Category Archives: Book Review

Falsehoods, Fibs, & Failure – 3 New Jesse James Books

Book reviewer and Dalton Gang historian Nancy B. Samuelson reviews three new Jesse James books. The books, she says, are mostly notable for their falsehoods, fibs, and failure.


Frank and Jesse James in Plain Sight – Falsehoods

BOOK REVIEW: Friedel, Robert O. Frank and Jesse James in Plain Sight (self published and distributed by Sweet Iron, LLC,42 pp. Photos, no notes, no bibliography, no index. Softcover. $20.00

There seems to be a seasonal disorder or virus that erupts every two to three years that causes some writer to attempt to prove once again that Bob Ford did not kill Jesse James on April 3, 1882. This booklet is another eruption of that disease.

The author begins with the supposed photo of the James gang that was used in the Time-Life series of books about the old west.  James historians and scholars have repeatedly stated that this is a bogus picture of the James gang.

This claimed image of Jesse James was debunked in 2002 by the great-grandson of Jesse James, Judge James R. Ross when its companion image appeared for auction. More recently in 2015, this same image reappeared in promotional material by author Freda Cruse Hardison for her fiction book Frank and Jesse James “Friends and Family.” Hardison used her book of fiction to support the Bob Ford/Jesse James photo hoax.
” Then he goes on to tell us the photo of the larger group is a photo of a reunion of the James and Dalton gangs. He also tells us the James gang planned the robberies carried out by the Daltons. He goes even further and claims to have identified several, but not all, of the men in the larger group. “

Now Mr. Friedel compares this photo to a photo of a much larger group of men. He identifies some of the men in the larger group as the same men in the Time-Life photo. Then he goes on to tell us the photo of the larger group is a photo of a reunion of the James and Dalton gangs. He also tells us the James gang planned the robberies carried out by the Daltons. He goes even further and claims to have identified several, but not all, of the men in the larger group. Bob Dalton is the man on the horse at the back of the photo, even though his face cannot be seen.

The author goes on to offer other photos for comparison of the men he claims he has identified in the large group photo. He offers two photos of Bill Doolin. One of these has been published before but the folks at the Western History Collections at the University of Oklahoma say this man was an actor who played Doolin in a movie. The other Doolin photo, who knows?   The photo he uses to identify William Blake “Tulsa Jack”, a member of the Doolin gang, is actually a photo of the well known California robber and murderer, Tiburcio Vasquez. Vasquez was hanged at San Jose, California in 1875.

Author Robert O. Friedel

The exhumation of J. Frank Dalton (a long time Jesse James pretender) is brought into the story.  The author claims two caskets and two bodies were actually exhumed. He claims one of the caskets was clearly marked “Jesse James”. The body in one casket had only one arm and it can’t be J. Frank because he still had two arms when he died. We are told that William Henry Holland, the man with one arm missing, is in the casket marked “Jesse James. Then the author uses a photo of John Pool (he incorrectly identifies this photo as Dave Pool) to prove his case. John Pool was also a Quantrill man, a life-long friend of Frank James and the brother Dave Pool. This photo is used “ to prove” John Pool was really Jesse James and had only one arm. Ergo, the man with one arm, William Henry Holland, is really John Pool /Jesse James.   There are a number of problems with this conclusion. John Pool lived to be in his nineties and had both arms intact at his death. John Pool is buried in Marfa, Texas.

There is more mambo-jumbo here with photos that claim to prove Jesse had moles on his face, warts on his hands, etc. etc. These photos are of poor quality and do little or nothing to prove that Jesse was not killed by Bob Ford.

This booklet does nothing to cause this reviewer to succumb to the “Jesse did not die in 1882” fever.

The Old West Series, produced by Time-Life Books, earned notoriety for its inaccurate images of Jesse James. The very same image now appears in Robert O. Friedel’s book Frank and Jesse James in Plain Sight. In this television ad, Time-Life also inaccurately identified an image of the Dalton brothers. The same image later was falsely claimed by others to be Frank and Jesse James.

Outlaws of Oklahoma – Fibs

BOOK REVIEW: Springer, Amanda, Outlaws of Oklahoma (self publisher 2019) 174 pp. No photos or illustrations. No notes, index, or list of resources. Soft cover $20.46

The author states this is a work of fiction, that some incidents are factual and others the product of the author’s imagination based upon historical documentation. The list of resources provided is almost entirely from the internet. This reviewer does not consider Wikipedia, Find a Grave and Legends of America to be historical documentation. The book contains a mind boggling amount of misinformation.

The book is divided into sections about various gangs. In general it is organized into brief amounts of information about gang members, then gives a time-line for gang operations, and ends with notes on the gang hideouts.

The first entry is about the Daltons. This entry states there were five Dalton brothers, when in fact there were ten brothers in this family but only four of them were involved in outlaw activities. This entry also states that Emmett Dalton died of gunshot on July 13, 1937. Emmett’s death certificate states the causes of death were diabetes and hypertension.  On the same page there is some information about the Youngers. This states that Cole and Jim Younger were cousins to the Frank and Jesse James. This statement is also untrue. This information is all on page four of the book. As it progresses the book does not improve in accuracy.

Author Amanda Springer

The James-Younger gang is included in the book, but the timeline for them begins after the capture of the Youngers in Minnesota and the Youngers were sent to prison. The James and Younger boys were from Missouri not Oklahoma.

Bonnie and Clyde are included and so are several Texas outlaws.  There is also a section called “Partners in Crime.” This covers several men who worked together but were not actually a gang.

Almost every entry in the book contains errors. The book is not in any normal sense a work of fiction. It is of no value whatsoever in providing historical material about any of the outlaws discussed.

Those readers who are interested in factual history of the outlaws of Oklahoma will do well to skip this book entirely. It is not worth the effort it takes to read it.


The Bandit Rides Again – Failure

BOOK REVIEW: Monaco, Ralph A, II, The Bandit Rides Again: Jesse James, Whiskeyhead Ryan and the Glendale Train Robbery (Kansas City, Monaco Publishing, LLC, 2017) 247 pp., illustrations, photos, end notes, bibliography, index, softcover $28.00

The book was written in collaboration with the Jackson County (MO) Historical Society. The book contains a rather straight forward account of the Glendale train robbery, the capture, trial and conviction of Bill “Whiskeyhead” Ryan.

The book, however, is poorly written. Little attention was paid to things like spelling and punctuation. Frank and Jesse go on the “lamb” (this goof is even repeated on the back cover of the book.) Marshal is spelled correctly with a single l in some places, then misspelled with double ls in other places. Some of the photos are pictures taken during a reenactment of the robbery. They have a glitzy and phony appearance.

Author Ralph A. Monaco II

There are a number of errors in the book. One is a tale about Allen Parmer. The author says it is believed that Parmer killed a dozen men after the War including a man he beat to death with an iron bar in St. Louis.  The author offers no source for this outrageous story. The name of James Younger’s sweetheart is given as Alice Miller. Both her first and last names are wrong. She was Alix Muller. The mother of the James boys is identified as “Zeralda (sic) James Reuben Samuel.”

There are a number of photos in the book, but the reproduction of several of them is of very poor quality.   This is a very mediocre book that contains little or no new information about the James gang


READ MORE REVIEWS by Nancy B. Samuelson