Amazon.com seized upon the discrepancy between a 2-star review and a 5-star review for Jesse James Soul Liberty as written by two Amazon customers. A third Amazon customer asked the same question of the writer of “Incorrect facts” that I did. Below is my personal reaction to the issue, that also was posted to Amazon’s observation of discrepancy.
Some might expect an author to become argumentative about criticism like this. I will not bite the hand that fed me.
On the day after Virginia J. Church posted her criticism here, I emailed her as follows:
“Hi Virginia, I was shocked to read your Amazon review of my book, copied here…I would have thought if you had any disagreement with the facts as written that you would have presented them to me directly, so they could be corrected promptly. I certainly don’t mind any critique of presentation, ideas, typos, etc. but to criticize facts as you did is devastating to a history book and its prospects for being read.
“This book is built upon facts. I have worked very hard and very diligently to be both accurate and correct. I respectfully request that you provide a list of each and every fact with which you take issue. I will make every effort to correct it.” – To this, I have received no response.
I also sent the same invitation to Virginia’s daughter, the author and publisher Jacqueline Church Simonds, who had posted a favorable supportive review of my book here but then deleted it following her mother’s review. I have received no response from her either.
I posted my assessment of this issue on the James family’s official blog Leaves of Gas. I acknowledged the following to its community of James family, book readers, and subscribers.
“I was pleased to have the cooperation of my Amazon critic, Virginia J. Church. In our written interviews, she provided valuable history about her part of the James family. She also provided photographs not seen before. Researching her content independently afterward, most everything she offered checked out as true. What could not be verified was left out of the book. Our relationship, I thought, was cordial, constructive, and friendly. I take pride in the James family who participated in my book, and the relationships with them that have resulted.”
Two days before Virginia posted her comment, I accepted the Milton F. Perry Award for this book, in which I shared the award with those members of the James family who contributed so generously to the book. This also included Virginia Church. My acceptance was shared with them on Leaves of Gas also. Anyone can read it.
Whatever criticism Virginia or her daughter may have about me is irrelevant. What is relevant is the facts of their family history. My invitation to Virginia and her daughter remains open. However, if they are indifferent to the invitation or give no response, it can only be assumed that their concern is not sufficiently meaningful enough to call for being any more accurately depicted. If they allow the history to stand as written, it is their determination.
As I’ve stated publicly, the James family made this book. It is their words, their interviews, their memoirs, etc. that documents their history. I’ve been privileged to compile this ground- breaking history, give it context, and offer analysis. Someday my interviews with Virginia Church and others in the book will make their way into a public archive, available to anyone. Meanwhile, readers may contact me directly through our various websites. I stand ever ready to discuss whatever questions or criticisms comes the way of this book.