Book Review – Jesse James Soul Liberty, Vol.I

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BOOK REVIEW: James, Eric F.  Jesse James, Soul Liberty. Volume I. 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.

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.


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.

Bobbi King
Bobbi King

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.

Mr. James’ research appears to be extensive. . .

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

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.

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. . .

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.


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From Jesse James Soul Liberty, Vol. I, Daniel Lewis James Jr. writes to a newspaper, also under his pen name of Danny Santiago, about the credit for the Broadway hit "Bloomer Girl." Dan cites Yip Harburg:

To the Editors:

It was belatedly called to my attention that in the John Gregory Dunne article of August 16 on the James/Santiago story, I seem not to have given full credit to my collaborators on the 1944 musical comedy Bloomer Girl. Regrettably this oversight of mine was compounded by the newspapers which only partially reprinted Dunne's piece.

The facts in brief are as follows: the originator of the story idea from which the musical grew was my wife, Lilith James, who charmingly chose the perversities of Fashion to dramatize the early struggles of the Women's Rights movement. She also developed the principal characters. I joined her in writing a first draft of the libretto. It failed to satisfy our lyricist, E.Y. Harburg, and Harold Arlen, the composer. It also failed to satisfy us. An impasse developed at which point all agreed to call in the team of Sig Herzig and Fred Saidy who were experienced writers in the field of musical comedy. They reworked the material to the satisfaction of everyone but Lilith and myself, who had hoped to invade Gilbert & Sullivan territory, with what we thought was a light-hearted paradoxical look at history. What I took for a personal artistic failure for which I blamed first of all myself, went on to become a lavish entertainment which played on Broadway for eighteen months and has since often been revived in summer theater. If I was not delighted, audiences certainly were and full credit for this should be given to Sig Herzig and Fred Saidy (now deceased) without whom the production would never have taken place.

I deeply regret that this clarification will reach only a fraction of those who read John Gregory Dunne's piece and its successors.

Dan James/Danny Santiago
Carmel, CaliforniaApril 8, 1896: The great American popular song lyricist Yip Harburg was born on this date in 1896! Yipper worked with many well-known composers. He wrote the lyrics to the standards "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?," "April in Paris," and "It's Only a Paper Moon," as well as all of the songs in The Wizard of Oz, including "Over the Rainbow." He was known for the social commentary of his lyrics, as well as his liberal sensibilities. He also championed racial and gender equality and union politics.
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From Jesse James Soul Liberty, Vol. I, Daniel Lewis James Jr. writes to a newspaper, also under his pen name of Danny Santiago, about the credit for the Broadway hit Bloomer Girl. Dan cites Yip Harburg:

 To the Editors:

It was belatedly called to my attention that in the John Gregory Dunne article of August 16 on the James/Santiago story, I seem not to have given full credit to my collaborators on the 1944 musical comedy Bloomer Girl. Regrettably this oversight of mine was compounded by the newspapers which only partially reprinted Dunnes piece.

The facts in brief are as follows: the originator of the story idea from which the musical grew was my wife, Lilith James, who charmingly chose the perversities of Fashion to dramatize the early struggles of the Womens Rights movement. She also developed the principal characters. I joined her in writing a first draft of the libretto. It failed to satisfy our lyricist, E.Y. Harburg, and Harold Arlen, the composer. It also failed to satisfy us. An impasse developed at which point all agreed to call in the team of Sig Herzig and Fred Saidy who were experienced writers in the field of musical comedy. They reworked the material to the satisfaction of everyone but Lilith and myself, who had hoped to invade Gilbert & Sullivan territory, with what we thought was a light-hearted paradoxical look at history. What I took for a personal artistic failure for which I blamed first of all myself, went on to become a lavish entertainment which played on Broadway for eighteen months and has since often been revived in summer theater. If I was not delighted, audiences certainly were and full credit for this should be given to Sig Herzig and Fred Saidy (now deceased) without whom the production would never have taken place.

I deeply regret that this clarification will reach only a fraction of those who read John Gregory Dunnes piece and its successors.

Dan James/Danny Santiago
Carmel, California

Caleb Wallace was well known to John M. James. Their acquaintance formed during the 10 conventions at Danville that led to the formation of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. In 1807, John M. James served in the state legislature, during the period when Humphrey Marshall brought charges against him, Judge Harry Innes, and Judge Benjamin Sebastian, alleging they tried to sell Kentucky to Spain, in the affair dubbed "The Spanish Conspiracy." These stories will be told in great detail in Volume II of JJSL, This Bloody Ground. ... See MoreSee Less

Do you know the #1 state where JJSL is banned? ... See MoreSee Less

Do you know the #1 state where JJSL is banned?