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The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford Hardcover – October 12, 1983


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Hansen has broadened our perception of the West in much the same way as the best historians…" --Christian Science Monitor --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

RON HANSEN is the author of Desperadoes, Atticus, and the short-story collection Nebraska. Atticus was a finalist for the 1996 National Book Award for Fiction, and Nebraska earned an award in literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. He lives in northern California. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf; 1st edition (October 12, 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394516478
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394516479
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,327,625 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

This book is just beautifully written.
MICHAEL WHITE
The book is also extremely well done and is likely very close to the actual personalities and motives involved.
HunterBear71
Saw the movie first and decided I had to read the book.
Angelina V

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By D. Mikels on June 17, 2008
Format: Paperback
Look, I don't know how much of the "novel" THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD is true; I don't know how much of the dialogue and interaction and actions of the characters actually took place, or were embellished by a very gifted Ron Hansen.

But does it matter? The account of the final days of infamous outlaw Jesse James (and the subsequent final days of his killer) is "historical fiction", in any case (the definitive oxymoron, if you ask me). What does matter is this tightly written tale is as fun a read as I've come across in years. Hansen has vividly captured the flavor and pysche--and grit--of post-Civil War Americana. His prose recreates the flare and panache of the 19th Century dime novel; his book is heavily (and delightfully) populated by descriptive passages such as this:

'Zerelda gazed at Bob and mushed vegetables with zig-zag motions of her gums, her lips protruding like the clasp of a purse. She looked to Jesse and said, "I don't know what it is about him, but that boy can aggravate me more by just sitting still than most boys can by pitching rocks." '

Depicting the final train robbery of the notorious James Gang, followed by the band's break-up (and some of its members exited stage left involuntarily), THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD is a fascinating look inside the head of Jesse Woodson James--a calculating, diabolical killer, yet devoted and cherished family man. As a bonus, we get to climb around inside the head of Robert Newton Ford, an undistinguished nobody who yearned for attention. Surrounded by a cast of very colorful characters--most of whom die prematurely--this is a fabulous novel, an absorbing, entertaining read. Any truth, as they say, is somewhere in between.
--D. Mikels, Author, The Reckoning
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Margaret Riordan on August 1, 2005
Format: Paperback
Ron Hansen's book relies extensively on archival research of newspaper accounts, courtroom accounts, and memoirs, all of which contribute to this intelliegent, exceptionally well-written tale of the death of Jesse James. Focusing on the individuals involved, as opposed to the deeds of the James gang, although these are described as required by the narrative, this book develops an understanding of the personal dynamics at work in the undoing of the great Jesse James. A gripping and ultimately satisfying read, The Assassination of Jesse James is a must-read for anyone with interest in the old west.
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41 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Neil Flowers on June 20, 2005
Format: Paperback
I agree with the reviewers who laud Mr. Hansen's superb novel and give it five stars. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is sprawling and precise, Shakespeare out of Camus crossed with Peckinpah. I don't think that the book is too detailed or slow, as one reader reports. I think that the detail helps make the book what it is: An absolutely convincing account of the men and the times, taut all the way, and not romanticized. In my opinion, there are two great novels of the American West that transcend the genre and become real literature:Elizabeth Fackler's "Billy The Kid: The Legend of El Chivato," and this novel about Jesse James and Bob Ford by Mr. Hansen.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 18, 1997
Format: Paperback
Hansen uses an even approach to all the characters in this story: No demons or straw men, here. I began with the common view that honorable Jesse was killed by the detestible coward Robert Ford. But Hansen made me understand the motives, the differing natures of real people with warm blood in their veins, not the card board cut-outs of popular legend. I came to understand, through Hansen of course, that Jesse and Bob had few other options, given who they were, than to live and die as they did. Jesse born the killer; Bob born the Judas. This, the insistance that the story must be as it is told, indicates the very "true-ness" of the story as told by Hansen. In that respect, they are nearly elevated to Shakespherian status (Hamlet born to avenge his father), and the language does indeed inspire to reach far beyong the pitiful, common mode of the genre. A great book
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Steve D. Englestad on April 12, 2009
Format: Paperback
I tend to be wordy. I will try not to be. This is a wonderful book. And I loved the movie and own both. The book was written some years ago and is an indepth study of the latter years of JJ. It could be titled The Story of Bob Ford. But then it probably wouldn't have sold. It is done in a style that reflects that era meaning the use of English as well as details in the environment. Some may find the English of that era shot through with references and words we are not familiar with. To some that frustrates. I tend to contextually get their meaning and enjoy that the wording is there and just let it pass. This is not the life history of JJ, but at the point past his life of crime and to the time when Bob Ford comes on the scene. It follows past the death of JJ, following Bob into areas I found interesting. [One fascianating thing for this reader, I am 63. At age 10 or younger there was a record around the house with this song about the coward who killed JJ. Just listened in ignorance and never heard that song again... until the movie. Bob hears it being sung in a bar years after the murder.]
For those who saw the movie, yes, it seems the greater part if not all of the movie script does come directly from the book. I am glad of that. If you're just passin' through, this might bother you. If you are 'interested' then you enjoy the exposure to an earlier time. I watch movies like this several times. (Just understand the book has more words than the movie--lol).
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