Marley Brant – In The Shadow (Incarnat Books 2012) 523 pp. Soft cover, $19.95
Book Review by Nancy B. Samuelson
Marley Brant is well known to most of us in the outlaw-lawman community. She is the author of nine previous books. Among her books are The Outlaw Youngers: A Confederate Brotherhood, Jesse James: The Man and the Myth and The Illustrated History of the James-Younger Gang. This book is Marley’s first book of historical fiction. She draws on her extensive research about the James-Younger gang and now tells the story from Bob Younger’s the point of view. The characters in the book are all real people and most of the events described did happen so this is good history.
The horrors of the border war in Missouri and Kansas and the national Civil War that followed are all brought to life very well. The death of Henry Younger, father of the Younger family, and the rape of one of the Younger sisters is all described through the eyes of a very young and innocent Bob Younger. As older brother Cole becomes involved with William C. Quantrill and his band of bushwhackers, the Younger family continue to suffer. The family is forced to move, the mother is forced to burn her home, and the family is forced to move still again.
During Reconstruction things do not improve for the Younger family. The family once had extensive land holdings in Western Missouri, but this is all gone. Bob Younger has a dream of returning to Missouri, becoming a farmer and regaining some of the family’s lost land. But nothing seems to work out for any of the Youngers for very long. The Younger boys try first one thing and another and move about here and there. Cole becomes involved in outlaw activities and the other three brothers, John, Jim, and Bob are eventually drawn into the outlaw life too. Brother John is killed in a gunfight with lawmen.
Bob now attempts to make it on his own and does return to Missouri. He meets a lady named, Maggie, who is living on some of the land once owned by the Youngers. Bob and Maggie establish a romantic relationship and attempt to make a go of it farming. Bob feels he needs more money to make the farm a paying proposition. He is again drawn into the outlaw activities. This time the James-Younger gang attempt to rob the bank at Northfield, Minnesota and all outlaw-lawman buffs know how this raid ended. The three Younger brothers are all sentenced to life in prison.
The scenes between Bob and Maggie are very touching. However, I wanted to know a lot more about Maggie and her previous life that the author told us. There is a considerable amount of material here and there in the book about farming and country life. Some of these comments led me to the conclusion that the author is a city girl. (This reviewer did grow up on a farm in Missouri.)
The description of the Younger’s lives in Stillwater Prison is well done. And the scenes depicting the death of Bob Younger turned on my tear ducts.
There is not much new about the James-Younger gang in this book. But to tell the story through the eyes of Bob Younger is an interesting twist. The book is well worth reading if you have an interest in this group of outlaws and the Younger family.
Press Release for In the Shadow