and eccentric who socializes with Civil War re-enactors; Zebulon Vance, the Governor of North Carolina during the Civil War; and Malinda and Keith Blaylock, a married couple who join the Confederate army under Vance. Mixing past and present, McCrumb examines the Civil War and its legacy in the mountains of North Carolina.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC Library Catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2003, McCrumb, Sharyn, Mountains

Sharyn McCrumb. The Songcatcher. New York: Dutton, 2001.

In presenting the story of a simple English ballad, McCrumb traces the history of an American family. Lark McCoury, a popular country singer in Tennessee, is searching for a traditional song to record for her new album. The ballad, “The Rowan Stave,” came to the country with her ancestor Malcolm McCoury, an 18th- century Scottish immigrant who fought in the Revolutionary War and then settled in the North Carolina mountains. The story of Lark’s search for the origins of the ballad is interwoven with scenes from the past, as the song passes from one generation to the next before finally reaching her.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC Library Catalog.

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2001, McCrumb, Sharyn, Mountains