Recently I read an intriguing novel: I am Mrs. Jesse James by Pat Wahler tells the story of the woman who loved the famous outlaw. I'd heard of Jesse James, of course, but had never really thought about his family life and that's a shame, because so much of his life as an outlaw was a direct consequence of what happened to him and his family during and immediately after the American Civil War. I absolutely loved this book, not only because it was beautifully written but because it gave me a real insight into the life and times of this infamous man. So I'm delighted that the author, Pat Wahler, is here today to tell us a little more, and to explain just exactly who Mrs. Jesse James really was.
Over to you Pat!
"There were two women who loved Jesse James, the most infamous outlaw of the Old West. By all accounts, he loved them fiercely in return.
Both women were named Zerelda.
Zerelda Cole James Simms Samuel gave birth to Jesse. A strong and outspoken woman, she outlived three husbands. Zerelda wasn’t one to shy away from attention, and boldly voiced support for her sons Frank and Jesse. She kept a shotgun handy, and few who knew her doubted for a moment that she’d use it if anyone trespassed on her property—particularly if they were in pursuit of her boys.
In sharp contrast, Zerelda (Zee) Mimms James was quiet and deeply religious. She and her cousin Jesse fell in love when Zee nursed him back to health after a near-fatal gunshot wound at the close of the Civil War. Following a lengthy engagement, and over the objections of her family, the couple wed. Unlike the aunt/mother-in-law for whom she was named, Zee had no desire to create a public scene or grant an interview.
Yet despite their differences, Zerelda and Zee appeared to be equally influential in the life of Jesse James. In my view, each one played an important role. Zerelda, his mother, molded Jesse’s character during his formative years. Zee, his wife, proved to act as his conscience.
Writing I am Mrs. Jesse James gave me the opportunity to explore these family relationships and discover what drove them during a challenging era of American history. A time when neighbors were pitted against one another, brother fought brother, and a friend could easily prove to be an enemy in disguise."
Pat Wahler is an award-winning writer with sixteen stories in the popular Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Her debut novel, I am Mrs. Jesse James earned a silver medal for regional historical fiction in the Independent Publisher Association Book Awards, was named Western Fictioneers Best First Novel, and won the Walter Williams Award for a major literary publication. Pat’s most recent release is the first novel of a contemporary romance series, On a City Street. Her other books include, Let Your Heart Be Light: A Celebration of Christmas and Midnight, the One-Eyed Cat.
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