Jesse James: American Outlaw

Discover the Missouri-born outlaw who became one of America’s most notorious bank and train robbers through these nonfiction accounts of his life, as well as through fiction.

Related event:
Meet the Past: Jesse James, June 30


Jesse James: The Best Writings on the Notorious Outlaw and His Gang
Edited by Harold Dellinger
From his early days as a Civil War guerilla to his untimely death at the hands of that "dirty little coward" Robert Ford, few figures in American folklore have captured the imagination quite like Jesse James. In these pages, noted James authority Harold Dellinger sifts through the hundreds of published articles and books about James to painstakingly create a compelling collage of character, an extraordinary, multifaceted portrait of one of history's most infamous outlaws.

 Last Rebel of the Civil War book jacket

Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War
By T. J. Stiles
In this biography T. J. Stiles offers a new understanding of the legendary outlaw Jesse James. Although he has often been portrayed as a Robin Hood of the old west, in this ground-breaking work Stiles places James within the context of the bloody conflicts of the Civil War to reveal a much more complicated and significant figure. With meticulous research and vivid accounts of the dramatic adventures of the famous gunman, T. J. Stiles shows how he resembles not the apolitical hero of legend, but rather a figure ready to use violence to command attention for a political cause--in many ways, a forerunner of the modern terrorist.

Outlaws: The Illustrated History of the James-Younger Gang
By Marley Brant
Illustrated with heretofore unpublished photographs, Outlaws details the Midwestern homes, families, and friends of the James and Younger men, and provides the first dramatic up-close look at the gang as they become teenage Confederate guerrillas. The documented evidence, including more than 200 photographs, adds to the historical drama of the interwoven stories of two families and their friends, like the notorious Belle Starr, all of whom became famous in the latter half of the nineteenth century as outlaws.

The Rise and Fall of Jesse James
By Robertus Love
Originally published in 1926, this book by Robertus Love, a newspaperman who knew Frank James, is a pioneering work that plumbs the personalities of the outlaws, looks at their domestic lives, cites many stories about them, and attempts to separate fact from legend in tracking their violent operations.

Jesse James and the Civil War in Missouri
By Robert L. Dyer
This book discusses the underlying causes of the Civil War as they relate to Missouri and reveals how the war helped create both the legend and the reality of Jesse James and his gang. Although several major battles were fought in Missouri between Confederate and Union forces, much of the fighting there was an ugly form of terrorism carried out by loose bands of Missouri guerrillas, by Kansas "Jayhawkers," or by marauding patrols of Union soldiers. This irregular warfare provided a training ground for people like Jesse and Frank James who, after the war, used their newly learned skills to form an outlaw band that ultimately became known all over the world.

Jesse James and the First Missouri Train Robbery
By Ronald H. Beights
Ronald Beights presents Jesse James and his notorious gang at the height of their careers. The month-and-a-half-long, seven-hundred-mile horseback romp across Arkansas and Missouri that made them legendary is depicted here with the first-hand accounts of trainmen, detectives, news reporters, and passengers directly involved with their crimes.


The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward, Robert Ford book jacket

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward, Robert Ford
By Ron Hansen
American history's most famous outlaw comes alive in Ron Hansen's imaginative recreation of the West. The charismatic Jesse James has a quick temper, an even faster draw, and holds sway over his ragged gang until the arrival of upstart Robert Ford. Torn between worship and jealousy, Ford makes a fateful decision that torments him for the rest of his life and becomes one of the most legendary events of the American frontier.

The James Boys: A Novel Account of William, Henry, Frank, and Jesse
By Richard Liebmann-Smith
This rollicking, page-turning debut novel purports to tell the real story of the James boys if Frank and Jesse James were the ne’er-do-well younger brothers of Henry and William James.

Jesse James
By Joe Kubert and Carmine Infantino
This book presents the classic 1950s outlaw stories of the heroic Jesse James, who rode a hard road through the Old West to become a legend. The brainchild of two young creators at the beginning of their careers, this graphic novel features pulse-pounding tales.

Book descriptions provided by BookLetters.