The title comes from an old Reverend Gary Davis song. Our narrative is rooted in another song:
“Tom Dooley.” It’s such an iconic piece of Americana that almost everyone has heard it at one time
The song we know is sad and sweet, a simple tale of love gone wrong. In reality, what happened in
1866 was something far more shadowy. But “Death Don’t Have No Mercy” is not a period piece.
Instead, the story has been transplanted to the 21st century. I’m keeping the facts of what happened
– and all the wicked and erotic drama and violence – and placing them squarely in current times,
with those same sordid elements.
Our Tom comes home wounded, not from the Civil War and not to the Carolina mountains, but
from Afghanistan to his fading hometown on the Virginia shore. He takes up first with Ann Foster,
then with her cousin Laura − who soon winds up dead.
So who plunged the blade into poor Laura’s heart in the dark of night? Was it Tom? A jealous Ann?
The dirty cop who’s her partner in the drug trade? Was it Laura’s father and Ann’s uncle, another
no-account felon? The two desperate meth heads out of the trailer park? The wealthy husband or
wife hiding behind their gilded facades? Or some other someone? All have motives, means, and
opportunities. That makes everyone a suspect.
Six episodes. A modest song that became an enduring legend that still swirls with mystery, now cast
forward 150 years. The eccentric veins of “Twin Peaks” and “The Killing,” but drenched in
One more thing. There are more ballads that are based on true crimes. None quite as well-known as
Tom Dooley, but compelling all the same. And those stories haven’t been told, either.
|“Death Don’t Have No Mercy”
A Six-Part Series for Television