Stripped of the familiar myths surrounding him, Jesse James emerges as a far more significant figure: a ruthless, purposeful and intensely political man who used crimes and notoriety to promote the Confederate cause during the bitter decade that followed the South's surrender at Appomattox. Stiles paints a strikingly new and vivid portrait of the ...
Stripped of the familiar myths surrounding him, Jesse James emerges as a far more significant figure: a ruthless, purposeful and intensely political man who used crimes and notoriety to promote the Confederate cause during the bitter decade that followed the South's surrender at Appomattox. Stiles paints a strikingly new and vivid portrait of the period before the Civil War, during the conflict and its aftermath, both nationally and, more specifically, in the divided border state of James's Missouri. There the great issues of the day were expressed in battles between those who aligned themselves with North or South. Jess and his older brother Frank, sons of a pro-slavery preacher who died in the California Gold Rush and a ferocious Southern mother, served with some of the most savage Confederate guerrillas. At 16, Jesse began his fighting career by killing Unionists neighbours on their doorsteps. In the bloodshed and bitterness that followed the war, we see Jesse and his fellow guerrillas, with their gunfights and hold-ups, become part of the intensely brutal struggle by the White South against the racial egalitarianism and Federal power fostered by Reconstruction. We see how Jesse 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 Jesse's image for their common purpose. In using violence and the news media to promote 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 to call a terrorist. With groundbreaking scholarship and dazzling reinterpretation, T. J. Stiles has refashioned one of the great legends of American history, offering brilliant insights along the way into both the nation and the man.
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The book was better than expected. Don't know how accurate it is though.
Feb 4, 2010
Best James Book Ever
As a Kansas City area resident, this is in my opinion, the best James book ever. It is very readable, and seems almost like investigative journalism, it is so thorough. Best of all, he doesn't just parrot what others have said about the mileiu in which James lived, he truly analyzes it and sets James in context. I recommend this book to my friends frequently, not only for a bio of James, but to understand the politics of Civil war and post-CW Missouri.
Publishers Weekly, 2002-06-24 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.
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