Top positive review
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Great writing (pity about the small typeface)
on 30 August 2008
Hansen's well-researched novel focuses on the critical events of Jesse James' final years, the relationship between James and his eventual assassin Robert Ford, and the subsequent life of Robert Ford and his brother Charley. But this is no Western adventure novel. Instead Hansen concentrates deftly with characters and situations; the impending sense of doom is never far off. There is a wonderful insight and attention to detail that gives the reader a feeling of spying on events and lives unobserved:
"Jesse was on the subject of the first electric power plant, which Thomas A. Edison was constructing on Pearl Street in New York City. He explained, incorrectly, how the incandescent lamp worked, and Charley stabbed at the dirt with a stick or pinched scarlet eruptions on his shoulder and neck or measured the others with sidelong glances."
Although the assassination takes place with almost one-third of the book remaining, Hansen captivates the reader until the end. Indeed, it is perhaps the events after Jesse's demise and the consequences for the lives of the Ford brothers, such as their forays into Barnum-esque theatre and battles with capricious celebrity, that provide some of the novel's finest moments.
The Assassination of Jesse James... is a marvellous, well-researched page turner that will appeal to anyone who enjoys intelligent writing. Be warned though, the typeface on the Souvenir Press paperback edition is eye-strainingly small.