Tag Archives: John Koblas

Remembering Jesse James Author John Koblas

Two days ago on my blog at True West magazine, I wrote about the passing of my good friend Jack Koblas, who finally succumbed to his three-year battle with Parkinson’s. Jack did not go without a fight.

Most people who know Jack’s books about Jesse James don’t know he was a prodigious author outside the Jess James genre. In the past year, Jack published a book of poetry. Our joke was, he was gathering together all the lovely women he had wooed with his poems, hoping that if his time came one might write a poem for him.

John Koblas and daughter

As recently as six weeks ago, Jack was still working to produce another Jesse James book, about Frank’s James and Col. Jack Chinn. Jack had found material that led him to believe that some in Jack Chinn’s Kentucky family had been working out of Jack’s home state of Minnesota through the ruse of a business. I was highly skeptical. Jack sent me his entire research file. I would have liked nothing better than for Jack to make a final “discovery” before he left. Painfully, I had to tell him I saw nothing familiar in his research. I knew Jack was disappointed, but I also knew Jack wasn’t about to quit. I heard he was shopping his research among others who might be able to confirm it.

I first met Jack about 15 years ago. He was in San Diego, writing one of his books. Thurston James, publisher then of the James-Younger Gang Journal, and I went to spend the day with him. Jack kept us waiting almost two hours.  When he appeared he said he had been in discussion with his publisher, North Star Press, about his forthcoming book.

During the day, I asked Jack how he wrote. He said, he sat at his computer in the morning, and kept researching and writing from there, until he could do it no longer. As I learned later, that was pretty much how Jack lived, and now died, too.

If you’re ever in Minnesota, check out the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame. You’ll find Jack there, too. For many years, Jack was a musician. His doo-wop group The Magpies earned their award over many years. Jack could be counted on for music at any meeting of the James-Younger Gang.

Anyone who heard Jack speak about Jesse James or about Jack’s books always came away knowing there was nothing sham about him, about what he stated, or about his favorite topic. Jack was married to facts and the truths as he found them, even the most inconvenient of truths, like the girl friend who tried to murder Jack. Facts were facts, and facts alone, for dear Jack.

John Koblas with daughters

About a year ago when we last visited together here in Kentucky, we discussed his precarious hold on life. He had no illusions. He talked at length about his daughters warmly. Their love had sustained him through every trial of his life.  And we talked about his “other children,” his books. His daughters were his favorite among his family. His Jesse James books were his favorite among his “other children.” Anything and everyone else fell far behind.

I asked Jack, “When you finally know all the Jesse James secrets, will you let me know somehow?” “Are you kidding?” he shouted. “You’re on your own,” he said. He shrugged, and  then concluded, “That’s life!”



Eric James says “No, Thanks” to Jesse James publisher, North Star Press

If you thought you knew Jesse James, wait until you meet his family. So says Eric James, author of the new, long awaited, four volume history of the family of Frank and Jesse James.

According to historian Nancy Samuelson who has previewed portions of the upcoming book, the author of The History of the Dalton Gang says James’ book is likely to send historians back to find what history they missed.

“I was honored that North Star Press of Minnesota wanted to publish my book,” says Eric James. North Star Press already publishes five books about Jesse James and the James-Younger Gang by author John Koblas. “My books would have been a natural complement,” says James. Koblas, who also has previewed a large portion of James’ book, insists James’ book “must be published!”

After two months of negotiations, however, James now is seeking a publisher elsewhere. After twelve years of research and writing, Eric James is not at all disappointed that publication of Volume I of his epic quartet now appears headed for a nine month delay. Publication formerly was expected this Fall. Release now is re-scheduled for Summer of 2011.

Given the economic difficulties in the publishing industry today, James doesn’t begrudge North Star Press for not wanting to produce a hardcover edition. James just wants to meet his readers’ expectations. They tell James a hardcover edition is a must, though some of his readers prefer a case slipped, collector’s edition.

James credits North Star with opening his eyes to his book’s possibilities. “North Star was particularly helpful in establishing the multi-volume format of the work,” says James. “This, in turn, focused my attention on the work’s trans media possibilities.” James is intrigued by the new Vook format, soon to be used by vampire author Anne Rice. A Vook is a book published in tandem with video applications of a book’s content.

Since 1997, Eric James has written and published the official web site for the family of Frank & Jesse James. Stray Leaves, a James Family in America since 1650 (www.ericjames.org). On any given day, over 10,000 visitors are attracted to the web site, particularly to research its gargantuan genealogy database, related to the James family. James also is president of The James Preservation Trust, which addresses the historical interests of the James family.

Eric James already is at work planning a special 4-day schedule of events in Kansas City, where he will premiere the book. Russell Hatter, curator of the Capital City Museum in Frankfort, Kentucky and publisher at The Frankfort Press, is looking forward to James’ quartet of new books. “Eric James’ gift for pulling new history out of genealogy is absolutely brilliant!”

A CHRISTMAS WISH from Frank Younger

Frank Younger, Jesse James author John Koblas, & Eric James

A CHRISTMAS WISH   by Frank Younger

Once again we celebrate the festive Christmas Day
With fellowship and joy and song and love.
The tiny Baby Jesus in a manger full of hay,
The chorus of the angels from above.

There’s food and decorations, there’s Santa and his toys,
And families gathered close from far and wide –
Moms and pops and cousins, uncles, aunts and girls and boys
All congregated round the warm fireside.

Let the spirit of this special time be with us all the year,
Let the gladness in our hearts guide what we do.
Let the smiles and generosity sincerely shine forth clear –
Let the Christmas Spirit live in me and you.