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the 1996 DNA testing on the remains of Jesse James and spate of cable documentaries about same, and was only published in paperback, indicates that it was probably intended to cash in on the backwash of interest generated by the media. Brant went on to write a book about Southern rock music.
As a Civil War buff in years past, I was particularly drawn to historical biographies. In recent years, I have developed a keen interest in the Post Civil War and Outlaw periods. I've visited many historical sites, museums and the like. I've heard lectures and had conversations with on-site historians, academic pros and other enthusiasts. When the subject was JESSE JAMES, virtually all of them spoke highly of this book and considered it a "must read." That's what led me to buy the book. I am amazed at the depth of the research, much of it painstakingly conducted first hand. It is unusual to see such a strong mix of documentation -- archived legal papers, state records, historical first hand accounts, family accounts and so on -- gathered in such a logical, readable format. Events are well chronicled and presented in an engaging manner. Conclusions are both logical and thought provoking. To use a cliché (as I am definitely not a writer/biographer!) I found myself reluctant to put it down. Rarely have I experienced such pleasure in getting to know an important historical figure, their times and the forces that would drive their destiny. I can personally recommend "Jesse James" to anyone seeking scholarly knowledge of the man and his times. Jesse's remarkable personal story truly comes alive in this engaging, artfully presented and very well written book. I now look forward to reading more of Ms. Brant's books -- for knowledge AND pleasure!
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Most authors and historians come down on the 'liar' side of the argument and, bearing in mind Younger was an admitted and convicted criminal, that's not unreasonable. However, I'm inclined to think there's more truth in his tale than is generally acknowledged. Most people just don't lie outright in autobiographies--they hedge and recolor and leave things out to make themselves look better. Reading Cole Younger's book, you can see him doing all these things, as well as avoiding outright statements of his own in favor of quoting other people who had favorable things to say about him, or quoting old statements of innocence he had made. Take the book for what it's worth and make your own judgements.
As to the writing itself... Cole Younger is no writer. The book is uneven and choppy, but parts are quite good. He has some moments of actually inspired prose. He includes the text of a lecture he gave in his later days at the end and it's quite good. Some of his war tales are well-told, but a bit scanty on details. He assumes you know the general stories and is often focusing on quelling lies, myths, and fabrications that had grown up around his story. In many of these cases he's probably being quite honest.
Though dubious history, this book is a valuable and intriguing look at the person and personality behind the historical figure.
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The only trouble I had with the book was that it was a bit sloppily written -- and edited -- which I noted from the number of typographical errors and misspellings. The author referred to Charleton College (not Carleton College), correcting it in the second reference, and Hemline, instead of Hamline University. It made me wonder how many other mistakes there were.
I also wondered why no major endorsements like from the book clubs of the Washington Post or New York Times or Los Angeles Times were included in the introduction. I suspect they weren't favorable, if they were done at all. I find little value in an endorsement from a TV cowboy.
But I loved reading about the Youngers and that period. And the writing was fairly well done.
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A few mistakes here and there but the whole package is a good one. Anyone appreciating the great music of this region should give this one a read. You will not be dissappointed.
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I liked quite a few things about this book. Author Brant conducted many personal interviews and the resulting first person accounts made for very interesting, often amusing and occasionally poignant reading. There were also wonderful photographs, many I had never seen and I am a longtime fan. The story was told chronologically and that made for easy reading, as the book has quite a cast of characters.
I would recommend this book to a friend without hesitation.