Category Archives: Wilkes


William Roy Pipes. Darby. Kent, U.K.: Ecanus Publishing, 2013.

darbyThe impulse for revenge consumes Andrew Woodard.  His father, George Woodard, was murdered in the woods near their home in Wilkes County, North Carolina.  Floyd Caldwell came upon the elder Woodard as he was dying and tried to save his life.  For his kindness, he is regarded with suspicion by the Woodard family, who believe that Floyd killed George over a land deal gone bad.  Even when the sheriff clears Floyd of the crime, bad feelings fester. It finally reaches the point that George’s brother, Virgil Woodard, challenges Floyd to a duel.  The  two men cross over into Tennessee, where dueling is still legal in at this time (1904), and Floyd kills Virgil.

Could that be the end of this feud?  No.  Virgil’s second at the duel was George’s son, Andrew, who vows to avenge both his father and uncle’s deaths. Although a young man, Andrew is exceptionally violent and wily.  Even as other members of the Woodard and Caldwell families move on from the past to make rich lives, Andrew plots his revenge.  Darby follows Andrew through a twenty-year period of crimes, incarceration, deception, and madness in a chilling look at the destructive power of hate and illusion.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Mountains, Pipes, William Roy, Wilkes

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

Cotton Ketchie. Little Did They Know. Davidson, NC: Lorimer Press, 2009.

Many women like being part of a group–the monthly book club, the weekly dinner group, the daily walking crew.  But how well do we know the women we spend time with?  The once five, now four, women of the Wednesday Night Club always eat at the same restaurant in Mooresville, but when Carmen suggests that the group go to a winery in the Yadkin Valley for dinner, the other women go along.  Carmen is the newest member of the group and a bit of a hard-charger, but Joanie and Gail have no reason to question Carmen’s plans. Debbie knows what a dirty-dealer Carmen is since Carmen is carrying on with her husband, but Debbie Seacrest has not shared that sorrow with her friends.

Carmen has met her match in Kevin Seacrest–they are two people with a thirst  for the good life and a ruthless streak.  Together they hatch a plan to kidnap the other women in the dinner group and then demand ransom from Gail’s wealthy husband, James Caldwell.  James suspects trouble right away and enlist the help of his friend, Jake McLeod, whose late wife Kitt was once part of the dinner group.  Although James and Jake push the authorities to act quickly, they are no vigilantes.  They work closely with the police, including Iredell County detective Marci Meredith.

Even though Kevin Seacrest’s behavior leads the authorities in the right direction, Gail, Joanie, and Debbie spend several harrowing days on the run from Carmen and a fierce and murderous accomplice.  During that time the women depend on each other for their very lives. The women draw closer, and each woman comes out of the experience with a clearer sense of what is important in her life.  During the days of searching Jake and Detective Meredith are attracted to each other, and this plot line is merged with the capture of the last kidnapper in a satisfying ending.

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

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Filed under 2000-2009, 2009, Iredell, Ketchie, Cotton, Piedmont, Wilkes, Yadkin

Waldron Baily. Heart of the Blue Ridge. New York: W. J. Watt & Co., 1915.

Making moonshine is part of the mountain culture in this novel set in Wilkes County. Zeke Higgins made the mistake of helping a revenue agent, earning the wrath of many people, including Dick Siddon, the guardian of Zeke’s sweetheart, Plutina. Zeke leaves the mountains to make his fortune, a journey that takes him to Greensboro, the Dismal Swamp, Norfolk, and New York. Back in the mountains, old Dick Siddon has a change of heart, but not before Plutina is kidnapped by a dangerous criminal. Zeke, and his dog, return to save the day.

Check this title’s availability and access an online copy through the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 1910-1919, 1915, Baily, Waldron, Mountains, Novels to Read Online, Wilkes