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The James Boys: A Novel Account of Four Desperate Brothers

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The James Boys: A Novel Account of Four Desperate Brothers Cover

ISBN13: 9780345470782
ISBN10: 0345470788
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

A provocative and strikingly original new voice in fiction reinvents the historical novel–along with American history itself–in this wry “what if?” that merges and mashes up four of our most famous and infamous national icons.

Historian Otis Pease once remarked that the story of nineteenth-century America could be encompassed in the lives of the two sets of James brothers–William and Henry in the East, Frank and Jesse in the West. The James Boys goes further by making all four of them the fruit of the same family tree and showing how it shakes out.

In 1876, the No. 4 Missouri Pacific Express pulls out of Kansas City for Saint Louis. Among those on board is Henry James, the erudite and esteemed novelist and brother of the brilliant philosopher William James. Trying his hand at travel writing, Henry is beset, as ever, by hypochondria–in the form, this case, of dire digestive woes.

Suddenly, the train is stopped and robbed–and not by just any bandits but by the legendary James Gang. Taken hostage by the brigands, Henry realizes to his unspeakable horror that Jesse and Frank are in fact “Rob” and “Wilky,” his long-lost brothers, who had disappeared during the Civil War and been presumed dead for more than a decade.

From there the ride only gets wilder, careening through underbrush and ivory towers, throwing together Americas greatest intellectuals and most notorious outlaws in a saga of six-guns and sherry that is peopled by a fascinating roster of passengers, both historical and imagined. Most prominent among them are Elena Hite, a feisty young feminist deeply aroused by the down-and-dirty charisma of the criminal Jesse; Alice Gibbens, the eminently sensible schoolteacher engaged to the sexually inexperienced William, who tempts him to stay put rather than joining Henry out West; and William Pinkerton, the renowned detective hot on all of their trails–especially Elenas.

Based on and incorporating actual events, The James Boys is a through-the-looking-glass romp that boldly blends both sides of the American character–the brilliant and the barbaric–in one unforgettable family and one seriously entertaining story.

Review:

"Former Basic Books editor Liebmann-Smith, who cocreated Comedy Central's The Tick, takes 'what's in a name?' to amusing extremes in his debut novel. Novelist Henry James and Harvard psychologist William James really did have two younger brothers, neither of whom amounted to much. That situation changes drastically in Liebmann-Smith's goofball historical conceit, part The Bostonians and part Blazing Saddles. In 1876, Henry James travels by train on a New York Tribune — commissioned journalistic tour. When the train is suddenly ambushed by a group of bandits led by Frank and Jesse James, the latter exclaims, on encountering the novelist: 'Holy shit.... It's Harry!' The jokes and historical squiblets go off like six-guns in the 200-plus pages that follow, with Frank and Jesse James starring as the wayward brethren of the illustrious New England Jameses (which, in real life, they most certainly were not). Liebmann-Smith includes enough plot, to keep this single-joke, creatively imagined biography chugging along. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

About the Author

Richard Liebmann-Smith was educated at Stanford, Columbia, the Yale School of Drama, and the University of Paris. A former editor of The Sciences magazine and at Basic Books, he is co-creator of The Tick, the animated television series, and has written for such publications as The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, Smithsonian, Playboy, Harpers, and The National Lampoon. He is the father of a daughter, Rebecca, and lives in New York with his wife, Joan, a medical writer. He is one of four brothers.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

Otherprof1, January 1, 2011 (view all comments by Otherprof1)
"The James Boys" is a hoot! Rich Liebmann Smith has delved into an alternate universe in which Jesse and Frank James are the younger brothers of William and Henry James.
The work has the feel of real biography, with many actual biographers cited. In this universe, Henry James unexpectedly comes across the two younger brothers thought to have died in the civil war. "Comes across," does not do justice to their meeting: Frank and Jesse are holding up the train on which Henry is traveling through the western territories, picking up material for a series of articles. Poor Henry is unable to avoid being a participant in the lives of his younger brothers (not to mention the Younger brothers, who are also part of the gang) and even becoming part of catastrophic bank robbery in Northfield, and being forced to flee for his life with the rest of the surviving bank robbers.
Eventually, William takes a star turn, and Turgenev and Flaubert make eventful appearances. There is a woman, of course, and she manages to become a lover of most of the James boys, as well as passing for the wife of Henry. Smith writes beautifully, and draws one in to his glorious jest. Read it and you will never think of William, Henry, Frank or Jesse the same way.
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Katy Bejarano, February 21, 2009 (view all comments by Katy Bejarano)
This is one of the funniest - and well written - books I've read in a long time. It combines facts with faux facts, so that it all seems very plausable, that Frank & Jesse James were William and Henry James younger brothers. Do have a dictionary handy, though, unless your vocabulary is outstanding!
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780345470782
Subtitle:
A Novel Account of Four Desperate Brothers
Author:
Liebmann Smith, Rich
Author:
Liebmann-Smith, Richard
Publisher:
Random House
Subject:
General
Subject:
James, Henry
Subject:
James, Jesse
Subject:
Historical - General
Subject:
Biographical fiction
Subject:
General Fiction
Copyright:
Publication Date:
20080617
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
288
Dimensions:
9.52 x 6.1 x 1.04 in 1.1 lb

Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

The James Boys: A Novel Account of Four Desperate Brothers Used Hardcover
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Product details 288 pages Random House - English 9780345470782 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Former Basic Books editor Liebmann-Smith, who cocreated Comedy Central's The Tick, takes 'what's in a name?' to amusing extremes in his debut novel. Novelist Henry James and Harvard psychologist William James really did have two younger brothers, neither of whom amounted to much. That situation changes drastically in Liebmann-Smith's goofball historical conceit, part The Bostonians and part Blazing Saddles. In 1876, Henry James travels by train on a New York Tribune — commissioned journalistic tour. When the train is suddenly ambushed by a group of bandits led by Frank and Jesse James, the latter exclaims, on encountering the novelist: 'Holy shit.... It's Harry!' The jokes and historical squiblets go off like six-guns in the 200-plus pages that follow, with Frank and Jesse James starring as the wayward brethren of the illustrious New England Jameses (which, in real life, they most certainly were not). Liebmann-Smith includes enough plot, to keep this single-joke, creatively imagined biography chugging along. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
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