The Richmond Register

Viewpoints

March 28, 2013

‘Dark and Bloody Ground’ is a realistic saga of the mountains

Points East

PAINT LICK — I’ve just finished reading the best full-length novel by a Kentucky author that I’ve seen in a decade or longer. So good, in fact, that it’s hard for me to believe I’m just now hearing about it and that it has not had any mention in our big city and regional press.

Had it not been for an alert bookseller in Pound, Va., I probably would not have discovered “The Dark And Bloody Ground,” written by Roberta Hayes Webb and published by TurnKey Press of Austin, Texas, in 2006. It runs for 381 action packed pages.

 Please do not confuse this book with a 1993 work by Darcy O’Brien or other books with the same title. Any similarity begins and ends with the titles.

When I told Brenda Salyers, astute proprietor of Heritage Nook Books, there in Pound, that I’d read it, she had to point out the differences in authorship before I realized I hadn’t seen Webb’s book. And boy am I glad that Brenda is so persistent because this one has been a can’t-lay-down, up-all-night, page-turner.

 Webb’s book is a fictional account of the early discovery and settlement of the uppermost reaches of the Big Sandy River Valley near what is now Jenkins, in Letcher County.

The book traces the lives and adventures of four generations of the fictional first family, from 1800 through about 1950, to settle in the head of Elkhorn Creek, headwaters of the Big Sandy.

 The geographic settings and historical events are remarkably accurate. Despite a few name changes here and there and the liberal use of her poet’s license, readers of Webb’s tale has a consistently realistic sense of when and where they are.

Several of the Civil War episodes are literally hair raisers.

The reading experience is an emotional roller coaster ride that comes as close to capturing the Appalachian experience as anything I’ve ever read.

Readers familiar with and appreciative of our culture will find themselves at home — but do keep a handkerchief or a box of tissue handy on the one hand and be equally prepared to run to wherever you go when you’re terribly frightened. “Dark and Bloody Ground” is sometimes love story, sometimes thriller, sometimes action/adventure and always intriguing. And keep in mind, however difficult it may be at times, that you are reading fiction.

 The author, Roberta Hayes Webb, was born and raised in Burdine, where she walked to grade school before riding the bus to Jenkins High School from which she graduated in May 1945. Much of “Dark and Bloody Ground” is devoted to living in a coal camp and a company town. Suffice it to say the author knows of which she speaks.

 After high school, Roberta spent a brief stint in Oak Ridge, Tenn., as a lab technician on the team that developed the atomic bomb. In 1949, she completed a degree in psychiatric nursing at Knoxville General Hospital, by which time she was married to Dr. Jim Webb who was completing his residency in psychiatry at the University of Georgia.

 Both Jim and Roberta Webb enjoyed long, successful and storied medical careers throughout a marriage that lasted 59 years before Jim’s passing to the other side six years ago.

Along the way, they had four children and lived in Georgia, Virginia, Florida, North Carolina and Iowa before settling in Texas in 1967.

“Dark and Bloody Ground” is her first published novel and she is currently working on a sequel.

 If you do some math here, you will note that Mrs. Webb postponed her writing career until she was in her 70s. I am among those who would insist she should have started much, much sooner.

 You can get the book at Amazon, but if you want a truly personal touch, please visit Heritage Books Nook website, www.heritagenook.com, and give your business to Brenda Salyers. She is a wonderful lady who started her store in the early 80s to provide a sales outlet for local writers.

 Brenda now operates her business out of her living room at 8009 Main St. in Pound, where she stocks about 200 titles by central Appalachian writers.

 You can also read a more in depth synopsis of Roberta’s novel by clicking featured books when you get to the site.

1
Text Only
Viewpoints
  • 06.29 CrystalFarewell.jpg Starting over at Head Start

    All I ever wanted to be was a journalist. Having worked on my high school and college newspapers, I knew it was the career for me.
    I love talking to people, listening to their stories, being creative every day and experiencing new things. But as you know, news happens outside the hours of 9 to 5, and my job here at the Register rarely stayed within that time frame.

    June 29, 2014 2 Photos

  • Ike Adams They don’t make strawberries as they did back in the old days

    I’m not inclined to go through my archives at the moment, but it almost feels like the column I’m about to write has almost become an annual thing over the years.
    At least I know for sure that that this is not the first time that memories of picking strawberries there on Blair Branch on hot days in June has triggered this keyboard about this time of year.
    I grew up on a little subsistence, hillside farm deep in the mountains of eastern Kentucky, among the coalfields near the Virginia line.

    June 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ike Adams Baby boomers have let technology rob their grandchildren of the joys of youth

    When I was growing up, it was not uncommon to see fathers and sons along creek banks fishing together or in the woods hunting squirrels or pitching horse shoes or even shooting marbles late in the afternoon in the cool hours before dark.
    Dads were teaching kids to play the games they grew up with. Little girls, learned from mothers,how to skip rope, play with jacks or play hopscotch.

    June 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ronnie-Ellis.jpg No Lincoln or Douglas in this debate

    Remember the famous slap-down in the 1988 vice presidential debate when Republican Dan Quayle compared his youth and limited government experience to those of John Kennedy’s when Kennedy ran for president?
    His Democratic opponent, Texas Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, acidly replied: “I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”

    June 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ronnie-Ellis.jpg Senate campaign already in full bloom

    Any hope for a respite in the U.S. Senate campaign following Tuesday’s primary disappeared immediately.
    Mitch McConnell and Alison Lundergan Grimes came out swinging in victory speeches which sounded like campaign kickoffs.
    McConnell commended Matt Bevin on “a tough (primary) race” and appealed to Bevin supporters to unite behind his re-election bid. That will be hard for Bevin and those who backed him.

    May 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jim Waters.JPG ‘Taxpayer-eaters’ meet ‘self-serving politician-eaters’

    What some candidates could gain in this year’s election – beyond just winning office – is a stark reminder of how wrong political leaders were when declaring last year they had adequately addressed Kentucky’s public-pension crisis.
    Instead, legislators with serious courage deficiencies failed to agree on reforms beyond what they believe are “politically feasible.”

    May 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ike Adams Step Out, Step up for Diabetes Association

    Six weeks ago when I wrote here announcing the 2014 Edition of Team TKO’s American Diabetes Association, Step Out Walk Team, several dozen of you readers sent generous donations to sponsor grandson Tyler Kane Ochs (TKO) and me in the walk that takes place, rain or shine, in the mud or not, at Keeneland on the morning of May 31.
    Another several dozen of you either called, emailed or dropped a card in regular mail and asked that I remind you again “after the holidays” (Easter and Mother’s Day).

    May 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ronnie-Ellis.jpg Hitting the campaign trail

    The most watched race in the country ? the battle for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican Mitch McConnell ? has so far produced a bevy of charges and not much substance.
    We haven’t seen that much of McConnell or his likely Democratic opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes out on the campaign trail.
    McConnell’s primary opponent Matt Bevin has been much more active and visible, but his performance hasn’t enhanced his chances.

    May 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • The case of the scary black cat

    If Margie didn’t believe that black cats were the harbinger of bad luck, she certainly believed it when a black cat brushed against her leg while she was leaning over a large trash can burning garbage one late afternoon.
    Startled by the sudden appearance of the feline, Margie opened her mouth wide and let out a blood-curdling scream that could have awakened Count Dracula himself.

    May 10, 2014

  • Ike Adams Basking in the spring sunshine

    If you had asked me, as recently as two weeks ago, to make a list of things I expected to see on the first Monday in May of 2014, two of the things that I actually did see would not have been on the list, even if you’d required that it contain at least 500 items.
    I’d have been a bit skeptical about Ralph’s purple asparagus and his gorgeous snowball bush, both of which came through most admirably. And I would have had my doubts about the poppies that have been in our back yard for several generations and the bearded German Iris that Jeanette Todd gave us more than two decades ago. It faithfully stuns us there at the corner of the front porch every spring, but there they were, basking in absolute glory as the sun set Monday afternoon.

    May 8, 2014 1 Photo

AP Video
Death Penalty Expert: 'This is a Turning Point' House Committee at Odds Over Obama Lawsuit Raw: MH17 Victim's Bodies Arrive in Netherlands Raw: UN School Used As Shelter Hit by Tank Shell Raw: Gunmen Attack Iraqi Prison Convoy Plane Leaves Ukraine With More Crash Victims The Rock Brings Star Power to Premiere Raw: Families Travel to Taiwan Plane Crash Site Arizona Execution Takes Almost Two Hours Gen. Odierno Discusses Ukraine, NATO at Forum Gaza Fighting Rages Amid Cease-Fire Efforts Mint Gives JFK Coin a Face-lift Creative Makeovers for Ugly Cellphone Towers Ariz. Inmate Dies 2 Hours After Execution Began Crash Kills Teen Pilot Seeking World Record LeBron James Sends Apology Treat to Neighbors Raw: Funeral for Man Who Died in NYPD Custody Migrants Back in Honduras After US Deports Israeli American Reservist Torn Over Return
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Poll

What county fair attraction do you like most?

Amusement rides
Beauty pageants
Flora Hall craft exhibits
Horse shows
Livestock, poultry shows
Truck, tractor pulls
Mud, dirt races
Gospel sing
I like them all
     View Results