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!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Finding a Wild West rarity in Oxford

If you've been following me on Gadling, you know I'm in Oxford at the moment. I'm busy working on my next book for Osprey Publishing, which is about the fateful raid on Northfield, Minnesota, by Jesse James and his gang in 1876.

You'd think I'd be feeling a bit out of touch with the Wild West here among the dreaming spires, and you'd be right except that I've found an extremely rare book on the Northfield robbery at Oxford University's Bodleian Library. Titled The Northfield Tragedy, it's the first account written about the robbery, penned by a journalist who arrived on the scene hours after the smoke cleared. He was among the first to interview the citizens who fought off the robbers, and he followed along with the posses as they hunted down the James-Younger gang.

This book is almost impossible to find in the United States. Only four copies are known to exist, none of which are in Missouri, where I'm based when I'm in the country. Most modern books about the James-Younger gang don't cite this important source. The reason the Bodleian has a copy is because it was reprinted by the English Westerners Society. The Bodleian being a copyright library, they had a copy. I would have never heard of it if I hadn't been browsing Jesse James books in the Bodleian. So here I am reading a Wild West rarity in the most English of cities!

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