Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

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.


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