Forgive me, but one tune (not an Appalachian ballad) keeps coming into my head as I think about this book and Trevor McKenzie – “I polished up that handle so carefully that now I am the ruler of the queen’s navy.” Trevor McKenzie has been working diligently for years with Fred J. Hay at the W. L. Eury Special Appalachian Collection in the Belk Library at Appalachian State University. Now, in August 2021 he has been selected to be the new Director of the region’s most celebrated Appalachian Center there at Appalachian State and he has published a book with the region’s most prestigious university press. Otto Wood (1893-1930) was best known for having escaped from five state penitentiaries eleven times! Notorious in his own time, his legend only grew as Doc Watson popularized a ballad that told his story. “Trevor McKenzie has crafted a fascinating history of Otto Wood, a complex and outlandish North Carolinian. Not only is this an engrossing tale of Wood's short yet eventful life; it also provides a great window into early twentieth-century North Carolina.”-- Daniel Pierce. “An exciting and deeply absorbing saga of the charismatic and complex outlaw Otto Wood--a self-styled Appalachian Jesse James. Who better than insightful historian, killer storyteller, and native son of the Blue Ridge Trevor McKenzie to tackle a question that has bedeviled southerners for almost a century: 'Otto, why didn't you run?'”--Sarah Bryan. Of course, David Holt, the four-time Grammy Award-winning bluegrass musician and expert on Appalachian music and lore, wrote the Foreword.
Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2021. 160 pages with a Foreword by David Holt, an Index, Notes, and Suggested Readings on Appalachian Crime and Music. Trade paperback.