Gardner is a historian who came up with a winning formula in his first book, To Hell on a Fast Horse: The Untold Story of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett. That book combined strong primary source research with vivid detailing and a fast-paced narrative thread. Of it, Hampton Sides noted that it’s “[s]o richly detailed, you can almost smell the gunsmoke and the sweat of the saddles.”
In this new narrative history he takes up the later life of the James gang, using a minute-by-minute style to roll out another suspensefully-paced history with a “you are there” feel. Advance reviews are good, with my favorite comment coming from Kirkus, which calls it “[a] gripping read and probably tells all there is to tell about a legendary group of psychopaths.”
[A]n elegant narrative that’s as entertaining as it is historically accurate. Led by the ‘unquestionably charismatic’ Jesse and his Shakespeare- and Bible-quoting brother Frank…. The book’s focus is a 10-minute bank heist and shootout in Northfield, Minn., in 1876, which leaves two gang members dead and the survivors on the lam. Gardner conveys the mayhem wonderfully, shifting focus from within the bank to the men on the street to townspeople taking up arms in defense, providing a rich visual and rhythmic dimension to the story and shedding light on a bygone era’s drastically different approach to law enforcement….A must-read for any western fan.”
— Publishers Weekly
“Mr. Gardner earns an A+ for his research and an A++ for his writing. Shot All to Hell is one of those very well researched, wonderfully written, and most objective histories that any reader will enjoy.”
–New York Journal of Books
“…Gardner, an authority on the American West, has shed considerable light on a neglected aspect of the gang’s life of crime…This is a well-done reexamination of an episode that has become enshrined in Western lore.”
Shot All to Hell: Jesse James, the Northfield Raid, and the Wild West’s Greatest Escape (9780061989476) by Mark Lee Gardner. 7/23/13 on sale. $27.99 hardcover.