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Death of a Legend
By Will Henry

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Death of a Legend

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Death of a Legend
By Will Henry
Center Point Large Print, (2003)
ISBN: 1-58547-296-4
Genre: Western

Reviewed by Sheldon Ztvordokov - August 10, 2003

Jesse Woodson James was born in 1847 and died in 1882. The son of a Baptist preacher, Jesse James became a notorious bank and train robber, murder, and all around bad man. Yet he was also, by all accounts, a caring father and loving husband. He is also credited with many Robin Hood styled deeds, including giving some of his stolen wealth to the poor.

In short, Jesse James is a paradox whose life has been romanticized. Separating the truth of his existence from the mythology that has grown up around him is a difficult task, but not an impossible one. In Death of a Legend, Will Henry has created a riveting account of the life, and death of Jesse James. While Death of a Legend is a work of fiction, it is based on historical truths.

Henry has attempted to strip away the heroic veneer that has been applied to the image of Jesse James, in order to show him as he truly was. This unadulterated image of the outlaw is not flattering. Henry's portrayal graphically illustrates just how wicked Jesse James really was, and that the Robin Hood persona that has grown up around James was pure fabrication with no basis in reality. As Henry states in the Author's Note that precedes the story, "This is, basically, a true bill of indictment returned against the persistently misrepresented life of a cold-blooded murderer."

Death of a Legend is a fascinating book to read, both for its outstanding story telling, as well as for the insights that it provides into Jesse James's life. Henry begins his narration in 1856, and follows the remainder of Jesse's life, and concludes with a description of the coroner's inquest in the death of one Mr. Tom Howard, a.k.a. Jesse James at the hands of the Ford brothers. This book not only sets the record straight, but is also gives the reader a look inside the mind of this notorious outlaw.

In writing this book, Henry has crafted a compelling and unique biography of Jesse James. Legend aside, James's led a fascinating life. He served with the Confederacy during the American Civil War and was a member of Quantrill's Raiders. After the war he, along with his brother Frank and their cousins the Younger Brothers, including Cole Younger, formed the James Gang and embarked upon a life of crime. A reward was offered for the capture - dead or alive - of Jesse James, and for much of his criminal career, Jesse James was hunted by the famous Pinkerton Detective Agency. They never caught him. That honor was to go to Robert (Bob) Ford, who pulled the trigger of the gun that actually killed Jesse James. A member of the James Gang, Ford's reason for killing James was simple, he wanted the reward money. Some would say that it was a fitting end for such a ruthless outlaw.

Death of a Legend is a great all around read that will fascinate both fans of the western genre, as well as anyone interested in the legend of Jesse James.


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