Is the letter of James promoting "Faith without deeds . . .is empty" in response to Paul or are the Pauline references to "Faith alone" a response to James? In reading them it seems James might the oldest New Testament document.
The letter of James is believed to have been written in A.D. 45, before Paul began his ministry. Paul’s writings are dated from A.D. 50 to A.D. 70. Therefore James’ letter predates Paul’s letters.
I found an article that helps to answer your question about the seeming conflict between faith alone and faith without works being dead:
The Book of James is probably the oldest book of the New Testament, written perhaps as early as A.D. 45, before the first council of Jerusalem in A.D. 50. James was martyred in approximately A.D. 62, according to the historian Josephus.
Some think that this epistle was written in response to an overzealous interpretation of Paul’s teaching regarding faith. This extreme view, called antinomianism, held that through faith in Christ one is completely free from all Old Testament law, all legalism, all secular law, and all the morality of a society.
The Book of James is directed to Jewish Christians scattered among all the nations (James 1:1). Martin Luther, who detested this letter and called it “the epistle of straw,” failed to recognize that James’s teaching on works complemented—not contradicted—Paul’s teaching on faith. While Pauline teachings concentrate on our justification with God, James’ teachings concentrate on the works that exemplify that justification. James was writing to Jews to encourage them to continue growing in this new Christian faith. James emphasizes that good actions will naturally flow from those who are filled with the Spirit and questions whether someone may or may not have a saving faith if the fruits of the Spirit cannot be seen, much as Paul describes in Galatians 5:22-23. https://www.gotquestions.org/Book-of-James.html
Another article I found gives a Protestant view on the subject of salvation by faith alone versus faith plus works: https://www.gotquestions.org/salvation-faith-alone.html