Why the Silence, Eric F. James ?

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Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Regarding Mark Gardner’s new Jesse James book, Shot All to Hell, the discussion group Books, Books, and More Books on the blog for True West Historical Society, tweaked me about my noticeable silence on Garner’s book. The following is my reply – more an explanation, though, than the expected book review.

Shot All To Hell

I’ve purposely sidestepped commenting on Mark Garner’s book, Shot All to Hell: Jesse James, the Northfield Raid, and the Wild West’s Greatest Escape. Reading the book made clear to me that Gardner’s focus on Jesse James’ history and the focus of the James family differs meaningfully.

Normally, any book related to Jesse James would merit a book review on the James family’s blog Leaves of Gas. I elected not to publish a review of Gardner’s book because he and the James family cater fundamentally to two different audiences.

The difference in audience appeal is perceptible. Where Gardner promotes his work on Book.TV, giving good banjo plucking. I promote my book before specific historical interest groups, giving good lecture and PowerPoint. Where Gardner appeals to Second Amendment, pistol packing, Lutherans, I engage with subterranean, anarchist Christians who still believe personal, activist morality trumps both the gun and organized religion.

Showmanship is Gardner’s forte. His book is colorfully written and generously promoted to guarantee sales success, in the fashion of news reporters of the past who promoted Jesse James into legend with their stirring storytelling. Gardner, no doubt, will find his way into cable TV’s history or biography programming, which prefer a smartly crafted expression by an author, that’s a fast-grab to entertainment, over any desert-dry new fact an historian may utter, that will lead to discernment, thoughtfulness, and perception.

Jesse James Was His NameThe James family historically has gravitated towards fail-safe informational history that will withstand time as authoritative reference resources. Their first favorite was Jesse James Was His Name by William A. Settle Jr. published by the University of Missouri in 1966. References to the James family’s fondness for Settle are sprinkled among the family’s letters.

The James family initially bucked and obstructed the research of Joan Beamis, one of their own kin, as I show in my book citing the family’s own correspondence. But, when Joan’s book Background of a Bandit was published by the Kentucky Historical Society in 1970,  the family rallied in support, yet still with reservations, as Joan’s subject matter became widely disseminated and imitated by others since.

Frank and Jesse JamesNot until 2000, when Ted P. Yeatman published Frank & Jesse James, The Story Behind the Legend, did a book exist that was an exact encyclopedic accounting of the partisan and criminal exploits of America’s favorite outlaws. I doubt if Yeatman ever will be topped. With all of T. J. Stiles’ expertise, knowledge, and connections in the book publishing business, even Stiles’ book Jesse James, Last Rebel of the Civil War could not beat Ted P. Yeatman. Yeatman proved that commercial publishers can produce a literary history that enjoys broad audience appeal, and still will have long shelf life as a reference work. Yeatman still holds the James family’s unqualified imprimatur.

The Jesse James Northfield RaidFaithful Until DeathMark Gardner’s book has introduced little that is new. The books authored by the late John J. Koblas – principally The Jesse James Northfield Raid and Faithful Unto Death – will remain for some time as the go-to history of the James Gang and the Northfield bank robbery, and their aftermath.

Cathy Jackson
Dr. Cathy Jackson

While Gardner justifiably prides himself on his newspaper references, the seminal story of Jesse James in the press still belongs to Cathy Jackson PhD. of Norfolk University. Her treatise, Jesse James and Late Nineteenth-Century Missouri Newspapers: They Never Did His Legend Wrong, won the Milton F. Perry Award seven years ago, after first becoming a convention highlight in 2004 at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.

Despite grabbing the Milton F. Perry Award myself last year, it is not surprising to me that my recent book Jesse James Soul Liberty Vol. I has not been reviewed on this Books, Books, & More Books True West forum, but that I am asked to comment on a Jesse James book written by another author. My own True West blog has taught me much about the audience appeal of Jesse James. The audience for entertainment stories of the shoot ‘m up variety is far larger here than the audience for literary, historical narrative that remains indisputable reference history.

Mark Gardner’s book is superb entertainment, superbly written to grab and satisfy an audience craving entertainment. Like the books of Jackie Collins, though, that also enjoy broad appeal, Gardner’s book is fun to read, but I am not looking forward to more. Besides, Gardner is already off, writing on a different historical figure. ‘Til death do us part, I’m stuck with the ones I’ve got. Knowledge and so much new research of them will keep me busy, writing four more volumes.

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Wednesday September 15th, 2021
Stray Leaves

Have you considered it? See MoreSee Less

Have you considered it?
Tuesday September 7th, 2021
Stray Leaves

COVID HAS STRUCK THE JAMES FAMILY AGAIN . . . "My foundation and the love of my life. R.I.P 9/5/2021" – Judy Rae Davis-Gibson, spouse of Robert Melvin Gibson Sr. and 3rd great-granddaughter of John J. James & Mary Jane "Polly" Carrell. See MoreSee Less

COVID HAS STRUCK THE JAMES FAMILY AGAIN . . . My foundation and the love of my life. R.I.P 9/5/2021 - Judy Rae Davis-Gibson, spouse of Robert Melvin Gibson Sr. and 3rd great-granddaughter of John J. James & Mary Jane Polly Carrell.
Wednesday September 1st, 2021
Stray Leaves

Greg James posted the following to his immediate family a few hours ago:
"I’m currently dealing with a heavy heart and confusion. My wife Judy suddenly passed away today and I’m asking for prayers and good thoughts. Thank you!"
Judy is the second wife of John Gregory "Greg" James. Greg’s first wife, Beverly Ann Brown, is the mother of Greg’s James descendants. Regardless, we send Greg our sympathies and condolences.
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Greg James posted the following to his immediate family a few hours ago: 
Im currently dealing with a heavy heart and confusion. My wife Judy suddenly passed away today and Im asking for prayers and good thoughts. Thank you!
Judy is the second wife of John Gregory Greg James. Gregs first wife, Beverly Ann Brown, is the mother of Gregs James descendants. Regardless, we send Greg our sympathies and condolences.

Comment on Facebook

So sorry to hear about your wife Judy`s passing! Our prayers are with you!🙏

Deepest condolences. 🙏

Tuesday August 31st, 2021
Stray Leaves

Very sad news. Frank Younger has died. Details of his memorial service appear in the Comments below. See MoreSee Less

Very sad news. Frank Younger has died. Details of his memorial service appear in the Comments below.

Comment on Facebook

FRANK YOUNGER'S MEMORIAL SERVICE . . . November 18, 1940 – August 28, 2021. Frank Younger sadly passed away suddenly at age 80 as a result of an accident in his home. Frank was predeceased by his parents, Paul and Margaret (and stepmother Irene). He is survived by his wife, Sharon, and their three children, Pauline (Mike), Matt (Zoe), and Tom (Tamara), and grandson, Paul. Frank loved his family and always enjoyed sharing his encouragement, wisdom, and inimitable sense of humor with them. His contributions to the lives of many include his commitment to his career as an Astronomer at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory (Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics), his ongoing participation in local classical orchestras (including the odd instrument repair), and mentoring of many friends in any way he could. Frank’s recent endeavors included attending and helping run the James Younger Gang club as well as writing and reading his poetry. Frank has often enjoyed and been seen as having contrasting traits including riding his Harley motorcycle to a string quartet practice or cleaning his antique gun collection prior to reading his latest poetry writings to gangster club members. His unique character and compassion for all of his friends and family will be missed. You are invited to Frank Younger’s online Memorial Service. Please feel free to share the meeting link below as you see fit. You can join from any web browser using a computer, tablet, or smartphone. This will be a short memorial (20 – 30 minutes). We will not be able to provide any technical support on the day of the memorial. If you have any questions about how to join us using Zoom, please contact Zoë Younger at 778-828-9971 before Friday. We will be recording the memorial, so if you have difficulty logging in, or if you miss it, you will be able to view it at a different time. There will not be an opportunity to speak to all attendees during the service, however, if you wish to share a story with the family via email, we will be assembling a collection before the weekend. Please click the link below to join us. Topic: Frank Younger’s Memorial Service Time: Sep 3, 2021 03:00 PM Vancouver Join Zoom Meeting us02web.zoom.us/j/89203244337?pwd=QkU5b01uNzdZMWZNWmIwTUVPYllVUT09 Meeting ID: 892 0324 4337 Passcode: Frank Thank you, Join our Cloud HD Video Meeting us02web.zoom.us

I was devastated when I received the email. I spoke to Frank and Sharon a month or so ago. We had a nice talk. I will miss him dearly.

I was fortunate enough to have met and talked with Frank. He impressed me as a nice and knowledgeable man.

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