Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Women in Crime Ink is pleased to announce today's release of contributor Laura James' first book: The Love Pirate and the Bandit's Son: Murder, Sin, and Scandal in the Shadow of Jesse James. (Laura is not related to the James Gang.) In this dual biography of Dr. Zeo Zoe Wilkins and Jesse James Jr., our true-crime historian and attorney Laura James lays out the evidence that the son of Jesse James followed in his father's footsteps to lead a life of train robbery, terrorism, and perhaps even murder. The book contains some big surprises for students of the James Gang.

Below, the publisher has given Women in Crime Ink readers an exclusive peek at what true-crime master Gregg Olsen has called a "mesmerizing book, brilliantly researched and compellingly written." We agree with Olsen's assessment that this story is "classic American crime: a toxic brew of love, lies, mystery and murder." Women in Crime Ink is pleased to bring you this exclusive intro to The Love Pirate and the Bandit's Son. Congratulations, Laura!


On March 15, 1924, snowdust coated staid Park Avenue in Kansas City, Missouri. The street was quiet for a Saturday night. There were no wild parties on this frigid evening. Around ten p.m., an exceptionally beautiful woman unlocked the front door of her home at 2425 Park.

She must have known him. She let him in the house. But before long something alarmed her. It could have been the late hour or the reek of alcohol, though she was a stranger to neither. She numbed herself that night, as she usually did, with most of a bottle of Jamaica Ginger. Did she see the man lock the door as he turned to face her? Maybe a snarled threat or a flash of steel warned her that he was not there to make love to her. Instead, her premonition of a violent death was coming true. She surely thought–if she could form a complete thought–of all the friends and lovers to whom she had turned for help in her last few days. She told them someone wanted to murder her. She’d even said it would happen that weekend.

No one was there to help her. Nobody believed her.

She fought for her life. She threw every object within reach. She eluded death with “a terrific fight.” At five feet eight and a hundred and thirty pounds, she could have held her own for a while. But the man was stronger. He chased her into a corner, punched her in the chest, and knocked the telephone from her hands. Chairs were smashed in their duel. In her desperate resistance she got the worst of it. He pummeled her and tore at her plaid dress and underwear. If she cried out in pain and terror, the only one who heard her screams was the man killing her.

It must have been a thunderous blow that sent her spinning into a metal stand. She struck her forehead and collapsed onto the oriental carpet in the living room.

The man grabbed her slender throat and squeezed. He gouged her left eye, blackening it and nearly severing her eyeball from its socket. Perhaps she fainted. But she rallied at the last when he brandished a small, rusty pocketknife. As she held out her hands to protect herself, he slashed them. The face that had aroused the passions of so many men now felt the sting of the blade. He sliced open her cheek and jammed the point of the knife into the side of her neck—once, twice—the deep stabs slitting her jugular. Zeo’s blood gushed forth. Within a few heartbeats she was dead.

The blood-drenched killer dropped his knife. It fell onto the rug a few inches from her dead hand. He assured himself she was irretrievably dead.

Without pausing to wipe himself off, he strode to her dining room. He lifted a large metal strongbox onto the dining table, opened it, and tore through her personal papers. Her blood dripped from his hands onto her letters and documents as he rifled through the box for what he sought.

Papers, books, clothes, and bags were heaped onto the floor as her killer ransacked her house, plunging through the closet, roving through the kitchen, smearing blood on drawers and cupboards, leaving crimson tracks throughout the first and second floors. He pulled up the tacks holding down the corners of her carpets. He pulled letters from envelopes. He searched most of the closets, chests, and shelves.

And yet he did not touch many pawnable items, such as her designer clothes and household items. This man was after particular valuables, things he knew she kept in her home. Nothing less was worth even a moment.

His search completed, he entered a downstairs bathroom and washed away her clotted blood. He found a hand towel and dried himself on it as he returned to the living room. Standing near the dead woman, he threw the towel on the rug. He wadded some papers, put a flame to them, and started a fire near her head. He stuffed a strongbox filled with treasure under his arm.

Maybe he looked at her one last time.

Then it seems he yanked open a window, crawled through, leapt several feet to the ground, and fled the scene of his perfect murder.

It was perfect not because of how he did it. He was an amateur killer. He left bloody prints everywhere, and the fire never caught. It was perfect because of the woman he killed. For no matter who cut down Zeo Wilkins, no matter why, newspapers across the country declared on moral grounds that her brutal death was a fitting end for a vampire. They proclaimed that the case would never be solved, officially or otherwise. Their wishes were granted. A lot of folks would come right out and say it: the bitch had it coming to her, and by golly, she sure got it.


pearlhandledpistol said...

what praytell could the good doctor have done to possibly have it 'coming to her????' and such a terrible way to go........... quite a teaser. guess we'll have to get the book to find out

Kathryn Casey said...

Congrats, Laura. I'm looking forward to reading the new book!

Soobs said...

Laura, I can't wait to read this!

A Voice of Sanity said...

A lot of folks would come right out and say it: the bitch had it coming to her, and by golly, she sure got it.Nothing much has changed, has it?

dcheryl83 said...

Crime AND History all rolled in to one....how much better can it get! I will definetly be buying this book Laura.