The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford: A Novel [NOOK Book]


Ron Hansen?s critically acclaimed historical novel about the life and untimely death of America?s most infamous outlaw, and his relationship with the young man who killed him

By age thirty-four, Jesse James was already one of the most notorious and admired men in America. Bank robber, train bandit, gang leader, killer, and beloved son of Missouri?

James?s many epithets ...
See more details below
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford: A Novel

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$10.99 price
(Save 26%)$14.99 List Price

All Available Formats & Editions


Ron Hansen’s critically acclaimed historical novel about the life and untimely death of America’s most infamous outlaw, and his relationship with the young man who killed him

By age thirty-four, Jesse James was already one of the most notorious and admired men in America. Bank robber, train bandit, gang leader, killer, and beloved son of Missouri—

James’s many epithets live on in newspapers and novels alike. As his celebrity was reaching its apex, James met Robert Ford, the brother of a James gang member—an awkward, antihero-worshipping twenty-year-old with stars in his eyes. The young man’s fascination with the legend borders on jealous obsession: While Ford wants to ride alongside James as his most-trusted confidant, sharing his spotlight is not enough. As a bond forms between the two men, Ford realizes that the only way he’ll ever be as powerful as his idol is to become him; he must kill James and take his mantle.
In the striking novel that inspired the film of the same name starring Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck, bestselling author Ron Hansen retells a classic Wild West story that has long captured the nation’s imagination, and breathes new life into the final days and ignoble death of an iconic American man.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781480423886
  • Publisher: Open Road Media
  • Publication date: 5/28/2013
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 147,946
  • File size: 782 KB

Meet the Author

Ron Hansen is the author of eight novels, two collections of stories, and a book of essays. He graduated from Creighton University in Omaha and went on to study at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and Stanford University. His novel Atticus was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award. His novel The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, also a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, was adapted into a movie starring Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck. Hansen has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. He lives with his wife, novelist Bo Caldwell, in Northern California, and teaches at Santa Clara University. 
Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

A Novel

By Ron Hansen


Copyright © 1983 Ron Hansen
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4804-2388-6


SEPTEMBER 7th, 1881

His manner was pleasant, though noticeably quiet and reserved. He listened attentively to every word that Scott Moore or I uttered but he himself said little. Occasionally he would ask some question about the country and the opportunities for stock-raising. But all the time I was conscious that he was alertly aware of everything that was said and done in the room. He never made the slightest reference to himself, nor did he show the least trace of self-importance or braggadocio. Had I not known who he was I should have taken him for an ordinary businessman receiving a social visit from two of his friends. But his demeanor was so pleasant and gentlemanly withal that I found myself on the whole liking him immensely.


My Life on the Frontier

He was growing into middle age and was living then in a bungalow on Woodland Avenue. Green weeds split the porch steps, a wasp nest clung to an attic gable, a rope swing looped down from a dying elm tree and the ground below it was scuffed soft as flour. Jesse installed himself in a rocking chair and smoked a cigar down in the evening as his wife wiped her pink hands on a cotton apron and reported happily on their two children. Whenever he walked about the house, he carried several newspapers—the Sedalia Daily Democrat, the St. Joseph Gazette, and the Kansas City Times—with a foot-long .44 caliber pistol tucked into a fold. He stuffed flat pencils into his pockets. He played by flipping peanuts to squirrels. He braided yellow dandelions into his wife's yellow hair. He practiced out-of-the-body travel, precognition, sorcery. He sucked raw egg yolks out of their shells and ate grass when sick, like a dog. He would flop open the limp Holy Bible that had belonged to his father, the late Reverend Robert S. James, and would contemplate whichever verses he chanced upon, getting privileged messages from each. The pages were scribbled over with penciled comments and interpretations; the cover was cool to his cheek as a shovel. He scoured for nightcrawlers after earth-battering rains and flipped them into manure pails until he could chop them into writhing sections and sprinkle them over his garden patch. He recorded sales and trends at the stock exchange but squandered much of his capital on madcap speculation. He conjectured about foreign relations, justified himself with indignant letters, derided Eastern financiers, seeded tobacco shops and saloons with preposterous gossip about the kitchens of Persia, the Queen of England, the marriage rites of the Latter Day Saints. He was a faulty judge of character, a prevaricator, a child at heart. He went everywhere unrecognized and lunched with Kansas City shopkeepers and merchants, calling himself a cattleman or commodities investor, someone rich and leisured who had the common touch.

He was born Jesse Woodson James on September 5th, 1847, and was named after his mother's brother, a man who committed suicide. He stood five feet eight inches tall, weighed one hundred fifty-five pounds, and was vain about his physique. Each afternoon he exercised with weighted yellow pins in his barn, his back bare, his suspenders down, two holsters crossed and slung low. He bent horseshoes, he lifted a surrey twenty times from a squat, he chopped wood until it pulverized, he drank vegetable juices and potions. He scraped his sweat off with a butter knife, he dunked his head, at morning, in a horse water bucket, he waded barefoot through the lank backyard grass with his six-year-old son hunched on his shoulders and with his trousers rolled up to his knees, snagging garter snakes with his toes and gently letting them go.

He smoked, but did not inhale, cigars; he rarely drank anything stronger than beer. He never philandered nor strayed from his wife nor had second thoughts about his marriage. He never swore in the presence of ladies nor raised his voice with children. His hair was fine and chestnut brown and recurrently barbered but it had receded so badly since his twenties that he feared eventual baldness and therefore rubbed his temples with onions and myrtleberry oil in order to stimulate growth. He scissored his two-inch sun-lightened beard according to a fashion then associated with physicians. His eyes were blue except for iris pyramids of green, as on the back of a dollar bill, and his eyebrows shaded them so deeply he scarcely ever squinted or shied his eyes from a glare. His nose was unlike his mother's or brother's, not long and preponderant, no proboscis, but upturned a little and puttied, a puckish, lowborn nose, the ruin, he thought, of his otherwise gallantly handsome countenance.

Four of his molars were crowned with gold and they gleamed, sometimes, when he smiled. He had two incompletely healed bullet holes in his chest and another in his thigh. He was missing the nub of his left middle finger and was cautious lest that mutilation be seen. He'd had a boil excised from his groin and it left a white star of skin. A getaway horse had jerked from him and fractured his ankle in the saddle stirrup so that his foot mended a little crooked and registered barometric changes. He also had a condition that was referred to as granulated eyelids and it caused him to blink more than usual, as if he found creation slightly more than he could accept.

He was a Democrat. He was left-handed. He had a high, thin, sinew of a voice, a contralto that could twang annoyingly like a catgut guitar whenever he was excited. He owned five suits, which was rare then, and colorful, brocaded vests and cravats. He wore a thirty-two-inch belt and a fourteen-and-a-half-inch collar. He favored red wool socks. He rubbed his teeth with his finger after meals. He was persistently vexed by insomnia and therefore experimented with a vast number of soporifics which did little besides increasing his fascination with pharmacological remedies.

He could neither multiply nor divide without error and much of his science was superstition. He could list the many begotten of Abraham and the sixty-six books of the King James Bible; he could recite psalms and poems in a stentorian voice with suitable histrionics; he could sing religious hymns so convincingly that he worked for a month as a choirmaster; he was marvelously informed about current events. And yet he thought incense was made from the bones of saints, that leather continued to grow if not dyed, that if he concentrated hard enough his body's electrical currents could stun lake frogs as he bathed.

He could intimidate like King Henry the Eighth; he could be reckless or serene, rational or lunatic, from one minute to the next. If he made an entrance, heads turned in his direction; if he strode down an aisle store clerks backed away; if he neared animals they retreated. Rooms seemed hotter when he was in them, rains fell straighter, clocks slowed, sounds were amplified: his enemies would not have been much surprised if he produced horned owls from beer bottles or made candles out of his fingers.

He considered himself a Southern loyalist and guerrilla in a Civil War that never ended. He regretted neither his robberies nor the seventeen murders that he laid claim to, but he would brood about his slanders and slights, his callow need for attention, his overweening vaingloriousness, and he was excessively genteel and polite in order to disguise what he thought was vulgar, primitive, and depraved in his origins.

Sicknesses made him smell blood each morning, he visited rooms at night, he sometimes heard children in the fruit cellar, he waded into prairie wheat and stared at the horizon.

He had seen another summer under in Kansas City, Missouri, and on September 5th, in the year 1881, he was thirty-four years old.

HE HAD INVITED Alexander Franklin James over from their mother's farm in Kearney for the occasion, and dined on jackrabbit, boiled potatoes and onions, and hickorynut cake, then everyone, excepting Frank, autographed the night air with magnesium sparklers that were a gift from Jesse Edwards James, a six-year-old who thought his name was Tim. Frank presented his younger brother with a pair of pink coral cufflinks, and the two played cribbage as Zee tucked in the children, and after she retired for the evening, they rode a mule-powered streetcar downtown, Frank cleaning his nails on one side of the aisle as on the other Jesse slumped down in a frock coat and talked compulsively about stopping the Chicago and Alton Railroad at Blue Cut.

On the following morning, Frank rode east and Jesse frittered that Tuesday and part of the next day through. He picked coffee beans from a canning jar and ground them fine as coal dust. He soaped his saddle and tack and glossed the rings and curb with pork lard; he carried water and cord wood; he tied onto his saddle horn a burlap sack that bore the red trademark of grain merchandisers in St. Louis. His two-year-old daughter swept his light brown beard with a doll brush, he dressed in a white linen shirt and gray wool Sunday clothes, tied a blue bandana around his neck, and climbed into a soiled Confederate officer's coat that was rich with the odors of manual labor and was heavy enough to snap the pegs off a closet rack. He lunched on okra soup and kissed Zee goodbye, then rode eastward on back streets and cow-paths, his coat pockets clinking with flat pieces of slate that he skimmed into racketing trees and winged sidearm at coarse, scolding dogs.

He urged his horse in the direction of Independence and into woods that were giving up their greens to autumn gold and brown. He ducked under aggravating limbs and criss-crossed through random alleys of scrub oak and scraggle where yellow leaves detached themselves at his least provocation. He could see the Missouri River in pickets and frames to his left, wide as a village and brown as a road, gradual in its procession. He came upon a hidden one-room barkwood shack with a puncheon floor and goats on the porch and blue smoke unraveling from the chimney. A man booted with tawny mud produced a shotgun from behind a door. A woman shaded by a broad sunhat teetered with buckets in a hog pen, evaluating his carnage and disposition and horse.

Jackson County east of the Kansas City limits at that time enclosed a region called the Cracker Neck that contained ramshackle farms and some erstwhile Confederate Army guerrillas who routinely sided with the James gang and provided seclusion to the outlaws following robberies. Within the region was Glendale, where two years earlier the gang had rifled a Chicago and Alton Railroad express car, and close to Glendale was Independence and a cooperage where Frank James squatted among the stave piles in back, eating a cucumber sandwich under the afternoon sun.

Jesse rode into the ring of shade beneath a huckleberry tree and canted his hat to conceal his face from the neighborhood; his brother tucked a sandwich corner into his cheek, regained his height, and wiped his broad mustache with his palm.

Frank was thirty-eight years old but looked a homely fifty. He was five feet ten inches tall at a time when such height was above average and weighed about one hundred fifty pounds. He had ears nearly the size of his hands and a very large, significant nose that seemed to hook and clamp his light brown mustache. His chin jutted, his jaw muscles bulged, his mouth was as straight and grim as a hatchet mark, and he'd ground down his teeth in his sleep until they all were as square as molars. He was a stern and very constrained man; he could have been a magistrate, an evangelist, a banker who farmed on weekends; rectitude and resolution influenced his face and comportment; scorn and even malevolence could be read in his green eyes.

Frank put a black cardigan sweater over his blue cavalry shirt and a gray coat over that, his scowl on two girls who lingered their dappled white ponies in the street and on a man with his hands in his pockets fifty yards removed.

Jesse yelled, "Me and him, we're circuit riders is why you never seen us beforehand."

The man continued to gawk. Frank untethered his mount and swung up and, as the two brothers ambled onto the eastward road, the man crossed to a hardware store to report his conclusions about the hard cases he'd observed.

Jesse said, "You stop for a meal in these burgs and you don't have to wait but five minutes for some fool to spend an opinion about the ugly strangers in town and what their appetites are like."

Frank said, "I'm gonna regret those cucumbers. They're gonna argue with me through evening."

Jesse glanced at his brother with concern. "What you need to do is tap some alum onto a dime, cook it with a matchstick, and lick it clean before you partake of your meals. That's the remedy for dyspepsia. You'll be cured inside of four days."

"You and your cures." Frank crossed in front of his brother, jamming his horse, and they turned left on a twin-rutted road and a median strip of grease-smeared, axle-flogged weeds. A great many animals had ganged on the road for a half-mile, then shambled into cannon-high straw grass that meandered into green bluffs. The James brothers pursued eccentric routes in that general direction, Jesse weaving right or left in his boredom, bending extravagantly from his saddle as he steered, shouting questions and assessments across the open to Frank. They meshed inside the woods, Frank ducking under an overhead bough that whapped dust from his coat shoulder, Jesse yanking his horse right and into a coulee where it noisily thrashed fallen leaves.

Ahead was brown shale and green ferns and humus where the sun was forbidden, and then two naked trees connected by twenty feet of hemp rope, to which had been reined a considerable number of horses. Here thirteen men squatted with coffee and idled or cradled shotguns: croppers and clerks and hired hands, aged in their late teens and twenties, wearing patched coveralls and wrinkled wool trousers and foul-looking suit coats that exposed their wrists, or overcoats the color of nickel, of soot, that assorted weeds had attached themselves to. They were hooligans, mainly, boys with vulgar features and sullen eyes and barn-red faces capped white above the eyebrows. They were malnourished and uneducated; their mouths were wrecks of rotting teeth. Consumption was a familiar disease, they carried infirmities like handkerchiefs; several were missing fingers, one was sick with parasites, another two had lice, eyes were crossed or clouded, harelip went undoctored.

Robert Woodson Hite and his simple younger brother, Clarence, were cousins from Adairville, Kentucky; Dick Liddil, Jim Cummins, Ed Miller, and Charley Ford had been in the James gang on previous occasions, the rest had been recruited to check the horses and divide the posses and parade with Henry rifles outside the passenger cars, firing on the recalcitrant and defiant. They bunched around the James brothers when they arrived that afternoon, several exhorting and goading Frank and Jesse in an exercise of kinship or special influence, the others wary and timid, slinking over or sniggering or investigating whatever was under their eyes.

The Jameses descended from their saddles and a lackey pulled the horses to wild feed and Jesse hunkered with coffee brewed from his own fine-ground beans and chatted with Ed Miller and Wood Hite as some gangling boys eavesdropped. Jesse inquired if the Chicago and Alton managers had stationed guards in the depot or mail cars. He inquired about the nearest telegraph machine. He inquired about the time of sundown.

Meanwhile Frank quit the main group to reconnoiter the woods and the railroad and the meager farm and inhospitable cabin belonging to a man named Snead. He stood in green darkness and weeds, smoking a cigarette he'd made, perusing the sickle curve in the rails and a grade that was hard work for a locomotive. The southern cliff on which he tarried rose about thirty feet above the cinder roadbed, the northern ridge had been a lower elevation on a hill the railroad had excavated and was about ten feet above the cut. Three miles east was Glendale station. Mosquitoes and gnats hived in the air and inspected his ears but he did not slap at them because he was using his hearing to position some fool crashing through weed tangles and creepers to the left and rear of him. The noise stopped and Frank opened his gray coat to slide his right hand across to his left pistol.


Excerpted from The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford by Ron Hansen. Copyright © 1983 Ron Hansen. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 15 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 15 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 24, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Fascinating information but writing style is uneven

    Ron Hansen does an excellent job of portraying the events surrounding the last few years of the outlaw Jesse James and the man-boy who killed him. Robert Ford comes off as a sniveling creepy little coward reminiscent of Dickens' Uriah Heep, but with a driving desire for fame. Jesse James is portrayed as mesmerizing, eccentric, and cruel.

    The writing style was a bit uneven. in some places the book read like a straight up biography and in other places like historical fiction in the style of the Jeff and Michael Shaara (real events with dialogue and inner thoughts supplied by the author's imagination). Overall, a fascinating look at the lives of some very bad men that would have been better if the author had picked one style and stuck with it.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2008

    A reviewer

    This novel is pure genius. It tells a realistic tale about Jesse James and James' assassin, Robert Ford. The novel shows you how the two met, where their relationship led to, where it went wrong, and how it ended, and at the same time is historically accurate. The writing style is exceptional, and you wish that it isn't over the second you turn the last page. A definite must-read if you like history, Jesse James, or if you're interested in how idolizing someone can take a sour turn.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2007

    it was so great

    This book show's the life of Jesse James and his gang and what they went through. And it you read every little detail about Jesse James I highly recommend you buying this book

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2013


    She whinnies at the others.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2013


    Well written. An enjoyable read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2013

    What I Expected

    After watching the movie I had to read the novel. Enjoyed them both greatly.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2013


    *Rides up on a pure black american standardbred, one of the fastest horses you will ever see.* Howdy there, miss. Need any help with the stragglers?

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2013

    A thoroughbred

    A thoroughbred female galloped in she eould make a good racehorse and good for mating (i dont do realistic)

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2013

    The anglo

    Gtgtb bbt.)) He watches her go.

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2013


    "Ok!", she claps her hands. "My house and ranch is found at "jess house", but you will need to go to either result ten or the second to last result. Ten is inside the barn and the second to last is just a large fenced in pasture." "But, I will not be posting there because I want everyobe to see the description first, before I do!" She continues, "Or, you can read the description, not post and wait here to be loaded up into the trailor", she said then placed her hands on her hips.

    Yoy do realize a "stallion" is a male? Not a breed.

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 15 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)