Book Review: Frank and Jesse James “Friends and Family” by Freda Cruse Hardison. Morris Publishing, Kearney, Nebraska, 2015. 381 pp. ISBN 978-0-9842111-2-8. $29.00. Paperback. Photos. No end notes, bibliography or index.
Reviewed by Nancy B. Samuelson
Publication of this review is shared by Stray Leaves, the James-Younger Gang Journal, and the Wild West History Association.
This book is billed as a historical novel told in the voice of Alexander Franklin James. However, the book has none of the attributes of a novel and it is certainly not historically accurate. The book is poorly organized, rambling and incoherent.
The author seems to have little knowledge of well-known historical facts about the Civil War and some well-known personalities of the era. She states that Senator Stephen Douglas was famous for the Missouri Compromise. Stephen Douglas was born 1813 and the Missouri Compromise took place in 1820. Douglas did, however, play a major role in the Compromise of 1850 and the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. General Nathan Bedford Forrest is given credit for establishing the Knights of the Golden Circle but that organization was founded by a man named George Bickley. Union General Grenville Dodge becomes Greenville Dodge. The Union prison that collapsed killing and injuring the sisters of Bloody Bill Anderson and other female relatives of Quantrill guerrillas is placed in Lawrence, Kansas. (It was in Kansas City, Missouri.)There are numerous errors of this sort throughout the book.
Military rank structure appears to be foreign territory to the author. Men are one rank on one page and on the next page they are another rank. In one instance a captain is commanding a colonel. And on occasion John Thrailkill is identified as both a colonel and a major at the same time. (He was a major.) The military abbreviations for rank are used in a rather bizarre fashion. In one place ferries were of Maj. importance, in another instance something was a Maj. task for Union troops. Then strangest of all, the military rank is used as a name as follows: Alexander Maj’s is the manager for Russell, Maj. and Waddell, the freighting firm.
There is a lot of dubious genealogy throughout the book. One egregious example of this is the claim that William “Wild Bill” Thomason, step-uncle of the James boys, was the grandfather of Bill and Jim Anderson. It is also stated that “Wild Bill” taught the James and Anderson boys, together, to shoot, ride and practice other martial skills. A quick check of the census records shows this to be fiction. The 1850 census for the Anderson family show them in Randolph County, Missouri and W. Tomason (sometimes spelled Tomasson) and his wife Mahala are living with the William Anderson family. The Tomason couple is undoubtedly the grandparents of Bill and Jim Anderson. Both William Anderson, father of Bill and Jim, and W. Tomason list their occupation as hatters (they make hats). In 1850 William Thomason, the step-uncle of the James boys, is 62 years old and is living in Liberty Township in Clay County, Missouri. The Anderson family moved to Iowa for a short time, back to Randolph County, Missouri, then to what is now Lyon, County Kansas. A brief look at the map of Missouri and Kansas should quickly quell any notion that the Anderson and James boys visited frequently and learned to ride and shoot together.
There are a number of photographs in the book and many of them dubious, including the one on the front cover of the book. Several of the photos are from the Emory Cantey Collection and a number of serious scholars and photo collectors have questioned the validity of this entire collection. Several photos offer no source and are also very dubious. Only the photos from the Missouri Valley Special Collection, Kansas City Public Library should be considered as valid.
This book is poorly written, historically inaccurate, and tedious to read. It is also overpriced for a paperback. Save your money for something more worthwhile.