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Who Loves Ya, Jesse James?

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Estimated reading time: 3 minutes


Bill Penn
Bill Penn, proprietor of the Historic Midway Museum Store, sports a new tee-shirt I gave him.

I’ve begun to wonder. Who loves ya, Jesse James?

At book signings of Jesse James Soul Liberty, more women buy my book than men. This was confirmed again last Sunday, as I signed books for the Historic Midway Museum Store at the Midway Fall Festival. My book was purchased only by women. This was the first time, too, that the new JJSL tee-shirt was introduced. And who were the tee-shirt buyers? Women, not men.

A couple of women did say they were buying the book for their husband. Curiously, though, two other women did not buy the book for their husbands after I pointed out that the book is about the Jesse James family principally, and about Jesse James only indirectly through his family.

During the course of the day with hundreds of people walking by my booth, four young men popped out from the crowd on separate occasions to ask, “Did Jesse James really die?” My reply to their question all began with, “That’s the mythology, not the fact.” All of them abruptly walked away. Not one engaged in further discussion, picked up the book, look inside it, or buy it.

I’ve come to view young men like these as the core demographic that the history and biography reality shows target as their viewers. Their productions all are based on the mythology surrounding Jesse James, and rarely upon facts. As a result, young men like these learn nothing about factual history or about Jesse James. They walk on in a cloud of mythology. They read little, and know even less.

By contrast, women attracted to Jesse James engage in discussion about my book first. They pick up the book, leaf through it, and ask questions about what they see. I don’t have to sell the book to women at all. I only have to point out that the book is about Jesse James’ family, and the information comes from primary family sources never published before. When women buy, it is clear they are curious to know more, but they want what they learn to be authentic and true.

One young school girl, who ran over to my table, surprised and delighted me. “Are you related to Jesse James,” she asked. I replied, “That’s what I write about.” She ran back to her parents, shouting, “That’s so cool!” She was not the first girl to ask.

It’s a scientific fact that within the female DNA resides some gene which is attracted to the genes of the bad boy. But I don’t think that’s what attracts women to buy my book. I believe they’re attracted by the idea of finding the factual history of the bad boy inside the context of family. Family is their emotional connection with my book. After they read my book, some have informed me the book did not disappoint them. They were enlightened.

So, who loves ya, Jesse James?

My survey says, young men, ages 18-45, mostly loners lacking connections with a family of their own, who watch way too much TV, and only absorb the mythology dispensed to them in that medium as fact. In short, guys who aren’t too smart.

But intelligent women absolutely adore Jesse and his family.

Cover for Stray Leaves Daily
Stray Leaves Daily

Stray Leaves Daily

Daily updates from the family of Frank & Jesse James with stories, photos, & two searchable genealogy databases.

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2 months ago
Stray Leaves Daily

Will the real DAVID JAMES, please, stand up and come forward? Are you still drinking this stuff? See MoreSee Less

Will the real DAVID JAMES, please, stand up and come forward? Are you still drinking this stuff?