My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Louis L’Amour was the West’s greatest storyteller, and given time and permission to step outside the box, he’d be more widely appreciated. This new presentation of story fragments and ephemera put together by his son Beau gives a peek into Louis’ creative process—story fragments, alternate beginnings, movie treatments, Louis’ handwritten notes and musings, photos of certain places, etc.—interspersed with Beau’s own memories of Louis’ life events and personal stories.
The book will please any fan and could be useful to aspiring authors and pulp fiction historians—before he made it big, Louis also wrote rousing international adventures for the story magazines. Though many of his stories ended up as radio dramas, television shows, and movies, his book characters, especially women and minorities, have more depth than that allowed by American culture of the 1950s-1990s. Louis had a strong interest in philosophy and metaphysics, proposing a TV series on serial reincarnation in the 1950s. He was a historian, also, and with all his novels—the Sackett novels intentionally—he painted a grassroots history of the United States through the stories of the people who lived it, the pioneers and Indians and rustlers and gold hunters trying to make a life despite robber barons, faraway legislators, and the hard trials that come along with living. Included in this book are Louis’ notes for a book on the Trail of Tears and a book about Louis Riel, who was a Metis statesman in Canada. Reading (& rereading) the breadth of his work, one finds Louis’ grand vision of America as the land of refugees, every wave of human settlement on both continents from time's beginning being an escape from some tragedy either of climate or public or private war—a vision recently confirmed by ancient DNA.
Here’s some advice he wrote to himself, and it’s the reason so many love his books, Westerns or not: “Make this a definitely superlative book...Discuss books, politics, painting, jewels, beliefs, folklore, magic, etc. Make this something really fine. With a great suspense yarn and a beautiful love story. Make the writing something very special.”
This volume is for L'Amour fans primarily, but if I've inspired you with this review—and especially if you're new to the West--there's no better introduction to the true Western sensibility than L'Amour.
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