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The Ballad of Black Bart

3.29  ·  Rating details ·  117 ratings  ·  28 reviews
The Ballad of Black Bart: a riveting western novel from Spur Award-Winning Author Loren D. Estleman.

Between July 1875 and November 1883, a single outlaw robbed the stagecoaches of Wells Fargo in California's Mother Lode country a record of twenty-eight times. Armed with an unloaded shotgun, walking to and from the scenes of the robberies, often for hundreds of miles, and l
Hardcover, 237 pages
Published November 14th 2017 by Forge
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3.29  · 
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 ·  117 ratings  ·  28 reviews

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Paul Falk
The author brought back to life a criminal of yore from the annals of the cherished, old American West. Lost in time, this desperado shared nowhere near the notoriety of famed legend Jesse James. Back in the day though, to Wells Fargo's chagrin, the Press had given him plenty of ink and made him larger-than-life. Considering that, things haven't changed much since then. He was given the moniker, Black Bart. That's what you get for dressing in black. Not very creative. What've he'd dressed in gre ...more
Blaine DeSantis
Dec 16, 2017 rated it liked it
First book that I have read from this author. Is a blend of some facts with a lot of fiction about the actions of one Charles Bolton (or is is Boles??) who for a period of years robbed Wells Fargo stages under the name of Black Bart. Short and quick read with some stanza of poetry that open each chapter and which describe what is going to happen in the chapter - some of those few lines of poetry are good and others are just OK. Black Bart was known as a gentleman bandit who robbed with a shotgun ...more
Gloria Feit
Nov 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
From the publisher: Between July 1875 and November 1883, a single outlaw robbed the stagecoaches of Wells Fargo in California’s Mother Lode country a record twenty-eight times. Armed with an unloaded shotgun, walking to and from the scenes of the robberies for hundreds of miles, and leaving poems behind, the infamous Black Bart was fiercely hunted to James B. Hume, Wells Fargo’s legendary chief of detectives. Between robberies, Black Bart was known as Charles E. Bolton, a distinguished, middle-a ...more
Dec 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another Great Estleman Book

I am convinced that years from now critics will look back and say that Estleman was the foremost practitioner of historical fiction Of his time. He has written a slew of books about the old west( not to mention his detective novels)and each, like this one, is a model of storytelling, style and research. Estleman is a gem.
Nov 28, 2017 rated it it was ok
Review by Library Journal Review
Equally the story of Charles Bolton, aka the outlaw Black Bart, and James B. Hume, Wells Fargo's chief of detectives, this well-researched historical novel transports readers to San Francisco in the late 1800s. Both men have reputations to uphold: Black Bart as the mannerly, poem-writing outlaw who robs Well Fargo stagecoaches on foot; Hume as the straight-up sleuth who uses files and investigative methods instead of guns to catch a thief. The Spur- and Shamus Awa
Christopher Taylor
Sep 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Black Bart is a fascinating story from the late 1800s, a stagecoach robber who took more than 25 stagecoaches, robbing only the Wells Fargo cash box and never passengers. He never shot anyone, in fact his shotgun was apparently never loaded. He walked to all of his robberies (and away) and he was always very polite and mannered. He even left notes in poetic form (referring to himself as Black Bart the Po8 -- poet) mocking Wells-Fargo.

This is the story of how he was tracked down by detectives wor
This historical fiction novel follows the true exploits of Charles Bolton, aka Black Bart, as he robbed stagecoaches 28 times between 1875 and 1883. Bart's target was any strongbox that belonged to Wells, Fargo which infuriated their lead detective, James Hume. As Bolton, Bart was dapper and charming; a fairly nondescript middle-aged man. As Bart he was known as the 'gentleman bandit' due to the fact that during his robberies he was unfailingly polite, never harmed anyone, and took nothing from ...more
Joel Mitchell
Dec 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
I don’t care for Westerns, but this tale of the poetry-writing, walking-rather-than-riding “gentleman bandit” with a grudge against Wells Fargo was an entertaining read. It isn’t a typical Western, but more like “novelized history.” In other words, the author has meticulously researched the people and events he is writing about and retells their story while inventing some dialogue and inner thoughts and using his imagination to flesh out the details (think Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels or R ...more
Feb 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
An excellent addition to the Estleman Western catalog. The real “Black Bart” was actually Charles Boles, gentlemanly, poetry-writing stagecoach robber who defied California law enforcement and the Wells&Fargo Company from 1875-1883. Boles was definitely not your typical highwayman, and this not a typical “good guys/bad guys” tale. He never rode a horse, but walked everywhere, he used an unloaded shotgun, and stole only from the Wells Fargo strongbox, never from any individual. Oh, and he lef ...more
John Walker
Nov 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A highly entertaining on the notorious outlaw,Black Bart, who acts is crimes alone, with an unloaded shotgun never riding away but walked away from his deeds without committing one act of violence. Is recorded here by master writer Loren Estleman.

Mostly true centering around the chess game between Bart and the Chief Wells Fargo detective James Hume, who wants Bart in prison. This is not as easy as it seems, for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid with the Union Pacific railroad, Bart has it in fo
David C Ward
Nov 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Can't beat a good western. Estelman is an exceptional (and prolific) storyteller - both detective novels and westerns. This one is a quasi historical novel about Black Bart, whose quiet sense of grievance against Wells, Fargo led him to a career as a stage coach bandit. Estleman gives Bart's life an understated pathos - a man lost in mid19th century America. The detectives are interesting and are as lost except for their jobs. Estleman's prose can be a bit elaborate and I suspect some of his mor ...more
This is the first Estleman I've read, and I really enjoyed it. He makes the point several times that this is fictionalized history since it is based on a real western character. While the character name was familiar; I've been a fan of westerns, both written and filmed, for a long time, having grown up while Roy Rogers and the Lone Ranger were on black and white tv; I had presumed it was simply a dime novel name of the old west.
I'm looking forward to more Estleman; I think I have one of the Det
William Puddy
Aug 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
A most enjoyable story written in the language of the turn of the century (the 19th to 20th, that is). The bodacious old West stage robber transformed himself into the audacious San Francisco gentleman, or was it the other way around? He was the scourge of Wells, Fargo, a one man guerilla army fulfilling a self righteous vendetta, and he was a poet whose rhyme brought him fame. With apologies to Prince Edward and Deep Purple (, this book calls for a song ...more
Mar 01, 2018 rated it liked it
A gold rush, armed robbery, a dogged detective, and a poet who named himself "Black Bart, the Po8".

This historical novel recounts the life and times of Charles Bolton and James Hume, the man who was determined to catch the "polite" robber who kept attacking the Wells Fargo stagecoaches. While parts of the book are fictionalized, the story stays true to most of what history knows of the mysterious man and how he spent his life before and during his criminal life on the road. It is an interesting
Jun 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: library-copy
This was outside my normal reading preferences.

It is set in historic San Francisco, so I gave it a try.

It is a fictional account of Black Bart, who was an actual person who robbed Wells & Fargo stage coaches for profit. In a bit of irony, he then deposited his loot in a Wells Fargo bank.

He was pursued by an ex police working for Wells & Fargo.

Loved the poetry and the writing.

I borrowed a copy from the public library.
Michael Brown
Feb 05, 2018 rated it it was ok
A novella --- could have been a short story about a small episode in the San Francisco heyday of the gold / silver rushes and a unique robber of Wells Fargo. The hunter and the hunted are described as best as can be detailed from real life with various liberties taken in the chronicle of Black Bart the stage robber who walked to and from his crimes for a decade of mischief.
Linda B
Feb 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
A real story fictionalized about a robber who went only after Wells Fargo wagons. He approached and left on foot, never on a horse and committed, I think, over 80 robberies! The Wells Fargo agent in charge of investigating took each robbery personally and finally tracked down the thief. It was a decent representation of the times and the story.
Polly Krize
Dec 03, 2017 rated it liked it
I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Robbing the Wells Fargo stagecoaches 28 times (!) made Charles E. Bolton into a notorious, wanted outlaw. He dressed in black, hence the nickname. Chief detective for Wells Fargo, James B. Hume, vows to stop the thefts. Brings a little-known story of the American West to life.
May 10, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: westerns
This is a whimsical sort of western ... not much action, because it is about a mild mannered robber who never would kill anyone - he has a bent for poetry and just robs Wells Fargo stage coaches for a living. Very entertaining.
Donna Zigmont
Mar 08, 2018 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book more than I did. I saw such great reviews for the book and author. But it just wasn't my cup of tea. I've read other books in this genre and liked them a lot which is why I chose this one. But it just wasn't for me.
Dec 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Whoa! So good, great introduction to a new author for me. Excited to check out more.

The descriptive phrasing style took me a few chapters to get used to, but it was worth hanging with it and rereading a few passages. They eventually blended into the story for me and became less of a distraction
Feb 18, 2018 rated it liked it
I picked it for the "book with alliteration in the title" in the PopSugar 2018 Reading Challenge. It a fairly easy read and more or less interesting, but not hugely so. I like historical fiction, but I just really didn't get into this book that much.
Dec 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, westerns
Written in somewhat a stilted form of language, the book thus thoroughly presented the character and personality of "Black Bart".
Sep 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Westerns are fun sometimes... enjoyable if slightly trivial...
Apr 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Interesting and fun read in fine prose, and po8try!
Victorique Crawford
This was just way too much telling and not enough of showing. A lot of things were told which made it difficult for me to even like any of the characters at all. I mean it.

Nothing about the story really touched me. And the way it was so distant made it even harder for me to like the story. And sadly, it just didn’t catch my attention enough.

The characters are basically background props, they don’t really have anything which intrigue me or capture the attention. And I found the book to be rather
Elisha Roberts
Feb 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
rated it it was amazing
Nov 21, 2017
Prof Plum
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Apr 10, 2018
Linda Dodero
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Mar 08, 2018
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Play Book Tag: The Ballad of Black Bart by Loren Estleman - 3 stars 1 8 Feb 23, 2019 09:13PM  
Loren D. Estleman is an American writer of detective and Western fiction. He writes with a manual typewriter.

Estleman is most famous for his novels about P.I. Amos Walker. Other series characters include Old West marshal Page Murdock and hitman Peter Macklin. He has also written a series of novels about the history of crime in Detroit (also the setting of his Walker books.) His non-series works in