I don't know if it's really true to say that Herod was universally hated by his subjects. He certainly wasn't very popular, for the reasons given. But we don't hear of many riots and protests during his rule. Ed Sanders has some interesting things to say about Herod the Great: If you're interested in conditions in first-century Palestine, including what Judaism was like at the time and how Jesus related to it all, then by far the best introduction I know of is E.P. Sanders' The historical figure of Jesus (London: Penguin 1993). Sanders is one of the world's top scholars on first-century Judaism and the historical Jesus, and this book is extremely readable.