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It was the most famous bank robbery of all time, involving the legendary James-Younger gang's final shocking holdup—the infamous Northfield Raid—and the thrilling two-week chase that followed. Mark Lee Gardner, author of the critically acclaimed To Hell on a Fast Horse, takes us inside Northfield's First National Bank and outside to the streets as Jesse James and his band It was the most famous bank robbery of all time, involving the legendary James-Younger gang's final shocking holdup—the infamous Northfield Raid—and the thrilling two-week chase that followed. Mark Lee Gardner, author of the critically acclaimed To Hell on a Fast Horse, takes us inside Northfield's First National Bank and outside to the streets as Jesse James and his band of outlaws square off against the heroic citizens who risked their lives to defeat America's most daring criminals. With vivid detail and novelistic verve, Gardner follows the James brothers as they elude both the authorities and the furious citizen posses hell-bent on capturing them in one of the largest manhunts in the history of the United States. He reveals the serendipitous endings of the Younger brothers—Cole, Jim, and Bob—and explores the James brothers' fates after the dust settled, solving mysteries about the raid that have been hotly debated for more than 130 years. A galloping true tale of frontier justice featuring audacious outlaws and intrepid heroes, Shot All to Hell is a riveting slice of Wild West history that continues to fascinate today.


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It was the most famous bank robbery of all time, involving the legendary James-Younger gang's final shocking holdup—the infamous Northfield Raid—and the thrilling two-week chase that followed. Mark Lee Gardner, author of the critically acclaimed To Hell on a Fast Horse, takes us inside Northfield's First National Bank and outside to the streets as Jesse James and his band It was the most famous bank robbery of all time, involving the legendary James-Younger gang's final shocking holdup—the infamous Northfield Raid—and the thrilling two-week chase that followed. Mark Lee Gardner, author of the critically acclaimed To Hell on a Fast Horse, takes us inside Northfield's First National Bank and outside to the streets as Jesse James and his band of outlaws square off against the heroic citizens who risked their lives to defeat America's most daring criminals. With vivid detail and novelistic verve, Gardner follows the James brothers as they elude both the authorities and the furious citizen posses hell-bent on capturing them in one of the largest manhunts in the history of the United States. He reveals the serendipitous endings of the Younger brothers—Cole, Jim, and Bob—and explores the James brothers' fates after the dust settled, solving mysteries about the raid that have been hotly debated for more than 130 years. A galloping true tale of frontier justice featuring audacious outlaws and intrepid heroes, Shot All to Hell is a riveting slice of Wild West history that continues to fascinate today.

30 review for Shot All to Hell: Jesse James, the Northfield Raid, and the Wild West's Greatest Escape

  1. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    I really enjoyed Gardner's earlier effort on Billy the Kid, and figured I'd go back to Outlaw Country and read some more. I might have liked this effort even more, but that's at least in part fueled by the subject. Billy, wild young man that he was, doesn't, to my mind, have the lethal and calculating gravitas of Jesse James and his crew. The James - Younger gang were a product of the brutal guerrilla wars in Civil War Missouri and Kansas. These wars had levels of barbarity that could be compare I really enjoyed Gardner's earlier effort on Billy the Kid, and figured I'd go back to Outlaw Country and read some more. I might have liked this effort even more, but that's at least in part fueled by the subject. Billy, wild young man that he was, doesn't, to my mind, have the lethal and calculating gravitas of Jesse James and his crew. The James - Younger gang were a product of the brutal guerrilla wars in Civil War Missouri and Kansas. These wars had levels of barbarity that could be compared to modern day Bosnia, with eye-for-an-eye decapitations, burnings, shootings, hangings, American style. And memories ran long. The James - Younger band operated much like a military unit, with robberies planned with precision and fearless flair. These robberies were executed on what was a generally favorable landscape filled with sympathetic friends and family. But the railroads fought back, and it eventually led to the unplanned death of Jesse's step-brother due to a fire bombing of the James' house. After that, a number of names entered the James' Book of Vengeance. One collaborator (and neighbor) was soon gunned down by Jesse, and Alan Pinkerton (head of the detective agency responsible), was stalked by Jesse in Chicago. Another organizer in the attack on the James' house was attorney Samuel Hardwicke, who must have certainly felt a marked man afterwards. He would eventually move to what must have seemed a safer Minnesota. Gardner speculates, with some reason, that the otherwise inexplicable Northfield raid was, at least in part, a mission of vengeance, with Jesse also staking out Hardwicke. But, like the attempt on Pinkerton, Jesse wanted to look his man in the eye before pulling the trigger. The opportunity never presented itself, and there were banks to rob, even up north. The disaster of the Northfield raid -- which Garder lays out in impressive detail -- cannot be overstated. The James - Younger band were apparent (and arrogant) in their dusters, big horses, and big guns. The residents knew, upon sight, these guys were sketchy. One has to wonder that even if the gang had pulled off the robbery, if they would have been able to escape cleanly. As it turned out, a big gun battle erupted, with a few courageous citizens firing back. Before long, two bandits were bleeding out, and a brave bank employee had his brains blown out by Frank James. Cole Younger, in an equally cold blooded act, shot a fleeing man in the head. What follows is, arguably, the real heart of the book: the escape. And this is where Gardner excels, as he shows the hunted and hunted, in an amazing mile by mile journey. The word was out, and Minnesotans quickly converged, but the James gang proved slippery, and lucky, negotiating their way through an unfamiliar landscape, and coming up with quick and convincing lies when necessary. At least up to a point, and the then the gang split apart, with Frank and Jesse mysteriously disappearing, later to show up back in Missouri. The Youngers -- all wounded -- would have a last stand, but amazingly survive and escape the hangman as well. Jesse vowed he would never be caught, and that's the way it worked out, though not the way he envisioned. Frank? Frank was smart. He engineered, via political allies, an acquittal in Missouri. He never spent a day in jail for his crimes. He should have hung for them. Especially for the murder in Northfield, Minnesota.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Steven Peterson

    The James Brothers and the Younger Brothers. Some of the best known outlaws of their time. Train robberies and bank robberies galore. And the ghastly failure of their Northfield Minnesota raid--when they were routed by civilians during their robbery. The author of this book, rather immodestly but on target, notes that (Page 3): "The following narrative is the most accurate account of the nineteenth century's most famous robbery and manhunt." And in the second chapter, we get nice character sketc The James Brothers and the Younger Brothers. Some of the best known outlaws of their time. Train robberies and bank robberies galore. And the ghastly failure of their Northfield Minnesota raid--when they were routed by civilians during their robbery. The author of this book, rather immodestly but on target, notes that (Page 3): "The following narrative is the most accurate account of the nineteenth century's most famous robbery and manhunt." And in the second chapter, we get nice character sketches of the brothers, including a good discussion of the real differences between Jesse and Frank James. This volume is a nice rendering of this event. It begins by looking at the background of the raid--including an account of the early lives of the Younger (Cole, Jim, and Bob) and James (Jesse and Frank) Brothers. Both Youngers and James rode with bushwhacking Confederate irregulars such as Bloody Bill Anderson and William Quantrill. After the war, the brothers often worked together in gangs, which included others as well. They carried out both train robberies and bank heists. Overall, they were fairly successful. However, one of their gang members "ratted them out," making it potentially perilous to continue working in their traditional area. What to do next? Jesse James suggested a raid into Minnesota, where none would be looking for them. Once in Minnesota, gang members (including other members than the brothers). They finally happened upon a robbery in Northfield. After scouti9ng the bank, they went into action. Two major problems: a time lock mechanism that thwarted them and the reaction of the citizens of Northfield. Many residents grabbed forearms and began shooting at gang members-wreaking havoc on the gang. After this? A detailed description of the chase as posse after posse chased the Younger and James brothers (other gang members were hors de combat). The James Brothers and Younger Brothers suffered separate fates. The book concludes with a description of the lives of the key actors--Northfield residents, gang members, and others involved in the robbery and subsequent chase. This is a very fine history of the development of the gang and its greatest fiasco. We learn a great deal in the process.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    Shot all to Hell: Jesse James, the Northfield Raid, and the Wild West's Greatest Escape, is an excellent addition to the literature surrounding the life of Jesse James and the history of the James-Younger Gang. Very well written, its primary focus is on events leading up to their raid on the First National Bank of Northfield, MN, and the factors that influenced their decision to conduct a raid so far from their Missouri base. It does not claim to be a full biography of James or the James-Younger Shot all to Hell: Jesse James, the Northfield Raid, and the Wild West's Greatest Escape, is an excellent addition to the literature surrounding the life of Jesse James and the history of the James-Younger Gang. Very well written, its primary focus is on events leading up to their raid on the First National Bank of Northfield, MN, and the factors that influenced their decision to conduct a raid so far from their Missouri base. It does not claim to be a full biography of James or the James-Younger gang, but it does include enough of their history to put their actions into proper context. The book is not perfect for reasons I will mention below, but is well researched, and exceedingly readable. Jesse James and the James-Younger Gang are one of those historical Rorschach tests that usefully expose the biases of different segments of society. Whether one views the gang as heroes, anti-heroes, or villains often is a function of life experience, education and economic circumstance. For many the gang represents a rejection of political correctness, and those viewed as elites trying to dictate how people should lead their lives. For others, they are an embodiment of the "Lost Cause" interpretation of the Civil War; a committed band of unreconstructed rebels, refusing to concede the end of their dream of an independent confederacy based on states’ rights and slavery. For still others, they represent an American version of the Robin Hood myth (for which there is no evidence). And lastly, for some, particularly descendants of their victims, or those who intellectually reject the notion that robbery and murder are in any way romantic, the James-Younger gang were simply killers, unable to get past Confederate defeat, compelled to continue the terrorism they practiced as bushwhackers under William Quantrill and Bloody Bill Anderson during the Civil War. For me, they are closer to the latter description. The more I read about them, the less I am inclined to view them as anything other than criminals. I recognize they are products of their experiences, but that does not make them admirable. That isn't to say however, that I don't find them fascinating. I think they do embody an aspect of the Civil War South that I think is important to understand. In states like Missouri and Kansas, the Civil War was a guerilla fight, one which pitted neighbor against neighbor in the most brutal way imaginable. In this it was much like the Revolutionary war as experienced in the southern back country - brutal and personal. The legacy of that fight is with us today. Other than my general interest in virtually anything historical, I also have a personal interest in the James-Younger gang. One of the employees shot by them in the failed raid on the First National Bank in Northfield, MN - Alonzo Bunker - is a branch on my family tree. He was the son of my Great-Great-Great Grandfather. Growing up, we always heard stories about the relative who was shot by Jesse James, and my Great Grandfather who I knew as a child, had met him. Bunker wasn't actually shot by James, but by gang member Charlie Pitts; still it was close enough to the truth to pique my interest growing up. Most books on Jesse James and the James-Younger gang tend to take an admiring view of them. Authors invested in "Lost Cause" mythology are more likely to take a charitable view of their criminality, often excusing it as a justifiable response to some wrong they suffered, such as the botched Pinkerton raid on their home that killed their brother Archie, and severely wounded their mother. Other authors, who have a romantic view of the West and Western lore, seem unable to resist the lure of the "brave and daring" Jesse James. This has combined to make the outlaws pop culture heroes. Rarely are movies made about them, for example, that do not depict them as heroes or anti-heroes. A great example of this is the well-made but severely flawed "Long Riders," produced in 1980. All of this makes it difficult to get to the truth about them and their activities. There are a few even-handed treatments of them that try to get to the truth about their actions, and that attempt to put them in a political, cultural, economic, and psychological context. One of the best of these is Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War by T.J. Stiles, who does a nice job of digging into the political climate in post war Missouri that allowed the James-Younger gang to operate with virtual impunity. The subject of this review, "Shot all to Hell: Jesse James, the Northfield Raid, and the Wild West's Greatest Escape," by Mark Lee Gardiner, falls somewhere in between these types. As the title of the book suggests, with its focus on the escape of Jesse and Frank James, rather than the capture or killing of the other six gang members, the author sometimes betrays a sneaking admiration for the outlaws. On the other hand, he doesn't shy away from highlighting their brutality, detailing some of the murders committed by them during and after the years after the Civil War. And, it is clear he admires the townspeople of Northfield who did what no one else had done, fought back against the gang. He movingly highlights the heroics of some of the townspeople, particularly Joseph Lee Heywood who was killed by Frank James after he repeatedly refused to open the bank's safe. Northfield celebrates this event to this day, with its annual “Defeat of Jesse James Days,” one of the largest town festivals in Minnesota. Gardiner is an excellent writer. The book, written in a narrative style, was at times a real page turner. His research is detailed, and seems spot on, illuminating many aspects of the Northfield raid that I had never read about before. For example, I had always known bystander Nicholas Gustafson was killed in the street outside the bank; shot in the head. What I did not know was that he did not die right away. In fact, he was able to get up, walk away, speak with others, and clean his wound. He actually died several days later as his brain began to swell. Most depictions of the event have him lying dead in the street. It was these kinds of details which really elevated the book. His chapters detailing the raid itself and the subsequent manhunt are among the best I have read. And he does an excellent job of teasing out interesting portraits of some of the lesser known actors in this drama, including 16-year-old Oscar Sorbel, the "Paul Revere of the Northfield Raid," whose persistence eventually led to the killing of gang member Charlie Pitts, and capture of Bob, Jim, and Cole Younger. On the other hand, the portions of the book detailing the early days of the James's and Youngers as Confederate bushwhackers during the Civil War, and their early criminal career, weren't as detailed. It is adequate to set up the events leading up to the Northfield Raid, but not much more. This doesn’t detract much from the power of the book however. Gardiner is not attempting an exhaustive biography of the outlaws and so only provides what is needed to put the Raid itself into some context. He is also not explicitly attempting to put them into a larger political or social context. He does provide some of this though as an organic part of the narrative. What he chooses to highlight and incidents he describes do help one form a rudimentary political and psychological profile of the gang. A good example of this is the gang's alleged reaction when they found out Adelbert Ames, a Union General, Reconstruction Governor of Mississippi, and son-in-law of the hated Benjamin Butler was living in Northfield, and had considerable holdings with the bank. The desire for sweet revenge against one who they believed had forced Yankee rule on the South and negro equality on the country may have become one reason for choosing Northfield as the target. There were problems with the book. Occasionally the narrative dragged a bit, particularly when recounting the gang’s robbery of the train at Rocky Cut near Otterville, MO. He occasionally apes conventional wisdom, such as his dismissal of Ulysses S. Grant’s presidency as a scandal ridden failure. There is much recent scholarship that casts serious doubt on that assertion. And, as I noted earlier, he occasionally betrays a sneaking admiration for the outlaws that I find unnecessary. Not enough to cast doubt on the objectivity of his narrative, but worth mentioning. Overall though this is fine reading, a book any history nerd would enjoy.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ethan

    Jesse James is perhaps one of the most famous criminals in American history. With the assistance of his notorious gang of outlaws, James sealed his position in the legends of western folklore. In Shot All to Hell, author Mark Lee Gardner details the gang's final showdown, as they attempted to rob the First National Bank of Northfield, Minnesota. Gardner provides unique insights into the gang's motivations. It turns out, that the group is comprised of mostly ex-confederates. With that in mind, it Jesse James is perhaps one of the most famous criminals in American history. With the assistance of his notorious gang of outlaws, James sealed his position in the legends of western folklore. In Shot All to Hell, author Mark Lee Gardner details the gang's final showdown, as they attempted to rob the First National Bank of Northfield, Minnesota. Gardner provides unique insights into the gang's motivations. It turns out, that the group is comprised of mostly ex-confederates. With that in mind, it is easy to understand why they would want to rob a northern bank. On top of the giant blow the heist would cause the Northerners, the giant sum of money that the gang would acquire would allow the James Brothers to settle down and end their outlaw ways. But as most heists go, this one doesn't go as plan. Despite the gang's confidence in their actions, they never expected the bankers to fight back. Throughout the book, Gardner chronicles the actions of the gang and the group of citizens determined to defeat the notorious criminals. This book could have easily been a rehash of historical facts, regurgitated as fresh revelations. Fortunately, Gardner eschews the pitfalls of other historical books, writing with a quick prose and surprisingly vibrant wit. He sheds a new light on several aspects of the James gang, remaining objective in both is reporting and observations. This books reads as a fast paced, historical, western, managing to remain both factual and entertaining. At under 300 pages, Shot All to Hell is the perfect summer read for those looking for a smart, quick, alternative to the standard fare.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jill Crosby

    4stars alone for the chapter "The Hottest Day Northfield Ever Saw," which documented the actual robbing of the bank; I found the rest of the book to be somewhat short on what turned cold-blooded killers into pop idols and the stuff of American legend. Absent are any of the countless letters Jesse wrote to newspapers all over the country indicting society, the law, the economy as motivation for his life of crime; none of the press's articles are included to show the shift in public sympathies fro 4stars alone for the chapter "The Hottest Day Northfield Ever Saw," which documented the actual robbing of the bank; I found the rest of the book to be somewhat short on what turned cold-blooded killers into pop idols and the stuff of American legend. Absent are any of the countless letters Jesse wrote to newspapers all over the country indicting society, the law, the economy as motivation for his life of crime; none of the press's articles are included to show the shift in public sympathies from the victims of "The Raid" to the perpetrators. Gardner was onto something at the onset of the book, giving us brief background & veiled impetus for the James/Younger foray into Minnesota & the history books. He just didn't follow the thread completely through.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This was a fun read! The author sets up an exciting chase through the woods and cornfields of Minnesota and does a great job bringing the background and situation that created the James and Younger brothers to life. Perhaps my favorite part of the book is that the words posse, manhunters, outlaws, and bandits were freely used. There are times when the author seems to fall into the Truman Capote In Cold Blood trick and engender sympathy for the robbers, especially the Younger brothers, where it doe This was a fun read! The author sets up an exciting chase through the woods and cornfields of Minnesota and does a great job bringing the background and situation that created the James and Younger brothers to life. Perhaps my favorite part of the book is that the words posse, manhunters, outlaws, and bandits were freely used. There are times when the author seems to fall into the Truman Capote In Cold Blood trick and engender sympathy for the robbers, especially the Younger brothers, where it doesn't belong. Or, maybe, he was just accurately describing the sympathy that existed at the time and the storytelling was so good that the reader is caught up in it. The reader was fantastic. He had a good, gravelly drawl that fit the narrative very well.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    In the summer of 1876, the James/Younger gang robbed a bank in Northfield, Minnesota. A spectacular shootout commenced, that the gang did not expect, followed by a breath-taking escape and ending with a massive manhunt. I love reading stories about the Old West and this one really delivers. I learned a lot about that time period and about the gang members themselves. I will be reading more Gardner. Also excellent on audio.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Miriam Downey

    Read my full review here: http://mimi-cyberlibrarian.blogspot.c... Shot all to Hell by Mark Lee Gardner is about the robbery of the Northfield, Minnesota bank by the Jesse James and the Cole Younger gangs in 1876. This is not my usual book choice, but I had a personal reason for reading it. Our teenaged great grandmother was there on that day, and her story has been part of our family lore for all these generations. My son called me all excited one day. "Mom," he said. "They're talking about the Read my full review here: http://mimi-cyberlibrarian.blogspot.c... Shot all to Hell by Mark Lee Gardner is about the robbery of the Northfield, Minnesota bank by the Jesse James and the Cole Younger gangs in 1876. This is not my usual book choice, but I had a personal reason for reading it. Our teenaged great grandmother was there on that day, and her story has been part of our family lore for all these generations. My son called me all excited one day. "Mom," he said. "They're talking about the Northfield robbery on the radio." Sure enough. There was a new book about the robbery and the author was on NPR. Now, you must know that our whole family had arrived in Northfield from all over the country just prior to the radio report to bury our mother and grandmother. We had walked around downtown Northfield and looked at the spot where Great Grandmother Alice Finney had hidden during the robbery. We had driven out to Stanton, the tiny village where our family lived, and we had clocked the distance from where Alice and a friend first saw the bank robbers until she got into Northfield and the hardware store where the owner hid them from the robbers and the gunfire. Then, my sister and I did some research, collaborated the family lore with the actual history, and wrote up the story as one of three stories in a picture book that was illustrated by my son. As you can imagine, I read Shot All to Hell with a great interest. There is a lot that is mythological about Jesse and Frank James, and Cole, Bob, and Jim Younger. Several movies have been made and many books written. Gardner has used the 1876 Northfield Minnesota attempted bank robbery as the centerpiece of the history of the gang. Prior to reading the book, I didn't know how the men got to be outlaws. During the Civil War, there were bands of mercenaries or bushwhackers, as they were called, that struck fear in the hearts of the people who lived along the Missouri/Kansas border. There were murders, assassinations and massacres during the war. It was all about slavery, of course. Jesse James and his brother as well as the Youngers were part of the group of men who followed General Quantrill in those brutal raids. Over the years, Jesse and Frank James became folk heroes of sorts and their adventurous lives were followed closely by the press. They continued robbing trains and banks, sometimes with Cole Younger and his brothers, all the while living fairly ordinary lives as farm owners and settled citizens in Missouri. Gardner tells particularly of the fateful day that they decided to rob the bank in Northfield, Minnesota. It was harvest time and this was a prosperous bank. The men teamed up with the Younger brothers and a few other men, and tried to rob the bank just like they had robbed other banks and trains. What they didn't know was that this was a little town that was going to fight back. A fierce battle ensued on the streets of Northfield as well as in the bank. A couple of the outlaws and a couple of townspeople were killed as well as the bank's clerk. Our great grandmother saw the whole thing peeking out the second-floor window of the hardware store next door. Most of the robbers escaped but they were followed by posses of several hundred men who combed southern Minnesota in search of them. This part of the history is really the most interesting. After several days the Youngers were captured and put in jail in southern Minnesota. Jesse and Frank made it all the way back to Missouri. Amazingly, after Frank was captured, he was acquitted in a trial--his jurors not wanting to convict someone they considered to be a Civil War hero. He lived to be an old man. Jesse was killed by a spiteful gang member seeking a reward. The Northfield raid was the beginning of the end of their careers. As you can imagine, the lore of Jesse James has remained prominent in the history of the little town of Northfield. Every year the raid is reenacted as a part of a huge community festival. The town is very proud of their part in history. Gardner tells a compelling story. It reads like a great adventure novel, with the outlaws hiding by day, riding by night, stealing horses, begging food, torn, dirty, and bedraggled. There were sightings everywhere as the men made their way across the bottom of Minnesota into South Dakota, Iowa and then into the safer territory of Missouri. The adventure is a real page turner, and the odd thing is, the reader cheers on the outlaws. You want them to get away. Reading the book makes my great grandmother's story all the more intriguing. Most of her newspaper obituary in the1940s told of her grand adventure seeing Jesse James rob the Northfield Minnesota bank. Shot All to Hell is out in hardback right now but the paperback comes out in June. it is an Indie Next List Selection. A reviewer called it a meticulously researched history...the kind of compelling narrative that all historians should emulate. An interesting review in the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/22/boo... Mark Gardner interviewed on NPR: http://www.npr.org/2013/08/17/2123743... Mark Lee Gardner's website: http://www.songofthewest.com/home.html Posted by Miriam Downey at 8:24 PM

  9. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Loved this book!!! Read it in 2 days. Couldn't put it down. I knew nothing about the James-Younger gang previous to reading this book. This was a great story, written perfectly. And I am now very interested in reading other books on my "to read" shelf because the people were mentioned in this book. Notably Bloody Bill Anderson and William Quintral. I have read a bit of Old Western type history and was familiar with a few names and events mentioned in this book. I will definitely be reading this Loved this book!!! Read it in 2 days. Couldn't put it down. I knew nothing about the James-Younger gang previous to reading this book. This was a great story, written perfectly. And I am now very interested in reading other books on my "to read" shelf because the people were mentioned in this book. Notably Bloody Bill Anderson and William Quintral. I have read a bit of Old Western type history and was familiar with a few names and events mentioned in this book. I will definitely be reading this book again!! I would recommend it to anyone.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Donna

    I love American history. Jesse James, his brother Frank, and the Young brothers became not only the most notorious outlaws of their day, but they also were beloved outlaws to the people. They didn't steal from just anyone, only from the rich and they often gave to the poor. They also did not seek to do harm unless they were wronged then they sought revenge. This book was an interesting read. It was a little factual, but still interesting.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    Fascinating story of the legendary Jesse James and company. I was surprised that so much of their story took place in Clay County and Ray County, Missouri. Their first back heist was in Liberty, MO, where Joseph Smith was imprisoned. But the James and Younger families moved into the are after the Mormons had already been driven out. Interesting story, though, and well told.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mel

    This was a very detailed account of the James Gang Northfield Robbery in Minnesota, and their escape from the authorities. It seemed to be well written and well narrated. If you are interested in a play by play take on this robbery and a few others, Jesse and Frank James and their gang of murderous outlaws, and their infamous escape and ultimate demise, this is probably a good book to listen to.

  13. 4 out of 5

    victor harris

    Not usually my style of book for reading but this is a good exception. Excellent narratives of the hunt for members of the James gang. Good background biographies of the main characters, and smooth flow to the reading that maintains a good level of suspense.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Joshua

    Decent book This book isn't great but it's not bad either. The narrative is a little slow and has some interesting information but it wasn't the best history book I've read. It's a short book, so anyone interested in the west during the late 1800s may find it to their liking.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    Great read even if you aren't a history buff. Gardner brings alive the time and place in such a way that makes the story live again.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kim Korich

    Entertaining Read If you are interested in the James/Younger gang and their exploits this will be of interest. History buffs will enjoy.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Theo Cage

    The REAL story. Would make a great mini-series.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    3.5 stars

  19. 4 out of 5

    Shane Callahan

    Enjoyable, quick read Quick, fun, informative read. Covers all the basic facts thoroughly. Doesn't dive too deep but still an enjoyable boo about the gang

  20. 4 out of 5

    ivelived1000lives

    Well that was awesome. I bought this book at the Jesse James Bank Museum in Liberty, Mo. Even though I am a history buff, I was never particularly interested in "Wild West history" and am not a big fan of western movies (noted exception: when Tarantino makes them). But the visit of this little museum put me in the mood and I took a chance. I'm glad I did. This book is obviously very well researched, and the author does a masterful job at describing the times and making you feel as if you were ther Well that was awesome. I bought this book at the Jesse James Bank Museum in Liberty, Mo. Even though I am a history buff, I was never particularly interested in "Wild West history" and am not a big fan of western movies (noted exception: when Tarantino makes them). But the visit of this little museum put me in the mood and I took a chance. I'm glad I did. This book is obviously very well researched, and the author does a masterful job at describing the times and making you feel as if you were there. And one thing I learned: these movies are not as far-fetched as I would have thought. This true story has all the trappings of one, and you will experience the florid language, witness the bravado of citizens and outlaws alike, hear the dusters flapping in the wind and smell the gunpowder. This is a truly crazy story and made me think of another book I loved, Manhunt, about the hunt for John Wilkes Booth. If like me you are not too familiar with the James-Younger gang you will learn a lot. One aspect I found particularly illuminating is the way the author discusses the impact of the Civil War on these particular criminals, who not only witnessed but participated in some atrocities (at the tender age of 14 in Jesse's case) and felt humiliated at the end of the war to be considered second-class citizens because they had fought on the Confederate side (Missouri, I learned, had a particular stance on the whole amnesty thing). Not that it excuses their behavior, but it certainly explains some of it. I actually appreciated that the thieves were not glorified except when it comes to recognizing the superhuman stamina of the James brothers, which, I mean, can't be taken away from them (also those Younger brothers being shot in the mouth and the eye and popping right back up, movie-worthy I tell you!) Prepare to be entertained as well as educated. So thank you Mr Gardner for this interactive experience. I hope I can go back to Missouri and visit Minnesota some day to see some of these places for myself.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Gaylord Dold

    Isenberg, Andrew, Wyatt Earp: A Vigilante Life, Hill and Wang (Farrar Strauss and Giroux), New York 2013 (296 pp. $30) Gardner, Mark Lee, Shot All to Hell: Jesse James, The Northfield Raid, and the Wild West’s Greatest Escape, William Morrow (Harper Collins), New York, 2013 (309 pp. $27.99) Like the Lincolns half a generation before them, the Earps migrated from the semi-feudal upper South of Kentucky, crossed the Ohio River, and settled in rapidly commercializing central Illinois where Walter Earp Isenberg, Andrew, Wyatt Earp: A Vigilante Life, Hill and Wang (Farrar Strauss and Giroux), New York 2013 (296 pp. $30) Gardner, Mark Lee, Shot All to Hell: Jesse James, The Northfield Raid, and the Wild West’s Greatest Escape, William Morrow (Harper Collins), New York, 2013 (309 pp. $27.99) Like the Lincolns half a generation before them, the Earps migrated from the semi-feudal upper South of Kentucky, crossed the Ohio River, and settled in rapidly commercializing central Illinois where Walter Earp (the pater familias) and his large clan of sons, daughters and a few grandchildren, entertained fantasies of success in farming and town politics. Nicholas, Wyatt’s father, failed soon enough, moved to Iowa, moved to California on the Overland Trail, then dragged his family, including sons Wyatt, James and Morgan, back to Iowa and then Illinois again. Older son Virgil had already established himself as a wanderer, booty lawman and tax farmer. Wyatt, cut loose from any notion of settled life, undertook at first to steal a horse in Indian Territory, was jailed, escaped, and entered thereafter into what would become his permanent vocation as an itinerant gambler, pimp, enforcer and, like his brother Virgil, a booty town lawman. There are, of course, many Earp biographies, most famously Stuart Lake’s 1931 confabulation, which established Wyatt’s legend as The Virtuous Western Hero. Andrew Isenberg, author of the inestimably valuable and sad The Destruction of the Bison, adds greatly to what is currently known about Earp and his social era by not only assembling a meticulous personal history of the man and his brothers, but by illuminating an entire social milieu erected on the foundations of saloon gambling, prostitution sheltered by official town policy, cattle rustling as small-time entrepreneurship, and county politics as “legal theft”. For example, Wyatt’s career in Wichita (which lasted barely two years), saw him established as a city policeman who earned a share of the fines imposed on drunks and miscreants, a card sharp who dealt a particularly mean brand of faro to Texas cattle drovers, and an enforcer in his brother Jim’s brothel across the Arkansas River where town law didn’t reach. In fall, when the cowboys left Wichita, Wyatt followed them to Texas and dealt crooked faro there. Wyatt emphatically was not a gunfighter or a lawman; rather, he was a tall, tough, hard-to-reach con artist who, because he didn’t touch alcohol, almost always had an advantage over his cowboy adversaries. In Tombstone, in 1881-2, he dealt faro for a living and pursued a family vendetta against the Clantons and other Cowboys in what amounted to “honor culture” killings straight out of the social comic book of Kentucky. Beautifully rendered as a portrait of the underbelly of mining and cattle town life in the 1870s and 1880s, this new biography is a gem, and includes a touching look at Wyatt’s single life-long friendship with Doc Holliday. In later life, Wyatt continued to pursue his gambling interests through the medium of racing horses and selling bogus mining claims. He ran saloons in a number of odd-ball boom towns like Goldfield and Tonopah in Nevada (where Virgil joined him) and Eagle, in Idaho. Wyatt Earp: A Vigilante Life, provides the reader with a fine bibliography, along with some delightful photos. Mark Lee Gardner is an independent historian and the author of a splendid life of Billy the Kid called To Hell on a Fast Horse, probably the definitive book about William Bonny. Shot All to Hell—the story of the James-Younger gang’s assault on Northfield Minnesota’s First National Bank (2pm, September 7, 1876) is a gloriously detailed and superbly written chronicle of what turned out to be a disaster for the eight-member crew of border ruffians, sadists and thieves. Unlike the Earps, Jesse James, Frank his brother, and the Youngers (Cole, Jim and Bob) were plain-Jane criminals who often hid under the coattails of the Confederate Cause to justify their train and bank robberies. As teenagers, they had ridden with Bloody Bill Anderson, becoming skilled horsemen, excellent marksmen, and practiced murderers before turning sixteen. Riding together, the eight (Frank and Jesse, Cole, Jim and Bob Younger, later joined by Clell Miller, Charlie Pitts and Bill Chadwell), wore long tan dusters, big spurs and wide-brimmed hats. Armed with rifles and pistols, they were, in 1876, at the top of their game and must have presented an awesome and frightening sight to behold. Shot All to Hell is without doubt the most detailed rendering of the assault on Northfield ever written, vividly evoking the town’s minute-by-minute response, the chase after six survivors across the lake and swamp country of south central Minnesota, the capture of Cole and the killing of his brothers, and the eventual escape of Frank and Jesse, the latter of whom returned to St. Joseph and took up life as a horse breeder and trader. Throughout the book are fascinating personal portraits of the sheriffs, posse members, farmers and town-folk who stood up to the gang and pursued them for weeks. Taken together, Wyatt Earp and Shot All to Hell offer the reader an exciting glimpse into vanished forms of American life. The field of Western history has now entered a phase of precision scholarship, deep research and glorious writing that Stuart Lake in 1931 could hardly have imagined.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Brad Hodges

    On September 7, 1876, eight men rode into the small town of Northfield, Minnesota. Their intention--to rob a bank. What happened next has been a part of Western lore ever since then. In Mark Lee Gardner's wonderful, meticulous book Shot All to Hell: Jesse James, the Northfield Raid, and the Wild West's Greatest Escape, we learn about everything there is to know about this robbery and the subsequent manhunt for the bandits. I've read books about Jesse James before, but this is so detailed and so w On September 7, 1876, eight men rode into the small town of Northfield, Minnesota. Their intention--to rob a bank. What happened next has been a part of Western lore ever since then. In Mark Lee Gardner's wonderful, meticulous book Shot All to Hell: Jesse James, the Northfield Raid, and the Wild West's Greatest Escape, we learn about everything there is to know about this robbery and the subsequent manhunt for the bandits. I've read books about Jesse James before, but this is so detailed and so well written that I was dazzled. This is not a biography of James or his brother Frank, or of the Younger Brothers (Cole, Jim, and Bob). We get sketches of their earlier lives, particularly how they rode with guerrillas during the Civil War, and how they pulled off the first daylight bank robbery in United States history. But the action really starts earlier in 1876, with a train robbery at Rocky Cut, Missouri. Gardner describes the events, and although no one knows for sure who was behind it, it is clear that the evidence points to the James Gang. Then why Minnesota for their next job? That state doesn't exactly suggest the Wild West, even in 1876. I was surprised to learn that the gang took the train there. They did look at other banks in Minnesota, but Gardner pinpoints the reason the First National in Northfield was chosen: "One of the bank's large investors was Adelbert Ames, a Union Civil War general and Radical Republican who until only recently had been Mississippi's governor. Ames had been derided by Mississippi Democrats as a "carpetbagger" and despised by Southern whites for his pro-black Reconstruction policies." But why Minnesota in the first place? Gardner speculates that the James boys may have been looking for revenge against Samuel Hardwicke, a Pinkerton agent who led a raid on the James homestead that killed their younger brother and maimed their mother. Jesse may have planned on assassinating Hardwicke. Once the robbery begins, Gardner's talents are evident, as he breaks it down almost second by second. It only lasted seven to ten minutes. What foiled the plot was the citizens' suspicions of the strangers in town to begin with, and then a clerk named Joseph Heywood, who refused to open the safe. He was shot dead in cold blood by Frank James (this is Gardner's supposition based on voluminous evidence--no one in the gang ever gave up Frank). Heywood was hailed as a hero, but of course today no business would expect a man to lay down his life for something like money. The Northfield citizens didn't lay down, pulling out their arms and shooting it out with the crooks. After the dust had settled, one other Northfield citizen was dead and two of the gang, Clell Miller and Bill Chadwell, were also dead. "According to one account, so many people wanted to see the dead robbers that their bodies were displayed for a short time in Mill Square, which became packed with gawkers, sheriffs and police officers from nearby towns, newspaper reporters, posse volunteers, and Northfield's own citizens, both children and adults." The rest of the book, a good chunk of it, concerns the escape and manhunt. Northfield telegraphed nearby towns, who formed posses. Gardner highlights the vanity and incompetence of two rivals police chiefs of Minneapolis and St. Paul, and the hesitation of some of the posses, once they realized they were chasing the most notorious outlaws in the country: "Fear of the robbers rattled quite a few of the men and boys who made up the posses. 'Many, of course, were there who started in the chase as they would go upon a chicken hunt,' commented one reporter, 'made brave by the excitement of the moment, but worse than useless in case of actual service.'" The remaining six outlaws made there way through unfamiliar Minnesota forests, yet somehow eluded capture, telling farmers that they were a posse themselves. But Bob Younger, badly wounded during the robbery, was slowing everyone down. The Youngers and Jameses separated, and eventually the Youngers were captured. Jim took a bullet in the mouth, and Charlie Pitts, who stuck with them, was killed. The James boys made their way into Iowa, and eventually into the safe haven of Missouri, where many regarded them as heroes. The Youngers would plead guilty to avoid the death penalty, and were sentenced to life in prison. Frank and Jesse James took different names and tried to live quiet lives, but went back to robbery, teaming up with the Ford brothers. Bob Ford would kill Jesse for the reward money. Frank, amazingly, never came to justice for the Northfield raid. To his dying day he maintained he had never been in the state of Minnesota. This book is a must for Wild West buffs, such as myself, and for general history readers, as it perfectly captures a time and place. I'll close with Gardner's summation: "Thanks to what...the dozens of dime novels that came later, his brother Jesse had become the most famous--and most popular--outlaw on the planet. And, somewhat ironically, a big part of that legendary status had come the defeat in Northfield. If nothing else, Jesse and Frank's wild ride through a thousand manhunters cemented their reputation as among the most remarkable and notorious outlaws to ever live."

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kev Willoughby

    As "Old West" as it gets. The James-Younger Gang. Post-Civil War. Bank robberies. Train robberies. Legends. Myths. It seems strange though to glorify the things that these outlaws did to other people. They ended lives. They ruined families for generations. They repeatedly took things that did not belong to them. Some of the gang were brought to justice. And some lived a full life, profiting from their infamy until the end of their days. Can you imagine someone today committing acts of atrocity in As "Old West" as it gets. The James-Younger Gang. Post-Civil War. Bank robberies. Train robberies. Legends. Myths. It seems strange though to glorify the things that these outlaws did to other people. They ended lives. They ruined families for generations. They repeatedly took things that did not belong to them. Some of the gang were brought to justice. And some lived a full life, profiting from their infamy until the end of their days. Can you imagine someone today committing acts of atrocity in a similar fashion, and then being celebrated by society and subsequently treated as a respectable celebrity for the remainder of their lives? The real heroes in this story are the citizens of Northfield, Minnesota, who took up arms and protected their town during an unprovoked attack that was loosely tied to the disconnected owner of a bank: a person who held different political views from those of the James-Younger gang. This one bank raid was the pivotal decision that led to the downfall and dissolution of this notorious group. The outlaws sought to make an example of a carpetbagger by stealing from his bank, believing that they would be viewed as heroes in their home state of Missouri for carrying out such a brash and bold deed. And they were right. But the banker did not suffer, monetarily, and he didn't lose his life. His employee did... a man who had no quarrel with the James-Younger gang before that fateful day. It's amazing that our human minds can justify and openly promote such dangerous and reckless behavior because of a difference in political views, using the acts of murder and robbery as an attempt at equal measure to bring a difference of opinion back into some contrived balance in the mind of the one(s) committing the acts. That illogical mindset would be no less bizarre in the 21st century than it was in the 19th century. It's also interesting that the man who eventually killed Jesse James was, and still is, referred to as a coward, due to the fact that he shot him in the back, while James was unaware that he was about to become mortally wounded. To this day, the label of "coward" still seems to overshadow, if not completely ignore, the lifetime of lawlessness and disregard for human life that James practiced himself. It overtly suggests a view among society then and now that he deserved a better fate. The author doesn't necessarily make that same suggestion, instead attempting to present the facts and allow the reader to step into the role of town judge and jury. Gardner is a talented writer, and the book is a compelling read, in particular for fans of the Old West. The story is fast-paced and full of action from the prologue to the epilogue, with the details and resolution of each character / participant's later life included in the final pages. A worthy effort equal to the legend of the subjects.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Brian Walter

    A decent informative book, though I was hoping for much much more. The narrative was plain, almost text book. A little insight to the characters, or actually any character development at all would have made this a more enjoyable read. Unfortunately the only way the author tried to pull the reader into the time and place was physical description. We never learned anything about the James/Younger gang other then how tall they stood and the color of their whiskers. Granted the author used the North A decent informative book, though I was hoping for much much more. The narrative was plain, almost text book. A little insight to the characters, or actually any character development at all would have made this a more enjoyable read. Unfortunately the only way the author tried to pull the reader into the time and place was physical description. We never learned anything about the James/Younger gang other then how tall they stood and the color of their whiskers. Granted the author used the Northfield Raid as starting point, but the smidgen of backstory provided did nothing to flesh out and color the story. Even Jessie's death, which IMHO should have been a storyline highpoint was rushed and left me wondering "is that all"? I will admit another source of my displeasure in this book was the false hope going it. It seemed of substantial enough size that solid tale could be told. It was with extreme disappointment on my end to discover than almost half (43% per my kindle) was taken up by the appendix, index, notes, etc. As stated, informatative, yes, but if you want to breathe a story of history pick up anything by Hampton Sides.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    I oscillated from two starts to four and finally settled on three. The book listens well enough, although from time to time the transition from "in the moment" to historical perspective for the story seems a bit abrupt. We hear all about much detail from what happened in the Northfield bank to anecdotes about what transpired on the trail as the gang was hunted. In the end, my biggest complaint ends up falling on the media of the time. The gang had its cheerleaders, and a couple of them cheered w I oscillated from two starts to four and finally settled on three. The book listens well enough, although from time to time the transition from "in the moment" to historical perspective for the story seems a bit abrupt. We hear all about much detail from what happened in the Northfield bank to anecdotes about what transpired on the trail as the gang was hunted. In the end, my biggest complaint ends up falling on the media of the time. The gang had its cheerleaders, and a couple of them cheered with printer's ink. I think Gardner unintentionally ends up falling into the trap of treating the gang's actions as somehow equivalent to the story of Robin Hood, and "rob from the rich to give to the poor." These thugs, former soldiers, were brutal killers and threatened death if that was enough to get their way. They seem to me, in the end, to be precursors to the likes of Baby-Face Nelson and Bonnie & Clyde - on horseback.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Crawford

    The books about various outlaws of the wild west and what happened to them. This includes Black Bard (28 stagecoach robberies), Jesse James, the Dalton Gang and a variety of others. There's also some mention of goof-ups that some of them did such as the time one group planned to blow a safe to steal what was inside. The problem? No one remembered to bring the dynamite. Then there's when a bunch of banknotes were stolen but no one noticed that none of them were signed. A major point is that, althoug The books about various outlaws of the wild west and what happened to them. This includes Black Bard (28 stagecoach robberies), Jesse James, the Dalton Gang and a variety of others. There's also some mention of goof-ups that some of them did such as the time one group planned to blow a safe to steal what was inside. The problem? No one remembered to bring the dynamite. Then there's when a bunch of banknotes were stolen but no one noticed that none of them were signed. A major point is that, although the outlaws pulled off many crimes they inevitably paid for what they did. Sometimes the law caught up with them and they were either arrested, tried and hung, or they died during a gunfight. Sometimes outlaws turned on other ones and killed them. It was a very violent time but crime for them paid only in the short run.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Adam Runge

    I loved this book from the start. The author only used primary source quotes, so everything a character said in the book was directly from their own mouth. The book surprisingly kept its high pace until nearly the end, when it started to slow down because there was less action. The book felt intimate and real, and the James-Younger gang was portrayed in a way that made me feel like the author cared about the subject matter. I think anyone in high school or above can read this book, because there I loved this book from the start. The author only used primary source quotes, so everything a character said in the book was directly from their own mouth. The book surprisingly kept its high pace until nearly the end, when it started to slow down because there was less action. The book felt intimate and real, and the James-Younger gang was portrayed in a way that made me feel like the author cared about the subject matter. I think anyone in high school or above can read this book, because there are some graphic descriptions and pictures

  28. 5 out of 5

    William

    This book follows the James-Younger gang into Minnesota, their failed robbery at Northfield, and their escape from posses. I found the book well researched (at least it had many references), well organized, and entertainingly presented. I enjoyed it. I knew some of the story, but this book provided a great many more details than I imagined. And, this book totally ruins the Cher song for me... "tonight you're gonna go down in flames just like Jesse James."

  29. 5 out of 5

    David

    4.25. This was very well researched book and brought to life the real Jesse James and his gang. It is almost hard to believe that this story really happened. That is the magic of history. It always gives us tales that are beyond belief and comprehension.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Stan Shelley

    Just fascinating. Very well researched so fact is sorted out from myth. I listened to the audio and the reader was great. I could hardly put it down (turn it off).

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