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Tandra Page 1524, Books

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I’m sitting on my back porch looking out over the yard as the rising sun brightens the Eastern sky.

Back in the day, Western Writer Louis L’Amour was a very big deal indeed. That was before J. K. Rowling and her boy wizard Harry Potter books and before George R. R. Martin and his unfinished “A Song Of Ice And Fire” (adapted to the very popular “Game Of Thrones” television series) which the author abandoned half way through. I have no idea who is the popular author for the moment, but no writer is currently grabbing headlines in the State Run Media.

Louis L’Amour was a popular writer for some thirty years, cranking out primarily Western and American Frontier tales. L’Amour began his career selling stories to the pulps, cheap magazines that were beginning to lose market share as L’Amour came on the scene. L’Amour apparently wrote stories centered upon about every popular topic that was selling on the market, including detective tales, crime, adventure, fight stories and, of course, Westerns. L’Amour even wrote several books as a ghost writer for the popular Western character Hopalong Cassidy. L’Amour’s big break through came when he expanded one of his more popular short stories into his first book under his own by-line titled “Hondo”, and the tale was optioned for a movie starring John Wayne.

From that point, L’Amour went on to become one of the most popular and prolific writers in America, cranking out some eighty titles for the paperback market.

I was introduced to Louis L’Amour by my cousin who was a big fan. I began to purchase the paperbacks off the stands and liked them well enough I subscribed to the Louis L’Amour Book Club that issued his titles in hardbound “deluxe” editions. In that manner I collected pretty much every book L’Amour ever wrote as well as collections of a number of his pulp stories and even a book of his collected poetry.

L’Amour was never going to win any literary awards for the quality of his writing, but he was not aiming for the high falutin literary crowd. L’Amour’s audience was truck drivers and factory blue collar workers and every day Americans and his target audience rewarded L’Amour with purchasing his books in the hundreds of thousands, making him one of the best selling writers in the world. L’Amour may secretly have wished the New York Literary Clique would respect him, but he wept his disappointment all the way to the bank.

L’Amour was a formula writer. He had one story to tell and he told it some eighty times with variations, enough small changes in the plot to keep his readers coming back book after book. Why tinker with success? Late in his life, L’Amour did attempt to break new ground by writing tales set in mediaeval Europe and a novel of an Air Force pilot stranded in Siberia and his struggles to survive the terrible Winter there. But L’Amour’s bread and butter was the Western tale.

As a member of the Louis L’Amour Book Club, I received and read pretty much all of his books and, while L’Amour was a formula writer, he prided himself upon his research. He often made claim to have walked the land where his characters walked. He researched the attitudes and moral codes of the people he wrote about, often using first hand personal diaries of the men who actually went West and tamed the land. To that degree, L’Amour’s tales often have the ring of authenticity.

Most writers I have sampled have no idea of how people actually thought and acted in the historical framework of the tales they write. Their research, if any, is taken from third, fourth and fifth hand accounts and even from Hollywood movies. They know nothing of how people actually lived and thought in historical times.

Louis L’Amour may have been a prolific formula writer, but his books can help us understand how the men who built this nation actually lived and how they thought.

“Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God.” -Thomas Jefferson


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