Introducing Anne Black Gray, author of "The Devil's Son"

Anne Black Gray

CHAPMANVILLE, W.Va. - You think you know who they were, why they fought, why they died. You know only the legend—now experience the real feud. The Devil’s Son, a brand new book by Woodland Press, is a vast historical epic that breathes life into the individuals and families on either side of the Tug River. At the center of the tale is Cap Hatfield, son of Devil Anse, the seminal figure in the feud. While the battle rages, Cap wrestles with coming of age in the shadow of the Devil.

The Devil’s Son takes the reader on a journey alongside Cap, son of the feared Devil Anse Hatfield who raises his children illiterate and unguided in an isolated region of late nineteenth century southern West Virginia. The family earns a living at timbering, but is frequently forced to halt work to engage in deadly battles with McCoys and posses marauding from across the border in Kentucky. Wealthy and powerful, land and mineral-hungry coal and railroad interests enter the region. The lives and fortunes of Cap and his family are now simultaneously threatened by armed marauders and wealthy men adept at using courtrooms and political power to their advantage. Leading the family’s efforts to survive, hampered by his illiteracy, ignorance of modern business practices and ethics, and refusal to adapt to the changing times, Devil Anse loses too many battles. The Hatfields are descending into poverty and defeat. Armed with only his intelligence, determination and the reading and writing his wife has taught him, Cap sets out to save his family, but must contest his father’s will every step of the way.

Anne Black Gray, the author, grew up in Parkersburg, West Virginia. She graduated with a degree in physics from Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, then went on to spend thirty-five years as an engineer and manager in the aerospace industry in Los Angeles.

She has now added a writing career to her engineering experience.

"When I was a child, my mother and her sisters often spoke fondly of their Uncle Cap," Anne explained. "One Easter, when they were children, he gave my aunts baby ducks and my mother a baby rabbit, by far the nicer gift in her estimation. Mother told me Cap was 'your Granddaddy’s friend.' Since Granddaddy was a reserved, well spoken man, a West Virginia mayor, state senator, and judge of the circuit court at one time or another, I pictured my mother’s uncle as a man with similar traits and disposition. Cap died six years before I was born, denying me any opportunity to know him personally."

Years later, as an adult, Anne came to learn that “Uncle Cap” was Cap Hatfield, notorious killer and right hand man to his father Devil Anse Hatfield, during the infamous Hatfield-McCoy feuds. It seemed altogether impossible to her that Uncle Cap and Cap the killer could be one and the same. The book, The Devil’s Son, is the result of her efforts, long after her mother’s and aunts’ deaths, to discover how Cap made the great transition he seemed to have made and, concomitantly, how the Hatfield-McCoy feud ended.

"After reading histories, memoirs, two master’s degree theses, and numerous old newspaper articles, I began to put a story together, a story that was never totally clear because information was sparse about many of Cap’s adventures, sources conflicted concerning names of sparring parties and dates of events, and very little was written about motives and interpersonal relationships. In fact, some tales and films portrayed the Hatfields and McCoys as cartoonish, irrational figures. To put together a coherent story, I had to re-create motives and conversations and provide scenes of life inside the Hatfield family. When data were sparse or conflicting, I chose words and actions that fit the flow of lives and the changes in them. That is, I have written a novel, not a history. The characters, events, and settings in southern West Virginia and northern Kentucky in the 1880s are actual, but conversations and details of some events are fictional.

"I have traced the flow of Cap’s life as though mapping the course of a river I have never seen and never can see. There are good, detailed maps of some portions of the river and stretches where no information at all is available or where sources conflict. Because a river is prevented from excursions that defy physical laws, such as gravity, one can draw a reasonable likeness of its course between known points. I have mapped some of Cap’s life in just such a way, making informed guesses about its flow between known events," she said.

Anne Black Gray is married, lives in Los Angeles, and has two grown daughters and two baby grandsons.