Yesterday Castle Pictures invited me to take part in their upcoming docudrama Gunslingers: Icons of the Old West, to be broadcast by the Military Channel. One episode will be devoted to Jesse James.
In the preview video for the program, Johnny Boggs, past president of the Western Writers Association and friend to the James, appears. Earlier this week I knew Bob Boze Bell, the publisher of True West magazine taped another segment for the series. I passed on the project.
A production assistant informed me, “The goal of this series is to tell these stories in a thrilling, visceral, personal way, as no documentary series before it has. If we succeed, viewers will relate to each character on a more emotional level than they might have when they first heard about them growing up, and come away with a renewed appreciation both for the protagonist and the time and place where his legend was born.”
I replied, stating, “Since my focus is the James family, and not the partisan or criminal exploits of the James brothers, I am probably not one you’d want for your project.” What I neglected to say was I’d quickly grasp the opportunity to appear in programming that presented a factual historical viewpoint that was intellectually stimulating as well as informative and enlightening about Jesse James, his family, and his community.
Instead, I directed the producer to my book, Jesse James Soul Liberty, adding, “My quintet is intended to define the unknown character of Jesse James, that no historian or media has yet grasped or reported in 150 years. My books show the genetic character, personality, and behaviors, showed in his family from the American Revolution to present day. It may illuminate the many misconceptions of what history to date commonly has defined as Jesse James. “
I further added, “As successive volumes of my history roll out over the next four years, I expect the family of Frank & Jesse James will acquire a whole new meaning for America and the history of its development as a nation.” We already know painfully and all too well what the emotional promotion of gunslinging has done for America.