The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 102, July 1998 - April, 1999 Page: 112
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112 Southwestern Historical Quarterly July
noted outlaw-lawman historian, Jim Dullenty, whose remarks on Horan's work
place it in the proper perspective in the lively and insightful manner for which
he is famed in the world of Wild West bibliophiles.
The James Gang and Butch Cassidy's Wild Bunch earned their lasting places
in western legend and lore by becoming among the most successful and color-
ful outlaw gangs in American history. Besides the number of robberies com-
mitted and the amount of loot carried off, the sheer longevity of the two
gangs' careers seems astonishing. The James Gang, led by brothers Jesse and
Frank and augmented, at various times, by members of the Younger brothers
and numerous other neighbors, relatives, and fellow ex-Confederates, operat-
ed out of their native stomping grounds in western Missouri from 1866 until
1882, a total of sixteen years. Butch Cassidy robbed his first bank in Telluride,
Colorado, in 1889 and, aided by a small floating cadre of like-minded cowboy
outlaws, apparently operated without too much hindrance from the long arm
of the law until he and the Sundance Kid abandoned the upper reaches of
Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado for South America, where they were killed in a
shoot-out in 19o8. Both gangs were innovative in their techniques. Daytime
bank robberies were practically unheard of before the James Gang committed
their first in 1866. Jesse and his pals also employed numerous guerrilla tactics
they'd learned during the Civil War. They also pioneered the robbing of
trains. Among the neatest tricks of the Wild Bunch was their clever employ-
ment of interchangeable aliases to establish alibis and create confusion, and of
course, their legendary hideout, an outlaw's paradise known as the Hole in the
The differences between the two gangs are also noteworthy. The members
of the James Gang were products of the turbulence and strife that existed in
the western Kansas borderlands before and after the Civil War. Jesse and Frank
James claimed that they were merely striking out against the unpopular rail-
road monopolies and northern banks, seeking revenge for oppressed south-
erners. Some members of the press and dime novelists of the day quickly
picked up on this riff, and compared the gang to contemporary Robin Hoods.
The fun-loving desperadoes of the Wild Bunch, however, made no such pre-
tensions. As they emerged during the waning days of the western frontier,
Butch Cassidy's gang became symbols of the wild, dramatic landscape they
inhabited, and the knowledge that their kind would soon become anachro-
nisms in a more mechanized and settled world, where the Wild West existed
primarily in imagination and myth.
As a journalist, historian, and novelist, James Horan enlivened his history
with colorful, memorable prose that has aged as gracefully as his devotion to
accurate storytelling. "Who can forget the thrilling rides across the plains with
the posses far behind," he writes in the concluding chapter of Desperate Men,
"the thunder of horses as the army of desperadoes rides through the narrow
gorge out of the Hole in the Wall to repulse the stockmen's army of mercenar-
ies; the lonely outlaw watchers on the rims silhouetted against the clear,
Western sky..." (p. 381).
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 102, July 1998 - April, 1999, periodical, 1999; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101219/m1/137/: accessed July 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.