MARK GARDNER’S JESSE JAMES PICKS
1. The Northfield Tragedy (John Jay Lemon; English Westerners’ Society): Lemon was the pseudonym of Minnesota journalist Joseph Hanson. His detailed newspaper reports on the James-Younger Gang’s botched Northfield holdup, and the two-week manhunt that followed, make up the bulk of this slim book.
2. The Trial of Frank James for Murder (George Miller Jr.; Nabu Press): Although chronicling the 1883 trial of brother Frank in Gallatin, Missouri, this volume contains much juicy information on Jesse and the gang post-Northfield. Of particular interest is the testimony of former gang member Dick Liddil.
3. Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War (T.J. Stiles; Vintage): Despite a few errors of fact, Stiles has written the best modern biography of the fabled outlaw. The book is actually most valuable for its rich portrayal of the times through which Jesse lived.
4. Frank and Jesse James: The Story Behind the Legend (Ted P. Yeatman; Cumberland House): This is a must-have book for the serious Jesse James enthusiast. Yeatman spent more than 25 years researching the James brothers, and he made several discoveries that dramatically changed what we thought we knew about the outlaws. The book’s encyclopedic nature, however, can make for slow reading.
5. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Ron Hansen; Harper Perennial): A work of fiction, yes, but Hansen has captured Jesse James, his personality, quirks, motivations and paranoia better than any biographer to date. His deep research is apparent on nearly every page.
—Mark Lee Gardner’s Shot All To Hell: Jesse James, the Northfield Raid, and the Wild West’s Greatest Escape is due out from William Morrow next April