A Closer Look at a Western Legend

"Shot All to Hell" by Mark Lee Gardner


In "Shot All to Hell: Jesse James, the Northfield Raid, and the Wild West's Greatest Escape," Mark Lee Gardner examines an infamous episode in the history of the American West. In September of 1876, the James-Younger gang attempted to rob the First National Bank in Northfield, Minnesota. The failed robbery set off a prolonged manhunt that resulted in the death or capture of the entire gang save Frank and Jesse James.

While Gardner claims to present the "most accurate account" of these events, he admits the difficulty in separating fact from legend. Eyewitness accounts disagree; the captured outlaws made numerous false statements; and newspaper accounts were often based on rumor and speculation.

Gardner explains that his research was split between reading in archives and libraries and tracing the route of the gang and the escaped James brothers. His approach suggests that he is both historian and fan. Source notes are at the end of the book, making the narrative read like an adventure story, complete with dialogue.

Gardner's previous book "To Hell on a Fast Horse: Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett, and the Epic Chase to Justice in the Old West" takes on another famous legend. Mark Lee Gardner will speak about his books at Headquarters on Sep. 20 at 7 p.m.

--Jennifer A., Headquarters

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