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Jesse James
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About the Author

A native of rural Benton County, Minnesota, T.J. Stiles studied history at Carleton College and Columbia University, where he received two graduate degrees. His writings about American history include articles in Smithsonian, essays in the Los Angeles Times and the Denver Post, and a five-volume series of primary-source anthologies. He lives in New York. For more information on T. J. Stiles and Jesse James see www.tjstiles.com.

Reviews

Gr 6-12-A gripping portrait of one of the most notorious and vicious criminals in U.S. history. At 18, James was to most a feared and hated outlaw, but to others he was a folk hero in the image of Robin Hood. Along with his brother Frank and other renegade soldiers, he formed the ``James Gang,'' which sought to avenge the lost cause of the Confederacy. This man has fascinated readers for a century, and Stiles brings him to life with his poignant style and use of vivid period photographs. While his tone is highly sympathetic to James and the cruel and iniquitous treatment he received at the hands of Union soldiers, he in no way romanticizes or justifies the killer's actions. The legend lives on in this readable biography.- Julie Halverstadt, Douglas Public Library District, Castle Rock, CO

In a lucid reexamination of one of the nation's most notorious outlaws, independent historian Stiles argues that Jesse James (1847-1882), like his fellow "bushwhackers," had a political agenda and that this made him more terrorist than bandit, and more significant than we credit. "He was," Stiles says, "a political partisan [wh0] eagerly offered himself up as a polarizing symbol of the Confederate project for postwar Missouri." By the age of 16, James was engaged in guerilla warfare against Union forces; when the war was over he remained a staunch and outspoken ex-Confederate. His letters to friend and newspaper editor John Newman Edwards, in which he described himself as "the target of unjustified, vindictive persecution," and exonerative articles published about him after the war, show that James used and was used by the newspapers to further Missouri's opposition to Reconstruction. White-supremacist bushwhackers targeted Unionists as well as institutions that benefited the Union. Political posturing aside, though, James and his ilk used the booty to line their own pockets and if James mirrored the bigger picture of a society that pushed him into a life of crime, he also embraced that life without remorse. That said, Stiles's painstaking research has produced a compelling book that recreates, sometimes graphically, the ruthlessness that prevailed in Missouri, where neighbor fought neighbor and nobody was safe. He also offers a critical understanding of how deep-seated hatred breeds self-righteous fanatics, who can justify violence against anyone deemed an enemy. 16 pages of illus. and six maps. Agent, Jill Grinberg. (Sept. 22) Forecast: Placing James in the context of the Civil War and its aftermath should substantially increase the audience for this. A six-city author tour and the powerful photo of a young James on the cover will also add sales. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Cold-blooded killer? Missouri Robin Hood? Romantic Western outlaw? Jesse James has been portrayed as all these things, yet many of these portrayals are either too simplistic or too one-sided. The last scholarly biography of James (William A. Settle's Jesse James Was His Name) came out over 30 years ago. Much has been published since then in terms of documentation, and Settle perhaps concentrated more on distinguishing between the legend and the man than popular historian Stiles does in this new biography. Stiles has focused here on the outlaw in the context of his times, in particular the political era. James was very much a political man, a frequent writer of letters to newspapers, and a diehard Confederate in a state more bitterly divided over the war than perhaps any other. Stiles suggests, interestingly, that James was not simply an outlaw but a sort of terrorist, both during and after the Civil War. The ferocity and cruelty of war and politics in Civil War Missouri are captured vividly, as is their effect on the development of the young James, who was only 16 when he joined the Confederate guerrillas. Well written, amply illustrated, and supported by chapter notes, this title is recommended for both public and academic libraries. Charles Cowling, SUNY at Brockport Lib. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

"So carefully researched, persuasive, and illuminating that it is likely to reshape permanently our understanding of its subject's life and times." -The New York Times Book Review

"After reading this biography . . . can doubt that the driving force of Jesse James's career was persistent Confederate ideology and loyalty. . . . [Stiles writes] vigorously, eloquently, persuasively." -James M. McPherson, The New York Review of Books

"Intricate, far-reaching. . . . A fascinating revisionist biography." -TheNew York Times

"In this excellent account, T.J. Stiles shows James to be a southerner, not a westerner; a Confederate, not a cowboy. . . . [He] masterfully strips James bare." -The Economist

"Elegantly rendered and compelling." -Jay Winik, Washington Post Book World

"Stiles has combed a wealth of contemporary sources and imbues this story with the drama it deserves." -Eric Foner, Los Angeles Times

"[A] bold, myth-bashing account of the brutal life and times of the outlaw-icon." -Boston Globe

"Carries the reader scrupulously through James's violent, violent life. . . . When Stiles, in his subtitle, calls Jesse James the 'last rebel fo the Civil War; he correctly definies the theme that ruled Jesse's life." -Larry McMurtry, The New Republic

"A fascinating challnge to old legends." -The Dallas Morning News

"A dazzling work of American history. . . . James emerges, stripped of his Robin Hood folk mythology, as a more complex and pivotal figure than earlier histories have allowed." -Sunday Times [London]

"Arresting and powerful." -The Richmond-Times Dispatch

"This gripping biography of one of the most famous American outlaws clarifies the development of modern violence and proves that the simplistic Jesse James of western movies fall far short of the historical mark." -Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

"Perhaps the finest book ever written about this American legend." -Salon.com

"The book is quite simply outstanding. . . . [Stiles is] a writer whose allegiance is not with the easy and obvious but with the subtle and definiantly humane." -Guardian

"As gracefully written as a novel, and convincingly argued throughout, this is biography at its finest." -Bookpage

"Stiles spent four years examining James's deadliest weapon: his politics. . . . James emerges as no mere robber, but as a proslavery 'terrorist' who remains wildly misunderstood." -Time Out

"In hard-eyed, exhilaratingly physcial language . . . T. J. Stiles takes us beyond the usual interpretation of the outlaw's notorious life and into a far more challenging understanding of the man." -The Bloomsbury Review

"Wonderful. . . . An important new biography." -John Mack Faragher, Raleigh News & Observer

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