Hollywood has presented versions of Jesse James in several movies; usually he is seen as a poor, persecuted farm boy from the gallant South, forced into a genteel form of banditry on the Robin Hood model until his good works are brought to an untimely end by a cowardly bullet in the back. T J Stiles offers a very different picture of Jesse and his world in an exemplary and brilliantly researched study.
Jesse was born in Clay County, Missouri, on 5 September 1847, the son of Robert and Zerelda James. H e could not have picked a more perfect spot to grow up to become the best-known outlaw in America. Missouri was situated between the slave states