Looking for more from Sean McLachlan? He also hangs out on the Midlist Writer blog, where he talks about writing, adventure travel, caving, and everything else he gets up to. He also reproduces all the posts from Civil War Horror, so drop on by!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Book Review: The Many Faces of Jesse James

The Many Faces of Jesse JamesThe Many Faces of Jesse James by Phillip W. Steele

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There have been hundreds of books about Jesse James. As far as I know, this is the only one that focuses on what he looked like and attempts to separate legitimate photos of the famous outlaw from the piles of fakes.

This short (128p page) book starts with a potted history of his life and death. This has been done more in-depth in several other books, especially Yeatman's landmark biography. The facts are accurately laid out, though, which is more than I can say for some Jesse James books. There's also a sizable and amusing chapter on the many Jesse James imposters.

Authors Steele and Warfel then move on to the meat of the book--examining the many purported photos of Jesse James, and to a lesser extent his brother Frank, to figure out which are real and which are fake. This is generally well done. I'm not convinced by some of their "genuine" photos, but this just makes the chapter all the more engaging. They also debunk many of the widely circulated fake photographs.

The last section of the book is given over to Warfel's sketches of Jesse at various stages of his life. While these are well done, I don't see much point in them. Many are simply copies of existing photos, such as the famous bushwhacker shot taken in Platte City in 1864.

This book will be of some interest to those who want a deeper understanding of Jesse James and the legend surrounding him. For someone looking for the definitive biography, Yeatman's "Frank and Jesse James" remains the leader in the field.

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  1. Hi Sean! I'm stopping by from the A to Z Challenge sign up list. Nice to meet you! I look forward to your April posts, as I expect to learn a lot about the Civil War and history in general from you. Fascinating stuff!


    1. Hi Karen,

      You're here early! Nice to meet you. Yeah, the A to Z will be an interesting challenge. I'm going to write some of the posts ahead of time. I'll be in Oxford in April for my usual Easter research/relaxation/pub trip, so I'll need to be prepared.

  2. Sounds like a fascinating book. It amazes me that such recent history can be so muddled.


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