The first serious biography of Jesse James in forty years - a stunning reinterpretation of an American icon.
Traditionally, Jesse James has been portrayed as a Wild West bandit, a Robin Hood of sorts. But in this meticulously researched, vividly written account of his life, James emerges as a far more significant figure: a ruthless, purposeful and intensely political man who used his crimes and notoriety to promote the Confederate cause during the bitter decade that followed Appomattox. Raised in a fiercely pro-slavery atmosphere in bitterly divided Missouri, he began at 16 to fight alongside some of the most savage Confederate guerrillas. In the bloodshed and bitterness that followed the Civil War, we see James and his fellow guerrillas, with their gunfights and holdups, become part of the intensely brutal struggle by the White South against the racial egalitarianism and Federal power fostered by Reconstruction. We see how James placed himself squarely in this context with his thirst for attention, his partisan pronouncements and his alliance with a rising ex-Confederate newspaper editor who helped shape James's image for their common purpose. In using violence and the news media on behalf of a political cause, Jesse James was neither a Robin Hood nor a quaint Wild West figure. Rather, as his life played out across the racial divide, the rise of the Klan, and the expansion of the railroads, he was a forerunner of what we have come to call a terrorist. T. J. Stiles has written a memorable biography - a revelation of both the man and his time.
“A dazzling work of American history”
“A book of inspiring breadth, as impressive in scope as the great Western Plains”
“Beautifully composed and exhaustively researched”
Times Literary Supplement
“Stunningly intelligent... Stiles writes superbly. He is set to become one of the great biographers of our time”
Miranda Seymour, Sunday Times