Bill Doolin: Easygoing Outlaw
William M. "Bill" Doolin
Meet Bill Doolin, subject of Rebecca's latest historical novel, The Last Desperado.
Bill was born in Arkansas in 1858, though the exact month and date of his birth have been lost to history. He grew up poor, the son of a farmer, and had little to no education during his childhood. As a young man, Bill drifted into the cattle trade, working for a rancher named Oscar Hallsal. Hallsal took a liking to Doolin and taught him to read and write, and simple arithmetic besides.
Although he was counted as a loyal, trustworthy and capable cowboy during his time at Hallsal's and other ranches in the years to follow, Bill had a wild streak in him, and after a scuffle with the law in Coffeyville, Kansas in 1891, he went on the outlaw trail, hooking up with the infamous Dalton Gang before forming his own gang, the even more infmous Wild Bunch.
"I chose to write Bill's story for my latest novel because I found him one of the most interesting figures of his time," says Rebecca. "His character was fascinating, as was his intelligence and the way he planned and executed his various misdeeds with the Wild Bunch. It really struck me, the way a simple cowboy could rise up out of such humble beginnings to become so famous around the country, so fast. By the time Bill's career--and life--was coming to a close, the papers were comparing him to Jesse James--no small comparison in those days."
Read The Last Desperado for more of Bill's incredible, true story.
Zee James: Outlaw Bride
Zerelda "Zee" James
Meet Zee James, subject of Rebecca's first novel, The Outlaw's Wife.
Zerelda "Zee" Mimms was born in Missouri in 1845, and was first cousin to the man who would eventually become her husband, Jesse Woodson James; in fact she shared her first name with Jesse's mother. She was the daughter of a preacher and a devoted wife and mother, despite her beloved husband's infamy. She married Jesse in 1874 after a nine-year engagement, and she bore him four children, Jesse Edwards James, twins Gould and Montgomery James, and Mary Susan James. Sadly, her twin boys died just a few days after their births. She stood by Jesse throughout their marriage, and after his murder she remained in mourning, wearing black for the rest of her life and seldom leaving her home. She died in 1900, and her obituary recalled her as a kind, devoutly Christian woman who raised her children well.
"I have always been intrigued by Zee, and it always bothered me how little attention was paid to her in various books and films made about Jesse. She was clearly very important to him and, I believe, his last strong link to sanity by the end of his life," Rebecca says. "I wanted to give her her own voice. To me, writing her story as a diary was the most logical way to do it, since a great majority of her life with Jesse would have been sitting at home waiting for him to come back after each of his escapades. I really enjoyed bringing her to life, along with Jesse, their children, and other family members, like Frank and Annie James, as well as various members of Jesse's gang."
To learn more of Zee's story, click on the link below to purchase The Outlaw's Wife.
Emmett Dalton: Kind-Hearted Outlaw
Meet Emmett Dalton, subject of Rebecca's second novel, In the Shadow of Death Alley.
Emmett Dalton was born in Missouri on May 3, 1871, the eleventh of fifteen children born to Lewis and Adeline Dalton. Emmett had an interesting family connection to members of another infamous outlaw gang of the times--his mother Adeline was a Younger, and her nephews were Cole, Jim and Bob Younger, all of whom rode in the James Gang with Jesse and Frank James.
Interestingly enough, all three of the Dalton brothers who would end up to be full-time members of the Dalton Gang--Bob, Gratton ("Grat"), and Emmett--were first employed as lawmen; Grat and Bob were both deputy U.S. marshals and Emmett worked as a guard for them at the tender age of seventeen after leaving his job as a cowboy in Indian Territory. Bob and Grat were following in the footsteps of their older brother Franklin Dalton, who was a distinguished deputy marshal with a glowing reputation before being killed in the line of duty in 1887. Poor wages (and their uncertain payouts), along with Bob's desire for fame and easy money led the three brothers to start rustling horses and eventually robbing trains. Another brother, William (known as Bill Dalton to history), would also come to know infamy after trading his career in politics for a life of crime.
Though Emmett was widely thought of as a kind, quiet and moral young man who wasn't entirely comfortable living a life of crime, he could not deny the hero worship he had for his brother Bob, the gang's leader, and that adoration led Emmett to participate in the Dalton Gang's rein of mischief, right up until the gang's end. That end came in the form of the infamous attempted double bank robbery in Coffeyville, Kansas, in October of 1892. That failed attempt brought about the deaths of all the gang's members except one--Emmett, who was only 21 years old at the time. Though shot an astounding number of times, including 18-23 buckshot in the back, Emmett managed to survive. What happened after that fateful day is even more astonishing--but the author prefers you read her book if you wish to know more of Emmett's amazing true story. Click below to purchase.
Emmett Dalton on horseback, 1909
(thank you to Kith Presland for this photo)