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Marley Brant

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Publisher:  Madison Books ISBN-10:  1568330456 Type: 


Copyright:  1992

The definitive history of the outlaw Younger Brothers.

Barnes &
Outlaw Youngers

In this in-depth biography, Brant shows that the Younger brothers--Cole, Bob, John, and Jim--were motivated by commitment, and she sets them firmly in the context of their times, clearly explaining how and why the sons of a prominent western Missouri merchant turned to a life of crime in the years following the Civil War. In the process, she also shows what life on the Missouri-Kansas border was like for those who supported the Confederacy. Brant has carefully crafted a comprehensive and informal account based on the available primary sources and has properly qualified many statements for which definitive proof is lacking. She successfully involves readers in the Youngers' story, making this work especially appealing to a general audience. Recommended for most libraries.
- Stephen H. Peters, Northern Michigan Univ. Lib., Marquette


After many years of research into their story, it at last became clear to me that what motivated the Younger brothers of Missouri was commitment. Regardless of the object of their commitment, be it family, friends, their homeland, or their undertaking of the special task of becoming the most well-known, feared and ruthless of desperado gangs, the Youngers grabbed life by the shirtfront and held on for all they were worth. The manifestation of their passion resulted in unique rewards, such as occasional large sums of money and a fame that has endured over a century. Along the way, however, they paid a heavy price: the death of dear friends and family members, the loss of the ability to experience life as free members of society, their self-respect and finally, for three of them, their own young lives.

The Youngers struggle to maintain the sanctity of their family was certainly not an isolated instance in portwar Missouri. If an attempt is to be made to understand the family's identity and the prestigious position it held in the pioneer days of Missouri history, it becomes necessary to isolate the Younger family to examine a second layer of anti-Confederate action by the state's power structure. The intricacies of Missouri's 1865 Drake Constitution were far-reaching and affected nearly every aspect of postwar adjustment.

Whether the Younger brothers were on the side of good or evil is a question that depends on one's perspective of their times. It cannot simply be determined through an overview of their lives or outlaw careers. There were certainly times when they were motivated by a desire to make their political statement in the hope that those who had chosen to disagree with the country's establishment might be served as well as those who shared the beliefs of the "winners". Yet many times they were motivated by simple greed and a sinister desire to be recognized as career rebels, lightly dismissing the fact that their premeditated acts against authority might cause death or destruction. Eventually, even they realized they fit no conventional category of good or bad, right or wrong. While sstruggling toconvince themselves of their inner virtues, they were unable to rise above their selfish deeds to fulfill their own desires to reform. The question remains: was it that they did not want to end their criminal careers, or did they simply not know how?

Whether offered as a reason or dismissed as an excuse, the fact is that the Youngers seemed to find it impossible to adjust to a structured life within society. What lay beyond their young lives devoted to the fight was terrifying to them. With ideas of assimiliation into the quiet lives of ranchers and farmers, they chose to defy convention to demand rewards that they felt they were entitles to, that they somehow earned, one last time. Another group of disbelievers in their cause unwillingly crossed their path, and yet another innocent man died. The scorecard was tallied, and the Younger brothers of Missouri had failed to win the game or even tie the score.

Professional Reviews

Publishers Weekly
First-time author Brant, a Georgia TV writer and producer, claims to have spent more than two decades researching the four Younger brothers--Bob, Cole, Jim and John--ex-Confederate Army guerrillas whose life of crime ended with the famous Northfield, Minn., raid of 1876 in which Bob, Jim and Cole were captured. Affluent, intelligent sons of a respected Missouri family, the foursome were, in Brant's compassionate view, unable to distinguish between wartime and peacetime conduct. She pores over their family tree, and examines the Missouri-Kansas border war's effects on the Youngers. She also traces their involvement with the Frank and Jesse James gang and the lengthy incarcerations of charismatic Cole Younger, who received a pardon in 1903 and died in 1916, and his bookish, brilliant brother Jim, who was paroled in 1901 and committed suicide the following year. Photos

Los Angeles Times
The definitive history of their violent lives.

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