Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
This is BANNED BOOKS WEEK. Here’s a book, written by Jesse & Frank James’ first cousin Dan James. Like Jesse James, the book was banned in its day. But today, Dan’s book is famous, widely read, and seriously studied in college courses, together with his films. So, too, is Dan James.
Daniel Lewis James was blacklisted, first as a Hollywood screenwriter after co-writing the screen classic The Great Dictator with Charlie Chaplin. Then later, Dan James was banned as a novelist.
The House on Un-American Activities Committee, convened by the U. S. Congress, branded Dan James as a Communist on evidence of hearsay. Dan was driven underground to write B-movies instead, one of them the screen classic Gorgo.
When Daniel Lewis James published his novel Famous All Over Town under the Hispanic pen name of Danny Santiago, the Hispanic literati exposed him. Attempting to ban his book, they brown listed Dan James and Danny Santiago, the fictional author who did not exist.
Today, Dan’s novel is celebrated and taught in college in Hispanic studies classes. The chapter in my book, Jesse James Soul Liberty, about Dan James, titled “All For the Underdog,” has been made into a play, commissioned by the Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago. The play was written by the award-winning Hispanic playwright, Carlos Murillo.
There have been various efforts to ban my book, Jesse James Soul Liberty. The Northfield Historical Society will not carry the book in its bookstore. Do they fear the return of the James family to Northfield in book form will steal the fortune they gather each year celebrating Jesse James defeat?
The Kansas City Star has refused to review the book, because, they say, the book’s publisher is not on the newspaper’s list of approved publishers. Do they fear a publisher who isn’t a gatekeeper will slip something new into the book market? Will that new information threaten what they’ve already approved?
A Missouri state representative, when asked about making the book available at James Farm & Museum in Kentucky, has stated, “I couldn’t give a s _ _ t about Jesse James!” Many of Missouri’s politicians today would simply like to be rid of the name and its association. They think that banning a book about the Jesse James family will erase the outlaw’s sad history. They believe that restricting what people read, and banning what they think people should not read, will guarantee proper social behavior.
I wish them all every success for banning my book, as well as others. Banishment certainly will ensure my book will be around for generations to come. History has proved, authors of banned books tend to become very successful, and their books become widely read. As my book shows, among the James family being banned or persecuted is evidence of significant accomplishment.
As much as books are banned by those of lesser intelligence, banned books are celebrated by those of higher intelligence. After all, isn’t that how one gains higher intelligence? By reading books? By reading all kinds of books? You will know a person’s level of intelligence by the number of banned books they read.