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Mark Herder
The Second Coming of Jesse James
Mark Herder, author
During the Great Depression, people lost more than their life savings. They lost hope. Betrayed by their faith in government, industry, and even God, they romanticized the rebel outlaws who operated outside the system: John Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde, Baby Face Nelson. In the novel The Second Coming of Jesse James, the common people hail Jack Carpenter – moonshiner, hell raiser, and third-rate bank robber – as a latter-day Jesse James sent to deliver them from the scourge of banks and other “vested interests.” When Jack tries to live up to his own myth, he sets out on a path leading to both tragedy and redemption.

Semi Finalist

Plot/Idea: 10 out of 10
Originality: 10 out of 10
Prose: 10 out of 10
Character/Execution: 10 out of 10
Overall: 10.00 out of 10


Plot: This novel is engaging and entertaining. The humor and the underdog theme draw readers into the well-plotted story. Readers will cheer for Jack Carpenter.

Prose: The prose is technically flawless. The pacing is perfect, the scenes are well crafted, and the storytelling is thoroughly enjoyable. 

Originality: The premise of this book is wholly original. But what really stands out is the great use of dialect.

Character Development: Jack has a voice readers will not forget. His dialogue is original and fits him perfectly. Rattles is also thoroughly developed and has a strong voice.

Date Submitted: July 18, 2018

Herder celebrates a Depression-era scoundrel in a tale that’s equally delightful and haunting. Jack Carpenter quickly matures from farm boy to rakish moonshiner. His days are spent chasing women and smuggling whiskey through Newkonska County, Mo. Jack relies on luck and charm to get by, but his luck runs out when a brush with the law lands him in jail and his girl marries his best friend. With his family’s farm lost to the bank, and nothing else to live for, Jack teams up with his friend from jail, Reverend Rattles, once they are out, to begin a bank-robbing crusade against the “vested interests” across America that will turn Jack “Jesse James” Carpenter into the people’s hero, a wanted felon, and eventually, a dead man. Jack is filled with a ceaseless stubbornness and the kind of commitment to bad ideas that makes for rollicking fun. Herder’s humor gradually gives way to the bloody end apparent from the start. This is smart, heartfelt, and rambunctious from start to finish. (BookLife)