Wild West

MUST SEE, MUST READ

GREAT TRAIN ROBBERIES OF THE OLD WEST

(2006, by R. Michael Wilson): This slim but fascinating volume recounts more than a dozen notable robberies and the players involved, detailing crimes committed between 1870 and 1899. Wilson’s lively and engaging accounts chronicle, as the back cover lines aptly put it, a “collection of gangs too notorious, hauls too large and murders too cold-blooded to fade into obscurity.”

Rocky Mountain Train Robberies (2019, by W.C. Jameson): In this follow-up to his equally outstanding and highly recommended book about Texas train holdups, Jameson examines 37 robberies spanning seven states and more than 60 years. He relates each with a historian’s eye for fact and detail, and a storyteller’s flair for bringing the tales to life.

Shot All to Hell (2013, by Mark Lee Gardner): Gardner’s meticulously researched and intensely readable book focuses on the cataclysmic disaster of the James-Younger Gang’s 1876 bank robbery at Northfield, Minn. He sets the stage for that fiasco, however, with an account of the gang’s “Rocky Cut” train robbery near Otterville, Mo., which netted them a tidy $15,000 (roughly $360,000 in today’s dollars) but, owing to a confederate’s confession, forced them into unfamiliar territory and a devastating bloodbath.

The Notorious Reno Gang (2017, by Rachel Dickinson): A gripping, fast-paced account of the gang with the dubious distinction of being the first to rob a moving train. The book explores in fascinating detail the criminal enterprise they built, in part by holding hostage an entire town—their base of operations—and their dogged pursuit by Alan Pinkerton and operatives, as well as vigilantes bent on ending their reign of terror by any means necessary.

1870–1884 (2010, by James B. Hume and John N. Thacker, edited and expanded by R. Michael Wilson): In 1885 Wells Fargo’s chief detective, James Hume, and special agent John Thacker compiled an exhaustive list of crimes against the company to aid lawmen seeking those perpetrators still outstanding. In his usual colorful style R. Michael Wilson expanded their dry, just-the-facts encyclopedia with detailed individual accounts of the incidents listed, including 313 stagecoach robberies, 23 burglaries and four train robberies.

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