Joe Jackson

The Man, The Myth, The Books

Selected Works

Biography
"An astonishingly rich saga . . . Jackson's biography works to represent 'the flesh-and-blood wicasa wakan' (holy man) . . . We see Black Elk balancing tradition and modernity, with fleeting but vivid scenes of him on a ferris wheel and in a movie house. We hear of struggles within subsequent generations over his legacy and Lakota identity more generally. Jackson succeeds in interweaving the secular and the spiritual to the point that the non-native reader can experience Harney Peak in the Black Hills . . . as what [Black Elk] knew it to be: the centre of the world." ―Christine Bold, The Times Literary Supplement
Nonfiction
"A penetrating evaluation of Lindbergh's triumph set against the backdrop of the hero-worshipping Twenties. Painstakingly researched, Jackson's balanced work is a singular contribution to the history of flight in general and to Lindbergh historiography in particular. Highly recommended." -- Library Journal (starred review)
"An exhilarating narrative, sweeping us through great discoveries and international rivalries.... Here is the drama of the scientist made real." -- Jenny Uglow, author of The Lunar Men: Five Friends Whose Curiosity Changed the World
"A tragic yet triumphant book about the limits of humanity and human endurance."
--Publishers Weekly
"Leavenworth Train is an express ride into one man's nightmare and redemption."
--American History
Fiction
"A frog-coughing, spider-barking, toad-strangling jim-dandy of a road novel."
--The Orlando Sentinel
Nonfiction; True Crime
"A gripping tale of a death-row inmate's life and eventual death in the Virginia prison system . . . [and]an intriguing, sometimes darkly comic, saga of the escape of death-row inmates who became known as the 'Mecklenberg Six.' Readers looking for a true-crime story that reaches for broader themes, such as THE EXECUTIONER'S SONG, will find one in DEAD RUN. -- The Orlando Sentinel

Works

Black Elk: The Life of an American Visionary
Winner of the PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography
Best Biography of 2016, True West magazine
Winner of the Western Writers of America 2017 Spur Award, Best Western Biography
Finalist, National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography
One of the Best Books of 2016, The Boston Globe

"Black Elk stands out for its comprehensiveness, wide-ranging historical context, and the author's deftly apposite quotation from contemporary sources . . . In addition to seating Black Elk in his time and in the events he witnessed, Jackson gives a genuine sense of the inner man, the conflict in his soul between his Indian heritage and identity and his clear-sighted, hardnosed understanding of the compromises and capitulations necessary for his and the Lakota's survival . . . Drawing on immense research, Joe Jackson has given us the story of a man and a people whose land, way of life, and culture were the target of a concentrated project of extermination by the United States Government. This is a heart-wrenching book and a powerful, highly readable contribution to Native American history. It is a history that―as recent events at Standing Rock and the refusal of clemency to Leonard Peltier show―is just as pertinent today as it was during the 86-year span of Black Elk's life." ―Katherine A. Powers, Critical Mass, the blog of the National Book Critics Circle Board of Directors

"In Black Elk, Joe Jackson paints a vivid portrait of a figure that has often been shrouded in shadows. This extraordinary book will transform the way readers think about the history of the United States and its indigenous peoples." ―Ari Kelman, author of A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling Over the Memory of Sand Creek, winner of the Bancroft Prize

Atlantic Fever: Lindbergh, His Competitors, and the Race to Cross the Atlantic
"A talented storyteller re-creates the signature moment of aviation's golden age. . . . Jackson rescues the stories of these and other fliers, some of them killed, the rest severely marked by the great race. Throughout, he folds in unfailingly apt observations about the psychology of aviators, the peculiar mix of wealth and want that characterized the 1920s, the hunger for heroes, the role of chance and the turbocharging effect of mass media. . . . With stirring detail and perceptive insight about the pilots and the public, Jackson recaptures the tone and tenor of a frantic era's national obsession." -- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

The Thief at the End of the World: Rubber, Power, and the Seeds of Empire
Top Ten Books of 2008, Time magazine

"Henry Wickham wasn't smart, he wasn't rich, and he definitely wasn't lucky. What he was, was determined. In 1866, when he was 20, he sailed for the Amazon in search of exotic feathers for his mother's hat business back in London. That was a failure, like everything else he tried, but he caught the Amazon bug, and 10 years later he pulled off the one spectacular success of his life. In defiance of malaria, anacondas, electric eels, freshwater stingrays, Confederate colonists, customs inspectors and Yanomamo tribesmen, he smuggled 70,000 priceless rubber seeds out of Brazil and back to England."
-- Time magazine

A World on Fire: A Heretic, an Aristocrat, and the Race to Discover Oxygen
"It is impossible to read A World on Fire without admiring the raw courage shown by the pioneers of science. Joe Jackson vividly recreates the drama of men prepared to risk everything--homes, reputations, even their lives--to understand how the world worked. What they achieved directly affects our lives today, and this enthralling account of their battles is especially welcome at a time when science finds itself under renewed attack."
-- Andro Linklater, author of Measuring America

"A probing composite portrait of two martyrs of science."
-- Booklist

A Furnace Afloat: The Wreck of the Hornet and the Harrowing 4,300-mile Voyage of its Survivors
"Mr. Jackson (is) an author with inexhaustible curiosity. He has produced a book of far wider scope than its disaster and ordeal outline; the Hornet voyage under Jackson's skilled pen is a looking glass put to the human spirit under ultimate stress."
--The Washington Times

How I Left the Great State of Tennessee and Went on to Better Things
"A darkly humorous fable...that resembles the best of pulp fiction and the most deranged of 1950s drive-in movies."
--Atlanta Journal-Constitution


"A wonderfully sad, funny, and frightening novel in which cheerfully murderous miscreants vie with nature for destructive force.... I loved every breathless word."
--Fred Chappell

Leavenworth Train: A Fugitive's Search for Justice in the Vanishing West
Finalist: 2002 Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime Book.

"[A] journalistic meditation on frustrated fantasies, crime, punishment, justice and absolution.... The haunted fugitive comes alive in this absorbing narrative recounting a headlong flight into justice and mercy."
--The Washington Post Book World

Dead Run: The Shocking Story of Dennis Stockton and Life on Death Row in America
"A superb book. . . . Any open-minded reader of DEAD RUN is bound to reach a new understanding of how elastic the meanings of good and evil can be within the American system of criminal justice."
-- Steven Weinberg, The Christian Science Monitor

"A remarkable prison narrative."
-- The Philadelphia Inquirer