Category Archives: James in the Arts

When Charlie Chaplin Put Dan James In The Movies

The outlaw Jesse James agitated Daniel Lewis James Sr. a great deal. D.L. could not make up his mind. Was cousin Jesse really an outlaw and criminal? Or was Jesse James something more? D.L. wondered, was Jesse more like D.L.’s son, Dan James Jr.? – A champion and warrior for social justice.

When Charlie Chaplin put Dan James into Chaplin’s movies, the answer became clear. In the House on Un-American Activities Committee, America blacklisted Chaplin and Dan from movie making.  The U.S. Government assassinated Charlie Chaplin and Dan James …just like Jesse James.

 

Frank & Jesse James – Warriors for Social Justice

“All For the Underdog”

An Excerpt from Jesse James Soul Liberty, Vol. I, Behind the Family Wall of Stigma and Silence, by Eric F. James

Fresh from his graduation from Andover, Dan James Jr. clerked briefly in T.M. James & Sons in Kansas City. But beyond the door of the family store, social reform summoned him.

The era of the post-Depression was a turbulent and violent one. Workers were losing jobs. Families were losing homes. People were starving.

Dan read the writings of Karl Marx. In Texas and Oklahoma, Dan organized field workers, while working the oil fields, hauling truckloads of number six pipe. By the mid-1930s, he joined the Young Marxist League. Participating in a public demonstration in Kansas City sponsored by the League landed Dan in jail, about the same time his cousin Barbara James-McGreevy was jailed for demonstrating on behalf of birth control.

Bailing out Dan from jail, D.L. suggested Dan commit his politics to paper. Father and son collaborated on a play, titled Pier 19, about the General Strike of San Francisco in 1934, known as “Bloody Thursday.” Dan had worked with the longshoremen’s organizer, Harry Bridges, as an errand gopher. Shortly thereafter, Dan realized, “I was not supporting myself, and it was time to join my comrades in the working class.”

Finding himself with Charlie Chaplin, who was a neighbor on Fountain Avenue in Hollywood and occasionally a guest at Seaward, the James family retreat in the Highlands above Carmel-By-The Sea in northern California, Dan James and Chaplin authored the movie The Great Dictator.

Dan observed the improvisations of the British mime upon a draft outline, taking detailed notes at every turn. The two collaborated on the story. More important to them both were the themes of the story. The process was repeated until Chaplin was satisfied his story and message was captured on celluloid.

In Chaplin’s new talkie, Dan provided distinctly American verbiage that the British born Chaplin could not. Dan embedded his own themes. The film opens in Dan James’ words, spoken by Chaplin.

Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator

“This is the story of the period between two world wars, an interim during which insanity cut loose, liberty took a nose dive, and humanity was kicked around somewhat.”

Giving voice to America’s most beloved mime, Dan James broke his family heritage of silence to openly challenge governmental authority, once more in the name of liberty.

Just as his cousin Jesse James had done against unjust authority. Just as his great-grandfather’s band of rebel preachers had done with federal government. Dan James challenged no less than the tyrannical governments of Germany’s Hitler and Italy’s Mussolini.

The collaborative relationship between Chaplin and Dan James was close. In Chaplin, Dan James found his mentor. He called Chaplin his surrogate father. At extended lunches between filming, the two argued strenuously over social issues.

At night, the Communist Party provided Dan a social life, filled with fundraising events for numerous social causes. Chaplin has been regarded historically as being a member of the Communist Party, although Dan’s daughter Barbara states Dan never saw Chaplin at meetings.

“He did not know whether Chaplin was a communist, but from working with him closely for four years and some odd months, he doubted it very much. He thought Charlie was too sensitive to oppressive institutions to be fooled into joining the Communist Party.”

End of excerpt.

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The Bloody San Francisco Longshoremen’s Strike of 1934

While making movies, Dan James told Charlie Chaplin of his experience in San Francisco when Dan worked for Harry Bridges, the longshoremen’s organizer. Chaplin seized upon Dan’s story immediately and put the scene into his 1936 movie Modern Times.

In Modern Times, Chaplin’s lovable and classic Tramp, representing everyman, stumbles onto a seaside dock. He notices the dock’s shipping building is shut down. A truck passing by drops a red warning flag, from its load. The Tramp picks up the red flag, signaling to the disappearing driver. As the truck disappears, the Tramp finds himself engulfed by the striking dock workers on the march. Authorities arrive. They seize the Tramp. Based solely upon guilt by association, the Tramp disappears into the justice system and is removed from society.

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In Chaplin’s 1940 movie The Great Dictator, Charlie Chaplin drew upon the extraordinary writing skills of Daniel Lewis James Jr. to present an authentic American voice of protest for social justice.


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More from “All For the Underdog”

“The House Un-American Activities Committee [HUAC] had commenced its investigations into Communism in the entertainment community and wreaked havoc with our whole world. The studios helped with their patriotic duty to expose Communist propaganda by refusing to hire anyone who did not cooperate with the Committee. This was the famous ‘Blacklist.’ People often think of the Blacklist as something the government did, but it was the ‘patriotic’ studio heads who instituted it.  The government just forced people into the position where they had to deal with it. Cooperation meant recanting your communism and naming all the people that you knew were (or had been) in the Party.

The catch 22 was that you couldn’t tell the truth about yourself without being a stool pigeon. At the outset, there was no clear way to address the problem without going to jail or ratting. That was when the Hollywood Ten went to prison. They were our friends and acquaintances.”

The House Un-American Activities Committee – HUAC Second from right sits the future U. S. President Richard M. Nixon

…Under investigation in the HUAC hearings, Barbara [Barbara James, Dan’s daughter] perceived that “Pop and Mama and other ex-Commies in the same boat, got given three basic choices.

“Tell the Committee that you have a right to free association under the First Amendment, and your political beliefs are protected from government interference. People who did this went to jail for the rest of the term of the Congress in session, which was generally about 10 months.

“Tell the Committee that you are not a Communist and that you will not tell them whether you have ever been a Communist. After the Smith Act became law, the Party was an illegal organization, so you could refuse to answer questions about people who were in the Party by citing the Fifth Amendment prohibition against self-incrimination. You didn’t go to jail, but the studios blacklisted you and you could not get work. You may wonder why the Studios invented and used the Blacklist. In one word – union busting. It was a great way to break the Screen Writers’ and Screen Actors’ Guilds, as well as to get cited as patriots.

“Tell the Committee you were a Communist; you are ever so sorry, and name everybody you know who was in the Party with you, including your closest friends. You may also wonder why the Congressmen on the HUAC were so adamant about ‘naming names.’ Politicians need publicity, and any time they could get someone to name a celebrity, they would get big media coverage. Pop was a very small fish, but I think their main object in grilling him was the hope that he would name Chaplin. They had the wrong small fish.”

The copy of Voltaire’s Candide, owned by Daniel Lewis James Sr.

…Dan James had hoped to produce his father’s first edition of the book Candide. The author Voltaire had published the book under the pseudonym, Monsieur Le Docteur Ralph. With his visual aid in hand, Dan intended to confront HUAC.

If HUAC continued to prevail in their ruthlessness, if Congress continued to deprive one’s freedom of association, and if the United States government continued to despoil freedom of expression, all writers would be forced to disguise their identities like Voltaire.

Dan was cut off. As Barbara said, “He got run over by a well-oiled train. They didn’t let him get his book out of his pocket, and he was only allowed to say that he refused to incriminate himself.” Dan James was blacklisted as a Hollywood screenwriter. In effect, his own federal government had exiled him. Just as Dan James predicted, his identity as a writer was forced underground.

…Dan James watched as his screenwriting career expired in slow motion.

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RELATED

First Preview of a Play About Daniel Lewis James Jr.

Words Spoken by Charlie Chaplin – Written by Daniel Lewis James

Beating the Bushes for How Daniel Lewis James Jr. Died

Banned Books Validate Superior Intelligence & Worthwhile Reading

What is Your Favorite Story About the James Family?

Kathy Griffin’s Life on the Blacklist

Dixie-Chicking – Blacklisting in the Entertainment Industry


History Authors to Meet James-Younger Gang

James-Younger Gang-2017 Conference logo

A lineup of impressive book and history authors will welcome registrants to the annual 2017 Conference of the James-Younger Gang & family reunion.

The selected authors will focus on the conference theme, “What happened in Missouri began in Kentucky.”

Guerrilla raids and warfare, John Hunt Morgan, social culture that led to war…all vie with personal history written by family descendants about ancestors. These authors bring a unique perspective to the history of the James-Younger Gang and their families that only is found in a meeting like this.

FAMILY PERSPECTIVE AUTHORS

 

James-Younger Gang History Authors

SUE KELLY BALLARD

In My Blessed, Wretched Life, Rebecca Boone’s Story, Sue Kelly Ballard writes a captivating, gut-wrenching, story about Daniel Boone’s wife, Rebecca Ann Bryant. Rebecca and Daniel Boone are 5th great-grandparents of the descendants of Jesse James Jr. and Stella McGowan.

“Ballard captures every mood and moment of Rebecca’s life in the backwoods and on the frontier with accuracy and passion, with authenticity and beauty, and at a pace that keeps the reader diving headlong into each new page eager to swallow up what happens next… it takes a skilled frontier woman…to keep everyone and everything moving along together.”

Born in Kentucky, Sue Kelly Ballard is a Board Director of the Boone Society and co-edits the Society’s Compass newsletter. A member of the Filson Historical Society and DAR, she recently received the DAR Award for Women in the Arts. Ballard is an “army brat,” having lived in several states and overseas. Recently, she retired as a professor emerita of chemistry.

James-Younger Gang History Authors

ERIC F. JAMES

In This Bloody Ground, Eric F. James writes a leading-edge history about John M. James, the grandfather of Frank and Jesse. In the epic style of his award winning Jesse James Soul Liberty quintet, Eric draws upon a cornucopia of unexplored sources to reveal for the first time an historical record too long ignored.

This Bloody Ground steers the reader deeply into the Kentucky wilderness with John M. James and his self-exiled bunch of rebel Baptist preachers, from John’s first meeting with Daniel Boone through the resistance and trials of the American Revolution. Facing persistent Indian raids and certain death on this unforgiving frontier, John nearly loses his family. Joined by the families of Lindsay, Cole, Pence, Nalle, Scholl, Hite, Vardeman and others, all bind to one another for self-survival and self-rule. Conspirators threaten and abound.  The choice is dire. John’s selection engulfs him. Stay under a repressive Virginia, or join Kentucky to Spain. With statehood overriding, John rises as a political founder and legislative representative. But, ruin remains his destiny. Under threat of revelation, John retreats to Rogue’s Harbor (later called Logan County) to live in anonymity and a new family of his own. Facing death, John M. James still yearns for more revolution. This time, against banks.

Eric writes and publishes Stray Leaves, the official website and blog for the family of Frank & Jesse James. Volume I of his quintet was recipient of the Milton F. Perry Award.

James-Younger Gang History Authors

DAN PENCE

In I Knew Frank, I Wish I knew Jesse, and in Guerrillas and Other Curiosities, Dan Pence edits and compiles a unique personal historical record harvested by his grandfather, the author Samuel Anderson Pence. As an inveterate collector of historical minutia and as a personal friend of many among the Jesse James community, S.A. Pence presents a story with infill information that every historian writing on this subject wishes he knew.

Dan Pence is the present president of the James-Younger Gang.

James-Younger Gang History Authors

EDDIE PRICE

In Widder’s Landing, Eddie Price writes a story of life, love and survival set against the rugged Kentucky frontier. Craig Ridgeway, a 21-year old gunsmith from Pennsylvania, rides a flatboat down the Ohio River to Kentucky to try his hand at farming. Through an accidental association with a notorious widow (the past proprietor of a liquor vault and prostitution den), he inherits a patch of rich bottomland, embraces a nearby family, and falls in love with the abandoned wife of a violent outlaw. Overcoming inexperience and hardships, Craig builds a promising new life, learning how to raise corn, tobacco and hemp. Inspired by the “Widder’s” recipe, he and his wife Mary manufacture bourbon whiskey, which he markets profitably in New Orleans. A new steamboat embarks on its first journey down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, ushering in a new economic era.

In a way, Ridgeway’s journey mirrors the arrival of Anthony Lindsay and his family. Lindsay’s young son saw only desperation in the wilderness ahead. If he did not marry a girl from the Quissenberry family on their flatboat, he never would find a wife in the wilds or have a family of his own.

Eddie’s book Widder’s Landing received the Gold medal for “Best Historical Fiction” in the 2013 Reader’s Favorite Awards. In 2015, he received the National Literary Habitat Award for “Best Historical Fiction.” Aside from being an award winning author, Eddie Price is a speaker for the Kentucky Humanities Council Speakers Bureau. His topics cover a variety of subjects, most concerning the era up to and including 1812. Soon, Eddie’s next book will be published. In An Unlikely Trio, Eddie writes about the 1913 Kentucky Derby when a thoroughbred, jockey, and breeder-trainer made racing history. In Chautauqua presentations, sponsored by the Kentucky Humanities Council, Eddie portrays jockey Roscoe Goose. For more about Eddie Price see his website.
WARFARE PERSPECTIVE AUTHORS

 

James-Younger Gang History Authors

FRANK KURON

In Thus Fell Tecumseh, Frank Kuron chronicles the battles and hardships of forces on both sides of the early-American conflict of 1812. Specifically, he targets the eighteen month period leading up to the Battle of the Thames in October of 1813 when the great Shawnee leader Tecumseh was killed. Over 160 primary accounts from diaries, newspapers, and letters of troops involved at the Thames provide the reader with the opportunity to solve the mystery now over 200 years old. How and by whose hand was Tecumseh slain? Was it Col. William Whitley, the frontier neighbor of John M. James at Crab Orchard, who killed Tecumseh?  Or, was it Richard Mentor Johnson of Ward Hall?

Frank Kuron is a lifelong resident of Toledo, Ohio. He has written history newspaper columns about the War of 1812 for the Toledo Free Press. Frank writes in a personal and engaging style, bringing to light lesser-known people, events, and the aftermaths of the war. He now is researching material for his next book about the frontier life of early America. As a board member of the Fallen Timbers Battlefield Preservation Commission, Frank encourages public awareness of this key, yet nearly forgotten, American & Native American confrontation.

James-Younger Gang History Authors

GERALD W. FISCHER

About Guerrilla Warfare in Civil War Kentucky, Gerald W. Fischer writes, “Usually when people think about guerrilla activity during the Civil War, the border conflicts between Kansas and Missouri come to mind, enhanced by tales of Quantrill’s Raiders and Bloody Bill Anderson preying upon innocent townsfolk and civilians. However, guerrilla forces roamed throughout the border states and beyond throughout the entire war. Similar tales can be found in Kentucky, the Virginias, and other areas at a time when loyalties could be found for both North and South. This is especially true for the Heartland of Kentucky…Guerrilla Warfare in Civil War Kentucky explores the real guerrilla fighters of the region, their exploits and their eventual demise, along with some of the infamous lawmen and soldiers assigned to bring them to justice.”

Gerald also has authored Battletown Witch, and co-written the book Meade County Families and History.  He blogs for the Meade County Area Chamber of Commerce, and writes a weekly history feature for the Meade County Messenger.  He is a regular contributor to the Kentucky Explorer magazine. Born in Bowling Green, Kentucky, Gerald studied history, archeology and anthropology at the University of Louisville, earning two undergraduate degrees in history and anthropology.  Graduating with honors from Spalding University with an M.A. in teaching, Gerald taught school in Florida and Kentucky.

James-Younger Gang History Authors

WILLIAM A. PENN

In Kentucky Rebel Town, William A. Penn examines Cynthiana, “that infernal hole of rebellion” where John Hunt Morgan’s last Kentucky raid ended calamitously. With Morgan went the Confederacy’s best chance, as Morgan himself opined, “to hold Kentucky for months.”  Penn probes the divided loyalties and tense conflicts that wracked the picturesque Bluegrass town during four years of upheaval. Penn traces the local confrontations between Unionists and Rebels with aplomb, giving close attention to the shifting allegiances and fortunes of leading community figures.  Penn concludes that a majority of Cynthiana’s white citizens maintained their rebel sympathies throughout the war and far into its aftermath.

Penn examines topics ranging from enlistment and conscription to early confrontations over federal encampments around Cynthiana. Petty jealousies and personal rivalries animate its central characters as much as grandiose claims to Southern honor or devotion to the Union. Penn is at pains “to explore the effects of the war” on all local residents. Drawing from an impressive amount of letters, diaries, newspaper accounts, and federal records, Penn highlights the daily physical and psychological struggles that those on the home front endured and the shattering personal losses that were all too common during wartime.

William A. Penn, editor of the Harrison Heritage News, has published articles in Northern Kentucky Heritage and the Ohio Genealogical Society Quarterly. He is a board member of the Historic Midway Museum, and operates its store in Midway, Kentucky.

James-Younger Gang History Authors

JAMES M. PRICHARD

Reviewers say, Embattled Capital is a must-read for students of the conflict seeking an intimate look at how the war affected life in a slave-holding border-state. The book shows that the citizens of Frankfort, Kentucky experienced a much different war. Allegiance was fluid and could change depending on who maintained power. The book’s strength lies in the author’s ability to vividly convey the city’s wartime experiences through the excellent use of primary sources.  His skill tells the story of Frankfort’s Civil War and postwar story through the eyes of the local community.

James M. Prichard is the former Research Room Supervisor at the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives. Presently, he works in the Special Collections Department of the Filson Historical Society. He is a regular contributor to Civil War Times, North and South, and True West magazines. His essays have appeared in the Kentucky Encyclopedia, The Encyclopedia of Louisville, Biographical Dictionary of the Union, Heidler’s Encyclopedia of the Civil War, The Worl Encyclopedia of Slavery, Confederate Generals in the Western Theater, Kentuckians in Gray, and Virginia at War: 1863.

James-Younger Gang History Authors

RONALD WOLFORD BLAIR

Wild Wolf, The Great Civil War Rivalry is the Story of Col. Frank Wolford, the celebrated Civil War cavalier and rival of Confederate raider John Hunt Morgan. Written by Wolford’s second great-nephew, Ronald Wolford Blair, the book discusses in detail Wolford’s heroic leadership in part of more than 300 battles and skirmishes and his notable rivalry with Morgan’s Raiders during which Wolford was wounded seven times. Additional details about Wolford’s political career and personal life are reviewed, plus little-known facts about his staunch opposition and policy dispute with President Abraham Lincoln over the use of black soldiers in the Union forces.

Ronald Wolford Blair is a contributing author of the book, Kentucky’s Civil War: 1861-1865, which won a Governor’s Award, as well as the book, Kentucky Rising, written by his friends, Dr. James A. Ramage and Dr. Andrea Watkins. Ron has written for as the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Lexington Herald-Leader. He is a member of the Civil War Trust for the preservation of Civil War Battlefields. Ron also is a member of several Civil War roundtable organizations, the Kentucky Historical Society, Friends of Henry Clay, and Morgan’s Men Association, among other organizations.

What Happened in Missouri began in Kentucky

RELATED

Program for the Conference and Reunion

Registration to Attend

C. M. James – Artist, Poet, Publisher

C. M. James - Artist, Poet, Publisher
C. M. James – Artist, Poet, Publisher

His family name is Charles Michael James. As an artist-poet, and publisher, Mike is known among the art world and literary circles as C. M. James.

Mike was born in Somerset, Kentucky, a second great-grandson of Rev. Joseph Martin James and Permellia Estepp. He attended Youngstown and Ohio State Universities.

As a poet, artist, and illustrator, Mike founded Fantome Press. He began to publish poets of the Beat Generation. He also published classic American and British poets.

Robert Lewis Stevenson by C. M. James
Robert Lewis Stevenson by C. M. James

A retrospective of his work as an artist brought the following comment:

“Several of his pictures are offered in different sizes, combinations, and colors, offering surprise after surprise. An element is offered alone and is quite sufficient. Later, admiring a patterned work of almost ornate intricacy, it is amazing and a little disconcerting to find it composed of repetitions of that element.”

Poet Lawrence Ferlingetti writes to C. M. James
Poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti writes to C. M. James

The Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti wrote to Mike:

“Dear James – You’ve done a beautiful job of my poems on your tiny press. Please thank everyone involved. Ad thanks for all the copies. I didn’t expect as many.

“Confused–

Lawrence Ferlinghetti”

As a book collector, Mike assembled a vast library of books on the subject of the tattoo.

William Blake poetry published by C. M. James

Poems of William Blake published by C. M. James

CURRICULUM VITAE

Since 1989: Artist in residence, Trumbull Art Gallery, Warren OH

1988 Board of Directors, Trumbull Art Gallery

1988 Kenneth Patchen Literary Festival Committee, Warren, OH

1987 A.A. Degree with an emphasis in painting, Kent State University, Trumbull Campus, Warren OH

1976 Founded Fantome Press

1971 Youngstown State University, graphic design & life drawing

1966-1968 Ohio State University, major in graphic design

1947 Born Somerset, KY on January 20

C. M. James, aka Charles Michael James
C. M. James, aka Charles Michael James

EXHIBITIONS

1990 One man exhibition: Ohio Historical Society Museum of Labor & Industry, Youngstown, OH

1989-1990 Butler Institute of America Art Area Annual

1990 Performance piece at Picture Show Gallery, Warren, OH

1988-1990 American Cancer Society Annual Art Show, Warren OH

1989-1990 Exhibition: Park Hotel lobby, Warren OH for 6 months

1990 Mahoning Bank Building, Warren OH for 3 months

1990 Installation at Dimitri’s Restaurant, Warren OH

1989 Trumbull Art Gallery Annual, Warren OH (Award for Painting)

1988 Exhibition: Block prints & Fantome Press material, Library of Trumbull Campus of Kent State University, Warren OH

1988 Exhibition: Trumbull New Theater Gallery, Niles, OH

1988 Exhibition: Youngstown Playhouse, Youngstown, OH

1988 One Man Show: Eastwood Mall, Niles, OH

1988 Exhibition: Celebration of the Square Festival in downtown Warren, OH

1986-1988 Trumbull Art Gallery Annual, Warren, OH

1981 “Art of the Macabre” Exhibition, Ashtabula Arts Center, Ashtabula, OH

1973 Butler Institute of America Art 35th Area Artists Annual, Youngstown, OH (Award for Painting)

1973 Group Exhibit: Avalon Inn, Howland, OH

Jack London, illustrated by C. M. James
Jack London, illustrated by C. M. James

COLLECTIONS

Covellie Enterprises, Warren OH

Jack Gibson Company, Warren OH

The University of California at Santa Cruz Library, Special Collections

I.W.W. (Industrial Workers of the World) Permanent Collection, Chicago, IL

J. Abronovich, New Jersey

William Mullane, Warren OH

Ohio Historical Society, Museum of Labor & Industry

Drs. Joseph & Ann Chester

Trumbull Memorial Hospital

GRANTS & AWARDS

Recipient of Regrat: Fine Arts Council of Trumbull County for feasibility study & model for Labor Memorial for Trumbull County

Award: Trumbull Art Gallery Annual, 1989

Award: Butler Institute of American Art, 35th Area Artists Annual, 1973

Charles Michael James
Charles Michael James

Mike’s ARCHIVES are found at the Ohio State University, Rare Books and Manuscripts Library,   Identification: Spec.cms.315

“The C. M. James/ Fantome Press Collection consists of documents, publications, videotapes, cassette tapes, correspondence, etc. all relating to the small press owned by C. M. James, The Fantome Press, and the cassette distribution project he ran, called the Underground Culture Vultures. The Fantome Press has been operating in Warren, Ohio since 1976 and publishes original works by various authors including C. M. James.”

Since suffering a stroke in 1993, Mike has retired from writing and publishing.

Hart Crane poem illustrated and published by C. M. James
Poetry of Stephen Crane illustrated and published by C. M. James

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UPDATE:  April 16, 2018

C.M. James has two works of art in the archives of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. See “bird” and  Ephemera.

Book Review – Jesse James Soul Liberty, Vol.I

BOOK REVIEW:  Jesse James, Soul Liberty. Volume I. By Eric F. James. Published by Cashel Cadence House, Danville KY. 2012. 411 pages, $36.95, reviewed by Bobbi King of Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter, June 23, 2013. Reprinted here by permission.

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Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter-Dick Eastman

             “Mr. James has conquered the Everest                             of writing a family history genealogy book                                         that is interesting enough                                 for the rest of us to want to read.”

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Eric F. James was asked to take on the task of researching and writing the story of the James family, specifically the many members of the family who merited fair consideration distinct from the myth and legend of the notorious outlaw brothers Frank and Jesse.

Mr. James succeeds in acquainting us with a family of characters who do deserve to be featured apart from the tarnished brothers. The book’s subtitle, “Behind the Family Wall of Stigma & Silence” offers a not-so-subtle hint on the family’s take on their historical connection. Apparently, the more well-informed members of the family vigorously sought to put the kibosh on any kinship to Frank and Jesse James when naïve queries arose.

Mr. James introduces the family:

“In the emerging democracy of colonial Virginia, the early Kentucky frontier, and throughout the American heartland, the James were renowned as community builders, public office holders, ministers of faith, financiers, educators, writers, and poets. From these roots shot Frank and Jesse James.

“Following the Civil War, Frank and Jesse James eclipsed the family’s destiny. War may have splintered the family ideologically, but Frank and Jesse James disjoined the family’s compass and direction, casting a longer and darker shadow on the James family, like no other.

“Like their royal ancestors of old when beset by crisis, the James family turned suspicious and distrustful of its own. The larger James family kept apart from one another, holding in muted reverence what relic of itself that it could. The line of Frank and Jesse James was left isolated, unsupported and abandoned.”

Goaded by family in-laws, the Jesse James family withdrew into a citadel of its own. Their ostracism was enforced by every other family line of the James.

Bobbi king
Bobbi King

Mr. James’ book locates the various families’ residences, describes their personal occupations, details relationships and kinship to one another (a six-generation descendant chart is included), chronicles their military service, catalogs their movements about the regions, and quotes a good deal of material from their letters and journals, which always evokes a personality, a spirit, a temperament.

Mr. James’ research appears to be extensive across a wide variety of sources, with references at the end of the book that contain explanatory tidbits adding even more to the story. The photographs and illustrations, even those blurred by age and decomposition, are vivid and well produced, summoning up their subjects and places.

Jesse James Soul Liberty, Vol. I
Jesse James Soul Liberty, Vol. I, Behind the Family Wall of Stigma & Silence, by Eric F. James

Mr. James, along with Judge James R. Ross, a great-grandson of Jesse James, is a co-founder of the James Preservation Trust. He writes and publishes on the official website of the James family, and is without a doubt the family cheerleader.

His writing is strong, perhaps a bit hyperbolic for my taste, but this is a good book for fans of Western history who want to know the real story. His research supports a claim to authenticity, and his writing keeps us reading.

Mr. James has conquered the Everest of writing a family history genealogy book that is interesting enough for the rest of us to want to read.