Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday’s Forgotten Books: High Lonesome by Louis L’Amour

A hen pecked at something in the street, a dog rolled in the warm dust. Several horses were hitched to the rail. One by one he checked off the things he saw, glancing once, sharply, at the bank from under his hat brim, then he tilted it back on his head once more so they could see his face. He wanted to be recognized... they must all know he was in town.

He is Considine, and he and his wild bunch intend to rob the bank in the town of Obaro where Pete Runyon is sheriff and married to the woman Considine once loved. The plan is simple: Considine will create a distraction by challenging Runyon to a fistfight while the rest of the gang robs the bank. It goes off without a hitch. Considine and company escape, heading for Mexico. Along the way, they discover that an old acquaintance, Dave Spanyer, and his beautiful daughter, Lennie, have wandered into Apache territory. They decide to do the right thing by going to the top of High Lonesome to save them. L'Amour writes:

Nor were they free of the images their own minds held of themselves. The man on horseback, the lone-riding man, the lone-thinking man, possessed an image of himself that was in part his own, in part a piece of all the dime novels he had read, for no man is free of the image his literature imposes upon him.

And the dime novel made the western hero a knight-errant, a man on horseback rescuing the weak and the helpless. Never consciously in their thoughts, to these men without words the image was there-and more. For Lennie was the sweetheart, the sister, the wife, each one of them would have… if only in daytime dreams.

Wonderful writing style. You don't need to be a fan of the western genre to know the name L'Amour is synonymous with excellence. I have always been aware of his status and didn’t realize what I had been missing until I read this book. After reading High Lonesome, I won't pass up a chance to read another L’Amour classic.

Click here for more of Friday’s Forgotten Books courtesy of Patti Abbott...

14 comments:

Travis Erwin said...

I once went through a phase for where I read nothing but Louis Lamour. Lots of good stuff but after awhile many of them begin to feel like the same story.

Charles Gramlich said...

Definitely a good book. I also remember fondly, "a man called Noon," "Utah Blaine," and "Dark Canyon."

Barrie said...

I have never read a Louis L'Amour. How did that happen?

James Reasoner said...

My favorite L'Amour novels are TO TAME A LAND, a great kitchen-sink Western, and FLINT, which someone once described to me as the sort of Western John D. MacDonald would have written. I don't know about that, but I did like it a lot. HIGH LONESOME is one of the good ones, too. But as Travis says, L'Amour's plots tend to be very repetitive and he was also pretty careless at times in keeping up with the details of what he was writing. Even his not-so-good books are still fairly entertaining, though, and when he was on his game he was one of the best of all time. You should check out his short story collections, too. I think he was actually a better short story writer than he was a novelist.

David Cranmer said...

Travis, I know what you mean... I've experienced that with other authors.

Charles, I'll have to add those to my neverending must read list.

Barrie, based on this one book, you can't go wrong.

James, I'm getting ready to purchase another short story collection this week and I think I'll add L'Amour's.

Merelyme said...

I have not read any of his books...but you have inspired me to want to pick up one of his novels.

Ray said...

The first Louis L'Amour book I read was 'The First Fast Draw' - not a bad deal for a 13 year old kid who parted company with a War Picture Library comic to get hold of it.
'Flint' I got off the same kid for a rare bubble gum wrapper.
From then on L'Amour became one of my two favourite western writers (the other was Frank C Robertson).
Unfortunately, what was magic for a kid for me, now in my sixties, I can see the same storylines told a little differently. Still the magic is still there - the words draw me back in and, for a while, I see it all again through that's child's eye. And they still enthrall me.

Randy Johnson said...

Good one. My favorites of his were the Sackett novels.

Chris said...

I've just read three L'Amour short story collections in a row and, though I'm not claiming he's the king of originality or anything, I'm surprised that I don't find myself thinking "More of the same, more of the same" as I'm reading. I tend to think of the process in terms of "Is this engaging, or not?" For the most part, the 30 or so stories I've read so far have been the former. There are two exceptions, which you can read about on my blog.

Thanks, David, for the review. Why, you're not on my blogroll, I don't know, but I'm putting you there now. :)

David Cranmer said...

Ray, I know what you mean. The same goes for me and Robert B. Parker. I'm still a fan but I don't get the same kick as when I was young and reading Valediction for the first time.

Randy, I've heard The Sacketts are a favorite of fans. I remember seeing The Shadow Riderswith Tom Selleck on TV and liking it quite a bit. I'm sure the books are ten times better.

Chris, As a short story writer and based on your and James's opinions, I'll pick up a L'Amour short story collection tomorrow. Thanks for adding Pulp Writer-I've added a link to your L'Amour Project.

Scott Parker said...

As I mentioned on my blog, I inherited a box of non L'amour westerns from my grandfather. So far, I've read one book by William Colt MacDonald. My dad has the L'amour books. I enjoyed your review and, along with my reading over at the L'amour Project, I'm going to have to go over there and pick up a few. Brionne is the one western I have by L'amour with me. I also have his Hills of Homicide collection as his Night over the Solomons collections. I'm going to have to make a concerted effort to read some L'amour books and High Lonesome is now on that list as is Flint.

BTW, I enjoy your blog and your title seems to be the same thing I'm doing: going to the University of Pulp Fiction. I plan to have a major in Crime Fiction and, the more I read, I think I want a minor in Western Fiction. Thanks for doing what you do.

ARCHAVIST said...

Lamour has always been a favourite of mine. He's pretty much the only western author you can buy almost anywhere.

David Cranmer said...

Merelyme, I'm sure you will enjoy these books.

Scott, Thanks for the kind words and I checked your site and will be returning on a regular basis. After reading High Lonesome I will also return to The L'amour Project to find other worthy titles. Like I've mentioned I'm a little new to reading the western genre but I can recommend Luke Short and amongst our community here: Galveston Gunman by Bill Crider and James Reasoner's Longarm novels. Excellent reading.

Archavist, I agree L'Amour is everywhere. I'm having a field day with all the western books I'm discovering right now.

Chris said...

@Scott

Let me know which L'Amour titles you pick up. I'll be reading the short stories for awhile, given my current pace.