Nobody asks, “Who is Jesse James?”
Books, movies, newspapers, dime novels have all shared his story, from the days when the bank and train robbing outlaw was still walking the frontier to today when only his spirit remains. Yet the single book written about Jesse’s older brother Frank is a fake. The Only True History of the Life of Frank James was not “written by himself,” unless you believe the author of the 1926 book, Joe Vaughn, who claimed he was the real Frank James. Ramon Frederick Adams certainly didn’t approve, writing, “Much trash has been written about the James boys, but both Frank and Jesse would turn over in their graves if they knew about this one.”
The closest historians get to books about Frank is the 1898 tome focused on Frank’s murder trial, followed up by Gerard S. Petrone’s 1998 Judgment at Gallatin, and books focused on the two brothers, starting with the 1987 family history about Frank and Jesse written by Phillip Steele and leading up to Ted P. Yeatman’s Frank and Jesse James in 2003. But even Steele was more attracted to Jesse’s story, than Frank’s, following up his book with The Many Faces of Jesse James. Countless books have Jesse James in the title, with no reference at all to Frank.