Jesse James: Riding Hell-Bent for Leather into Legend
Jesse James: Riding Hell-Bent for Leather Into Legend is the story of the adventures of America's most infamous and beloved outlaw. While I found every moment of research and tale-spinning an adventure in itself, I recognized throughout, the dangers in writing a story about someone as folkloric as the illimitable Mr. James. Legends, being larger than life objects, are steeped in parables of their greatness representative of their largesse, but not always accurate (Davy Crockett thumping alligators with his bare fists, Paul Bunyon riding an ox as blue as a summer sky). Where and how, then, does an author separate truth from legend in relating a hopefully accurate biography of Jesse Woodson James?
Simply, when a colorful legend clashed with a fact, I chose the fact but presented it with the zest of the legend. However...when a legend was questioned by a doubting 21st Century scepticism that seemed unable to perceive the 19th Century spirit of romance, I opted for the legend. The result: a true portrayal of Jesse James in his true legendary girth.
To catch this towering figure in a towering time, the era of Manifest Destiny in burgeoning Wild West, I consulted the following sources:
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Allen, Thomas B. The Blue and the Gray Washington, D.C.: The National Geographic Society, 1992.
Boatner III, Mark M. The Civil War Dictionary NY: Vintage Books, 1991.
Metz, Leon Claire The Shooters NY: Berkley Books, 1976.
Nash, Jay Robert Western Lawmen and Outlaws NY: Da Capo Press, 1994.
Time-Life Books, editors of The Wild West Alexandria, VA: Time Warner, 1993.
A&E Television Networks In Search of Jesse James GGP Productions, A&E
Executive Producer Michael Cascio, 1996.
All Aboard, web page of St. Louis Iron Mountain & Southern Railway
Come Ride With Us The James-Younger Gang, web page dedicated to the exploits of the famous union of the brothers James and brothers Younger.