The Jesse James Scrapbook

Tales of Life on the Border

Fiction - Historical - Personage
330 Pages
Reviewed on 10/02/2019
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Gisela Dixon for Readers' Favorite

The Jesse James Scrapbook: Tales of Life on the Border by George Jansen is a historical fiction novel loosely based on the known events in the life of Jesse James, the notorious outlaw. The book is written in a diary format through the words and perspectives of various fictional characters. The book moves along fairly chronologically and each chapter is a snippet from the point of view of an onlooker, so to speak. For example, we read about a teacher’s experiences of those times of slavery and post-Civil War violence and widespread segregation, or we hear from someone’s experiences with Jesse himself or what they thought about him. Each chapter is fairly short and the book itself covers many of the known events in Jesse James's life including his younger years, his family background, his reputation at the time, the backdrop of slavery and lynchings and terror of those times that blacks lived with, involvement of the Pinkerton detective agency, robberies, and more.

The Jesse James Scrapbook: Tales of Life on the Border is a well-written book and was an enjoyable read. The book moves along at a fast pace and each chapter is filled with some new anecdote or event that keeps the narrative exciting. Although this is based on the life of Jesse James, the story is still a fictional narrative. There is no conclusion as such presented at the end of the book and it felt like it was left up to the reader to form their own conclusions about Jesse James. I felt that aspects of slavery and post-Civil War widespread discrimination and injustice against blacks are portrayed well through the short diaries or stories. This is a good read for fans of historical fiction.

Bruce Arrington

The Jesse James Scrapbook: Tales of Life on the Border by George Jansen is a historical fiction narrative of the life of Jesse James, his brother Frank, the Younger brothers, and many other people who rubbed elbows with the outlaw gang. It is written as a narrative from the viewpoint of those who interacted in some way with the legendary characters, as if they had been interviewed at one time or another. The story begins when the James brothers were young, continues through their Civil War days, their outlaw days, and for years afterward.

This book is written in such a way that I felt like I was thrown into the chaos of war. I learned about border skirmishes, how things were never cut and dried, and it truly reflected the character of men when war is being waged. The South was left in ruins—yes, that I learned in my history days of yore—but this story really brought it to life. I could taste the dirt, feel the heat and smell the sweat, so to speak. If that wasn’t enough, this book follows the raw cruelty of two brothers who came out of the war much worse for wear. It helps me understand a little more how these outlaws came to be as cruel as they were, with little regard for human life. If a teacher is looking to find a book that engages the reader, I can’t think of a book more suited than this one. The Jesse James Scrapbook: Tales of Life on the Border by George Jansen comes highly recommended for readers who enjoy historical fiction and tales of the Old West.

Renee Guill

The Jesse James Scrapbook: Tales of Life on the Border by George Jansen is a fictional story about Jesse James and his brother Frank. George Jansen uses a lot of historical facts to tell this story. It starts out with a kid making a scrapbook of Jesse James. There are many letters talking about how people knew Jesse, from outlaws that “worked” with him, to family members and anyone else who may have crossed paths with him. Then you read about the kid again and his meeting with someone who thinks he’s Jesse James. George Jansen has also mentioned where he got some of the information.

I always loved reading stories about Jesse James, and The Jesse James Scrapbook by George Jansen is the most unique one I’ve read so far. It was kind of like reading a bunch of flash fiction stories about Jesse James. I liked how it reminded you that there are two sides to every story and then there is the truth. However, I'm not sure we’ll ever know the truth. I usually don’t read epilogues, but you definitely need to here. I loved the ending. It made me wonder if there is more to it, and I liked that idea. I am a sucker for mysteries, and I think this is one mystery that may never be solved, which is cool and annoying at the same time. If you love the Old West novels then I highly recommend this one. I think that George Jansen had a unique way of doing it.