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A Dynasty of Western Outlaws Paperback – April 1, 1986

4.0 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"It is a thriller. . . but at the same time it is a cool, sane study of one of the long and important chapters of American crime."—Stanley Walker, New York Herald Tribune Lively Arts
(Stanley Walker New York Herald Tribune Lively Arts)

"For the squeamish, this book is not bedtime reading. . . . Yet it is less morbid, better documented, and more interpretively written than earlier galleries of western outlaws. Mr. Wellman tries to leave out the myths. . . . The outcome is a book of historical value in a field that too long has been left to legend and folklore."—Wayne Gard, New York Times Book Review
(Wayne Gard New York Times Book Review)

From the Back Cover

The organized gangs of robbers and killers who roamed the Midwest and Southwest from the 1860s to the 1930s went to the same school and were succored by each other's notoriety. So Paul I. Wellman makes a case for 'the contagious nature of crime.'
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press (April 1, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803297092
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803297098
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,943,410 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Paul Wellman's A Dynasty of Western Outlaws is a 20th Century standard of outlaw history. It is an extremely well written work and belongs in any library of crime history or the "Old West." Wellman, who was a police reporter in Wichita in the 1920's, was one of the first authors to comprehend and explore the connections between Midwestern outlaws of the post-Civil War era and the Depression gangs of the 1930's. That makes this book a useful starting point for anyone interested in the outlaw period. Unfortunately, there are errors throughout the work: Jesse and Frank James were not cousins of the Youngers, only partners in crime; recent research by other authors make it doubtful that Cole Younger fathered Belle Starr's daughter Pearl; Henry Starr was never a member of the Cook gang; Al Spencer was not one of the Stroud bank robbers; etc., etc., etc. And the chapters on '20's outlaws Eddie Adams and Al Spencer, on which Wellman seems to have relied too heavily on his own memory, and on "Pretty Boy" Floyd, are sketchy and highly inaccurate. Wellman's insights are good and his basic premise of an "outlaw dynasty" from Quantrill to Floyd is sound but his facts need to be checked against other sources.
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Format: Paperback
The University of Nebraska Press is one of my favorite collegiate publishers. Through its Bison Books imprint, it has published important works on the history of the American West for decades. It has reprinted some of the most essential books on the old west that are in the public domain for new generations of readers. A Dynasty of Outlaws is a fascinating study of the spread of evil and outlawyerly in the historic west. While generations of newspapermen, screenwriters and novelists have glorified and romanticized the outlaw; in reality they were men - and occasionally women - who, like all criminals, preyed on their neighbors. The banks that they robbed were not the multi-nationals of today, but small local businesses that held the savings of the merchants, farmers and ranchers. While large corporations owned the trains that they held up, the money that was carried in them was not, nor were the intimate belongings of the citizens that the highwayman held up and traumatized. Paul Wellman (1898-1966) wrote is book which was first published in 1966 and his fascinating thesis is that crime has a "contagious nature" and he traces the criminal gangs of the old west back to the James-Younger gang and the training that they received from the infamous Civil War criminal William C. Quantrill. He then connects the bloody family tree of criminal gangs to the Dalton, Doolin and Belle Starr gangs that evolved from them. Wellman follows this association of criminality into this century when bank robbery re-emerged again. "A Dynasty of Western Outlaws" is not only a rich mine of western lore but an important view into the nature of criminality. Jeffrey Morseburg
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By A Customer on April 14, 2000
Format: Paperback
Sometime-journalist, sometime-novelist Wellman's history of bad guys who terrorized the American Wild West from the period following the Civil War to the early half of the 20th Century is excellently written and presented. He very interestingly traces the links -- sometimes by blood, sometimes by mere acquaintance or "apprenticeship" -- between the most infamous Western bad guys from William Clark Quantrill during the Bloody Kansas period preceding the Civil War to the death of Pretty Boy Floyd. Highly recommended to fans of Western fiction and general readers who want to know more about Western history.
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Format: Hardcover
This book has a thesis, which is that there was a long continuous line of criminality spanning several generations starting with Civil War mercenary raiders in Missouri and leading all the way through bootlegging and bankrobbing gangsters of the 1930s. The basic idea is that a member of one gang would spin off to start a new gang, and so on down through the decades, creating a family tree of banditry. Often the reason for spinning off was that the old gang was wiped out either through shootouts or imprisonment. The history it traces includes such household names as Jesse James, Belle Star, and Pretty Boy Floyd.

Well, that's the thesis anyway, but it struck me that that was just an excuse to describe a score of robberies, gunfights, and manhunts in loving, minute detail. For the most part this book reads like an action adventure shoot-em-up which is made all the more arresting for being based on historical fact.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author tells a fascinating story of the familial relationship between the James boys and the Younger and Dalton gangs. He weaves an interesting story of their outlaw exploits in the years following the Civil War. I had read the book in my youth and enjoyed it so much that I bought this copy to read again for the sheer pleasure of the experience.
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