NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLING AUTHOR SHARYN MCCRUMB GIVES READING AT MGC
(Cochran, GA) – New York Times best- selling author Sharyn McCrumb recently gave a reading of her new novel, The Ballad of Tom Dooley, at Middle Georgia College’s President’s Conference Room in Georgia Hall. McCrumb also held a question and answer session, and a book sale was held after the event, with 10% of proceeds going to the MGC Student Scholarship Fund. The event was sponsored by the MGC Learning Communities.
The Ballad of Tom Dooley explores the true story behind the popular folk song of the same name, when Confederate veteran Tom Dula was hanged for the murder of one of his lovers, Laura Foster, in Wilkes County, N.C after the Civil War. According to the author’s biography, “The sensational elements in the case attracted national attention: a man and his beautiful married lover accused of murdering Laura Foster; the former governor of North Carolina spearheading the defense; and a noble gesture from the prisoner on the eve of his execution, saving the woman he really loved.”
McCrumb began her lecture by speaking about the history of the area where the novel is set, in the mountain ranges of the South, in order to give some back story for the novel. In the 1700s, Scottish and Irish immigrants settled in the Northeast. “They hated it,” said McCrumb. “It was flat, hot, and full of people like those that they wanted to leave behind. So they headed west, until they found the Appalachian Mountains, which felt right, like those at home,” she said. “And they brought their culture with them.” This move west set up conflict in the region, which is later reflected in the book.
McCrumb had heard suggestions that she write about Tom Dooley, but had reservations about writing the novel. “If anyone should write about Tom Dooley, it should be Jerry Springer,” she said. “The story has violence, poverty, ignorance, and adultery, and I just didn’t want to do it.”
Ultimately, McCrumb was hired to write a short story about the ballad for a magazine, but when she started her research, she couldn’t make sense of the story. “It was a sanitized version,” she said. “It was one talking raccoon away from a Disney movie, and I knew it didn’t happen like that. I wanted to find out what really happened.” McCrumb consulted historians, researchers, and historical records to write the book and recreate the events.
After the reading, McCrumb participated in a question and answer session with the audience, where she explained how she develops the characters in her novels. “I think of someone with the same characteristics,” she said. “It helps keep them in focus.”
Joy Wilson- Young, an Associate Professor of English at MGC and the Chair of the Learning Communities, said the event was a success. “I think the event went very well,” she said. “We had an opportunity to raise money for student scholarships through the sale of McCrumb’s latest novel, ‘The Ballad of Tom Dooley.’ Many community members attended, along with alumni and faculty, which is what we hoped what happen.”
Sharyn McCrumb is best known for her Appalachian “Ballad” novels, including the New York Times Best Sellers She Walks These Hills and The Rosewood Casket. McCrumb graduated from UNC Chapel Hill, and earned her M.A. from Virginia Tech. She was named a “Virginia Woman of History” in 2008 for Achievement in Literature, and was a guest author at the National Festival of the Book in Washington, D.C in 2006. She received the Perry F. Kendig Award for Achievement in Literature from the Arts Council of Blue Ridge, in Roanoke, V.A. in 2011.
The event was part of the Learning Communities’ series “Lives in Conflict”, which encourages students to examine conflict on a global platform, according to the Learning Communities’ website. The Learning Communities, a series of linked classes that share a common theme, sponsors events like movie nights and key note speakers throughout the semester to encourage students to engage in self-examination.
For information about other MGC Learning Communities events go to www.mgc.edu.