Friday, June 7, 2013

Dean King's "The Feud: The Hatfields and McCoys"

Dean King's books include the national bestseller Skeletons on the Zahara. He has written for many publications, including Men's Journal, Esquire, Garden & Gun, Granta, Outside, New York Magazine, and the New York Times. He lives in Richmond, Virginia.

King applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Feud: The Hatfields and McCoys, and reported the following:
Page 99 finds us right in the thick of one of the most tension-filled and complex moments of the feud. The day before the action that takes place on this page, August 7, 1888, had been an election day in Pike County, Kentucky. Moonshine had flowed, ultimately resulting in a fight between the Confederate veteran Ellison Hatfield, a brother of feud patriarch Devil Anse Hatfield, and three sons of Randall McCoy, the head of the feuding McCoys. Off stage, Ellison Hatfield lies in West Virginia, where he has been removed, dying of twenty-seven stab wounds and a pistol bullet.

The three brothers have been arrested in Kentucky by deputies, who just happen to be Hatfields. On their way to the jail in Pikeville, Kentucky, they have been intercepted by Wall and Elias Hatfield, brothers of Ellison and Devil Anse. Wall, a justice of the peace in West Virginia, has successfully (if wrongly) argued that the brothers should not be removed to Pikeville but should be tried right there, and he has gained possession of the prisoners.

Now Devil Anse shows up, and we meet the men he has brought with him, a posse including his sons Johnse and Cap and a group of roughneck timber hands, none afraid of a fight.

The action on this page takes place at noon at the home of Devil Anse’s cousin Preacher Anse Hatfield. While Wall Hatfield is inside calmly shaving, Devil Anse takes control of the situation. Preacher Anse tells him to leave his property.

Devil Anse has his men—forty by some accounts—form up in an overwhelming show of force. He calls for a rope. Charlie Carpenter, an itinerant school teacher working on Mate Creek, who some would claim was delusional, fetches it for him. Devil Anse orders Carpenter to lash the brothers together, and he obeys:
The overzealous schoolteacher cinched the rope until it cut off the circulation to their hands. Pain, aside, this was a distinct demotion in status. With the rope, the presumption of innocence was symbolically stripped away, and the line between security on the one hand and humiliation and torture on the other blurred. Devil Anse nodded to Preacher Anse and announced to the Kentucky officers, “We’re taking charge of the murderers.”
This sets the stage for one of the most egregious crimes of the feud in the upcoming pages.
Learn more about the book and author at Dean King's website and Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue