Book Reviews

I loved this book. It had lots of interesting information about the Duke family, of which I am a descendant. My Great Grandmother was a Duke–the ones who moved to Tennessee. She and her husband came to our house and stayed overnight occasionally when I was a child. This author did extensive research to put all of this together and made it really interesting. I was surprised that our ancestors were a part of the Underground Railroad. I appreciate that this book was written, for it made me aware of our history–things I had never heard before. I enjoyed learning what things were like for people in “those days”. I had always heard of Doris Duke, but knew nothing about her life and death. Her story was a real-life novel in itself! I thank the author for taking the time and having the interest to do so much research and compile the information into a book for all of us to enjoy. My children are all planning to read it.

June Dunai

Biased but fascinating blend of Duke family fact and fiction.

Kirkus Review

This book has clear print and is easily read. The flamboyant “tell all” books lack the sincerity and truth of this carefully written book. I enjoyed this book and those cousins who passed it along had since words of praise, too.

Katherine Billingsley Duke, Phd.

This book brought me back to the early 1800s in North Carolina. I felt like I was really there.

Marti Skold, Time Warner News

This is an excellent book. It is great that these stories have finally been reduced to writing. This book is a treasure that contains information no one will ever learn from any other source. It is very rich in North Carolina history and history about Duke University.

The Late Honorable Judge Elwood Rich

We loved it. A very, very, good read. Should be required reading for every Duke freshman.

Ed Brody, Owner at Team Brody Real Estate, La Quinta, California

I absolutely loved this book. I started reading it on a Friday night while I was on my exercise bicycle and couldn’t put it down. I finished it that weekend. I was amazed at this fascinating family is and that so many of them were people of integrity and faith. And the book is extremely well written. Though it contains factual information it is written like a novel. It is very inspirational and motivating. I like this book so much I am going to give copies to my patients and friends.

Walt Combs, MD, Former Chief of Staff at Sharp Health Care and Owner at Rancho Family Medical Group

The Duke Legacy is quite a fascinating book. Written as a novel it really holds the reader’s attention yet the reader is actually learning something about history. I thought it was interesting that the dialogue does not attempt to create a Southern dialect. I like that. When we read books translated from a foreign language they are not written with a foreign accent. I don’t know why some writers feel they have to try to create a Southern accent when writing about America. I liked the way Taylor Duke handled the bad guys like Steven Dixon. It was a very straightforward no nonsense way of dealing with them at that time. What a legacy this family left. I can tell it was a real joy for the author to write this book.

The Honorable Judge John Kennedy (retired)

I thought this book was exceptional. I believe that to understand it one has to fully understand historical fiction and not forget that the writer is a lawyer. He did not dumb the language down like a pop fiction writer. Instead, he wrote with elegance and proper sentence structure throughout, more like one would expect from Jane Austen or Charles Dickens. For the most part he portrayed the Duke family members as well educated and not using poor sentence structure. Again, I believe this would have been consistent with reality. He explains that their ancestor Henry was well educated and from Virginia high society. I know that education was very important to this family. Washington Duke’s father Taylor was on the school board and was a captain in the NC militia and Washington’s brother Billy was an ordained Methodist minister. They were not a backwoods hick family most people in North Carolina believe them to have been. I am so grateful that he did not dumb down the text to create a pop fiction novel but kept it up there.

I might add that the book seems to be serving his intended purpose in that I have seen that it is being used in law schools as a case study on elder abuse (the Doris Duke section). I read recently that Duke (the author) and Doris Duke’s attorneys are giving lectures in law schools and elsewhere on elder abuse using the book as a case study. I think this is exactly what he intended and probably could not have been done if he had reduced the language to feign a Huck Finn drawl in order to “capture the culture”. That would have been artificial in my opinion and not true to the Duke family.

In the text the author explains that he is not writing a biography. There are quite a few biographies on the Duke family, which no one reads anyway, and there was no reason to reinvent the wheel. Nor do I believe he was necessarily trying to write a literary masterpiece, though he may well have. Even though it is a novel, he cites in footnotes the source for every story told so the reader knows exactly where the story came from and whether a particular story is fact or fiction. I have never seen this done before and some have said that he has raised historical fiction to a higher standard. Likely for some, citing sources in footnotes will automatically transform the book into a biography, or place it somewhere between a biography and a novel. This will no doubt cause consternation for those who dwell in a finite limited frame of reference and cannot differentiate between form and substance, but those whose opinions matter have found the style quite fascinating and cutting edge. I think his true goal was simply to share a collection of stories, some of which have never been heard before, and to highlight some biographical information in a narrative format, to cause an interest in the Duke family through dramatization. He even refers the reader to writers such as Robert Durden and Pony Duke for a more in depth biographical work. So in that sense, I believe he was attempting to provide information at a level most would consider sufficient and to serve as a spring board for the few who would like to study the family in greater depth.

This book does contain some information no other book contains in that he addresses the court case of Doris Duke’s death with over 100 pages of court transcripts and depositions. He also includes an interview of Doris Duke’s attorneys. This has never been done before which I believe is the reason the book is being picked up by law schools. He gives enough information to provide a good flavor of this fascinating family, without overburdening the text with details most people would not have an interest in knowing, as the biographies have done.

In addition to the new information about Doris Duke, the author has provided hundreds of pages of stories that have never been told in any publication before. These stories are based on information exclusively within the Duke family. If you are hoping that he will trash the family and portray them as moral degenerates, then don’t waste your time on this book. While many writers have done this, by focusing on certain troubled members of the family, this writer has not. Clearly, the author was not interested in selling his soul to sell a few more books. Frankly, I cannot think of a more fascinating source of information than the folklore of one of the most secret and powerful families the world has ever seen, and I can only assume that the number of stories he has told are miniscule in comparison to the number stories he chose not to tell.

I had the privilege of meeting the author at Washington Duke Inn in Durham when he was in town for a conference with Coach K. Based on our discussion, I think that he wrote this book out of love for the Duke family and to demystify the family by showing them for who they really are. It is nice to know that a person can be good and wealthy at the same time. I give The Duke Legacy five stars hands down as most reviewers elsewhere have.

David Johnson