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Jesse James Paperback – 4 Oct 2007


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Product details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (4 Oct. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099521172
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099521174
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 3.5 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 406,116 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"A dazzling work of American history" (Sunday Times)

"A book of inspiring breadth, as impressive in scope as the great Western Plains" (Guardian)

"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)

Book Description

The first serious biography of Jesse James in forty years - a stunning reinterpretation of an American icon.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 22 July 2003
Format: Hardcover
A great book if you want more than just the outlaw Jesse James.
Stiles shows us that James was not just a murderous train and bank robber but a man who was a product of his political environment; the Civil War and the post-war period of Reconstruction.
Sure, he was always going to be a vicious killer but without the political context he would have been captured or killed long before he could make a name for himself. It was because he could cloak himself with the mantle of the freedom fighter that he captured the imagination, and most importantly, received the practical support of the rascist old guard.
It was also a facinating history of a family and the portrait we get of Jesse's mother is, on its own, worth buying the book for.
Stiles has produced a thought provoking work indeed.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By C. Ball TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 25 May 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Jesse James is one of those historical figures I've never known very much about; he was an outlaw in the years after the Civil War, and he's a famous figure in American history and popular culture. He was shot by one of his own followers. And Brad Pitt played him in the movie. That's about the sum total of my knowledge.

What I found most interesting in reading this book is how much of a product of his time Jesse James was. He grew up in the years before the war, in a state that could really have been a microcosm of the nation as a whole as it tore itself apart on the way to war: neighbour against neighbour, whole communities divided. He became a guerilla fighter in Missouri during the war, known as a 'bushwhacker' and in a way he never really stopped.

The war never ended for Jesse James, and until he died it never ended for Missouri either. He became a visible symbol of the Confederacy for those in Missouri who had fought for the South, a man who refused to give up the fight, and he still enjoyed widespread support amongst ex-Confederates, which largely contributed to the difficulties the authorities had in apprehending him. But as the nation moved on and Reconstruction ended, Jesse's outlaw life became less about politics and more about crime as a way of life and his support began to erode.

Jesse James was a self-consciously political bandit and it would be impossible, not to mention a grave disservice, to attempt to separate the man from the context in which he operated. The author has clearly done an exhaustive amount of research on both, and this book could serve just as well for anyone wanting to read about Missouri during the Civil War and Reconstruction.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas Connolly on 2 July 2009
Format: Paperback
This is a great book if you are interested in the American Civil War and it's aftermath. The author is interested in Jesse James, but also very interested in the reconstruction, a time that I knew nothing about. The war in Missouri seems to have been a very personal affair with neighbours riding up and shooting each other (often with no chance to fight back) and it is no wonder that there was bitterness and hatred. Jesse James is not my folk hero, but certainly reading this didn't make me admire him.
Having read this , I enjoyed "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" in which Brad Pitt is excellent and Casey Affleck looks queasily like Robert Ford did in real life. Very good indeed.
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Format: Paperback
Sad to say I did not enjoy this book at all. So much of the book is about the context of the times and place where Jesse James was born, lived and operated. I know that everyone is in some ways a product of the times they live in but I felt that I didn't get to know Jesse the man at all. I found out that he was a merciless racist killer who according to the author was politically aware. The book debunks the myth of Jesse James the romantic robber. I found it more of a dry academic read than a biography. I suppose I was hoping that it would be written in the same spirit as Go Down Together by Jeff Guinn, Bonnie and Clyde : the true story behind the legend by Paul Schneider and Public Enemies by Bryan Burrough.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A.G. on 16 Mar. 2010
Format: Paperback
Few American outlaws have been so comprehensively mythologized as Jesse Woodson James - Missouri bushwhacker, defender of the Old South, train robber, self-publicist, and cold-blooded killer. The Jesse James story has been told so often and in such dramatic terms that we might think that one more telling would be pointless. But all the parts of the Jesse James jigsaw - Jesse himself, his brother Frank, their formidable mother Zerelda Samuel, Cole Younger and his brothers, bushwhacker chieftains like William Quantrill and 'Bloody Bill' Anderson, even Allan Pinkerton and his agents - amount to nothing if all they do is create a bland picture devoid of depth or context, and rarely has the picture of James been anything else. But with 'Jesse James', T.J. Stiles changes all that by giving us as full and as penetrating an account of the life and times of the iconic Missouri outlaw as we're ever likely to need.

This is not just another mundane biography that simply sprints through a life, peppering the account now and again with colourful anecdotes and set-pieces in order to make it readable. 'Jesse James' is a book in which the author goes to great lengths to recreate, analyse and understand the socio-political world in which James grew up, and by doing so he shows us just how much the subject was a product of his environment. The rough and bitterly divided State of Missouri in the 1850s, 60s, and 70s, is meticulously presented to an extent that James the fighter, James the outlaw, James the man, fits seamlessly into it and we are able to understand his place.
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