Many a year ago - okay a few years ago - I thought books by Louis L'Amour were just "books my grandpa used to read." Or I thought they were "man books" or something - maybe because I only knew of men reading them - grandfathers in particular. But all that changed when a fellow teacher (yep, a man and yep, a grandfather) handed me a copy of Last of the Breed and told me he thought I'd like it. I was a bit skeptical, but then again he and his wife had gotten me hooked on the Horatio Hornblower movies done by A&E (and subsequently the books) so I figured he had good taste!
Last of the Breed has become one of my most recommended books.
It took me by surprise firstly because it's not about a cowboy as I thought all L'Amour books were (so. not. true.) but rather an Air Force pilot! I loved it and wanted more.
My neighbor George has all the L'Amour books and has read them all at least a couple times so he started loaning me stacks of them. I worked my way through the entire Sackett series lickety split (my favorite is probably Ride the Dark Trail) and branched out to others like The Walking Drum (also not about cowboys) and one of my other favorites The Lonesome Gods, an epic about the early days in California.
My stack of L'Amours is mostly inherited from my grandpa and barely scratches the surface of this prolific writer.
You can see I don't have a copy of Last of the Breed - I've bought that book probably four times and I keep loaning it out and people end up keeping it. I like to think it's because it's just that good.
Another surprising thing about L'Amour's books are that he is quite the philosopher.
“Up to a point a man's life is shaped by environment, heredity and movement and changes in the world about him; then there comes a time when it lies within his grasp to shape the clay of his life into the sort of thing he wishes to be. Only the weak blame parents, their race, their times, lack of good fortune, or the quirks of fate. Everyone has it within his power to say this I am today, that I shall be tomorrow. The wish, however, must be implemented by deeds.”
I usually keep a notebook handy when reading so I can jot down lines that I found particularly inspiring (or funny, because there's plenty of that too).
I even made art out of one of my favorite quotes and you can check that post out here.
Now that I've waxed poetic about his great writing are there some that aren't so great? Yep. I just finished Fair Blows the Wind, a swashbuckling tale - which is why I chose it! - and it turned out to be my least favorite so far. And there are some that make me raise an eyebrow in disbelief; like the one where the shy man who isn't good with women "just happens" to find a beautiful, abandoned woman in the middle of the mountains of nowhere and they fall in love. Riiiiiiiiight. Somehow that is less believable to me than the supernatural angle in The Haunted Mesa.
All in all? If you haven't given a L'Amour a try I heartily recommend it, even for women. While plenty of the stories are filled with manliness (honestly I have a crush on half his characters) and gunfights, there is so much more to the stories and it's that wonderful blend that keeps me coming back for more.