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WEDNESDAY

“They all had big guns,” eyewitness L. A. Sherman said of outlaws Frank and Jesse James. “They wouldn’t hurt anybody. They’d ask, ‘How is it.’ And if you tell them you had tough sailing, they would reach in their pockets and give $40 or $50….The James boys were liked by the poor and God knows there was plenty of us and the law made no serious effort to get them.” That the James brothers (pictured here with Fletch Taylor) were latter-day Robin Hoods is debatable, according to Ted P. Yeatman, whose nearly 25 years of research culminates in Frank and Jesse James: The Story Behind the Legend. But if the brothers were once beloved, by the time they and their gang tried to rob a bank in Northfield, Minn., in September 1876, the tide had turned. Citizens fired on the gang from streets and windows, and all the bandits except the brothers themselves were either killed or captured. Even so, the gang’s legend would take on a life of its own, thanks in part to the “Victor Hugo of the West,” newspaper editor John Newman Edwards. In an editorial about the robbery of the Kansas City Fair, he called the Jameses “men who might have sat with Arthur at the round table, ridden at tourney with Sir Launcelot.” Yeatman will separate the truth from the folderol when he reads from Frank and Jesse at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 23, at Borders, 600 14th St. NW. Free. (202) 737-1385. (Janet Hopf)