In this brilliant biography T. J. Stiles offers a new understanding of the legendary outlaw Jesse James. Although he has often been portrayed as a Robin Hood of the old west, in this ground-breaking work Stiles places James within the context of the bloody conflicts of the Civil War to reveal a much more complicated and significant figure.
Raised in a fiercely pro-slavery household in bitterly divided Misssouri, at age sixteen James became a bushwhacker, one of the savage Confederate guerrillas that terrorized the border states. After the end of the war, James continued his campaign of robbery and murder into the brutal era of reconstruction, when his reckless daring, his partisan pronouncements, and his alliance with the sympathetic editor John Newman Edwards placed him squarely at the forefront of the former Confederates’ bid to recapture political power. With meticulous research and vivid accounts of the dramatic adventures of the famous gunman, T. J. Stiles shows how he resembles not the apolitical hero of legend, but rather a figure ready to use violence to command attention for a political cause—in many ways, a forerunner of the modern terrorist.
About the Author
Stiles has edited four previous In Their Own Words collections.
"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