Books I’ve Read — Shot All to Hell: Jesse James, the Northfield Raid, and the Wild West’s Greatest Escape

It is true, we are robbers, but we always rob in the glare of the day and in the teeth of the multitude. — Jesse James

There is just something about Frank and Jesse James that attracts interest. Immortalized into American lore, stories of the pair often are romantized to the point that it is hard to tell fact from fiction. Fortunately, there are writers who dig deep and try to research a story before committing it to paper.

That is definitely the case with Mark Lee Gardner, who has dug out the complete story of a botched Minnesota bank robbery conducted by the James-Younger gang. The book retraces the steps the men took to rob the bank and the fumbling way authorities worked as they tried to captured the six surviving members as the gang made its way through unfamiliar terrain and territory.

As the story of near captures, wrongly captured men, hysteria and admiration unfolds, it is amazing how the Younger part of the gang is eventually captured — because of a teen age boy Oscar Sorbel. For his efforts, Oscar will eventually be awarded $56. When the surviving Younger men are captured and taken to jail a new type of show unfolds as people want a glimpse of the famous outlaws.

Frank and Jesse elude capture for years. Jesse will eventually be shot and killed by Robert Ford. Frank, seeing the writing on the wall, eventually seeks out a clemency deal with the governor of Missouri — becoming the only one who truly escapes, despite the fact he was guilty of murdering a bank employee in the Minnesota robbery.

Book is written at a nice pace, has enough detail to keep it interesting, but not so much to bog it down. I would give it a 4.5 out of 5 rating. Excellent read.

I guess, if I had it all to do over, and had the choice, and had to make the choice as a young man, I’d rather have all the pain and danger and trouble than to be just a plain farmer. If I had an old man’s head, I would choose different. … — Frank James late in life.

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Categories: American History, Books I have read | Tags: , , ,

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