While Angels Dance: The Life and Times of Jeston Nash

Ralph Cotton, Author
Ralph Cotton, Author St. Martin's Press $21.95 (327p) ISBN 978-0-312-11098-7
Reviewed on: 05/30/1994
Release date: 06/01/1994
Drawing inspiration from tales heard in his childhood, Cotton fashions an engaging debut that moves effortlessly between the Civil-War and traditional western genres. When the book's eponymous hero (who may be cousin to the notorious Frank and Jesse James) accidentally kills a Union soldier, he flees to the Nebraska homestead of the James clan. At first viewed with distrust by his supposed kin, he eventually joins up with them in Quantrill's Raiders, a Confederate guerrilla band that refused to accept Southern defeat and spawned the outlaws alternately reviled and embraced by the public. Seen through the eyes of the (relatively) innocent Nash, the ensuing action covers the careers of the West's most famous bandits from their first bank robbery to the disastrous Northfield, Minn., raid, which brought the partnership to a bloody end. (Also covered is Jesse's murder at the hands of the traitorous Bob Ford, while a brief epilogue relates the fates of these notorious personalities.) Cotton's authentic period detail and dialogue lend a disarming realism to this solidly crafted yarn. (June)