Jessie James: The Last Rebel of the Civil War

One of the most essential components of a good book review is an accurate overview of the book. Eileen Church’s review of “Jessie James: The Last Rebel of the Civil War” written by T. J. Styles does an admirable job of introducing the character of Jessie James. She aptly describes his childhood riddled with insecurities.

She starts the description of Jessie’s childhood by providing his initial social standing due to his father being a preacher. She touches upon the death of his father and the resultant destitution of the family. She goes on to mention the staunch character of his mother, Zerelda, that helped shape Jessie’s character. She also mentions the prevailing climate in Clay County that left its own impression on young Jessie’s mind.

The influence of Jessie’s brother Frank, who had joined the Civil War, is also mentioned. Eileen touches upon the fact that Jessie was just 13 years old when Frank joined the Civil War and hints at how all this combined with the popularity of guerilla warfare led a sixteen year old Jessie to join forces with the infamous guerrilla fighter Quantrill.

All this background information really overshadows the actual factual review of the book. In her review Eileen seems to focus on excusing Jessie James’ behavior, which, as is hinted in the review, isn’t as glorious and heroic as portrayed in the movies.

In fact, after reading the background of Jessie James, one feels the pull of the book, wondering what treasures it holds. Yet, nowhere does the review indicate whether all this information is personal research by Eileen Church or part of the book.

Eileen also overlooks another part of a good book review – describing the strengths and weaknesses of the book, Jessie James: The Last Rebel of the Civil War. Though, she writes a really, unique and compelling book review, too many words are spent on providing a background and building the character of Jessie James. Had those words indicated that this character building is also part of the book; her words would be more than justified.

Eileen’s review also lacks a discussion on the weaknesses of the book. Such a discussion, maybe along with her counter arguments, would have enriched the review. It would have helped potential readers go through the pros and cons of the book to, eventually, make their own minds regarding the value of the book. By writing the review to try and woo readers she has undermined her readers’ intelligence. It is mistake most of us make when we are enchanted with a book and cannot wait for others to ratify our opinions.

Though, at the very end, she does indicate that the book might disillusion the rosy image people have of Jessie James, she herself seems fascinated by the book. And, as a parting shot, she does warn her readers that the book is recommended for American Civil War era enthusiasts only. Her following words, vivid in their description of the book, seem to capture the essence of the book:

“Stiles writes superbly and intelligently in this persuasive reassessment of the brutal and violent Jesse James, poles apart from the picture painted in most people’s consciousness by those Hollywood "cowboy films".”