Growing up, my dad had a sizable collection of books written by Louis L’Amour. They were all part of a matching set, with brown leatherette covers (hey, you can still buy them). I always liked the look of them, taking up the bottom shelf of the family bookcase. For a while, in my teens, I blew through them, and remember finding them enjoyable.
This time? Not so much.
Louis L’Amour published 100 novels and over 250 short stories in his long career, and is as readily identified with the Western genre as Stephen King is with horror. Louis L’Amour is the Western novel. That meant a lot more during his heyday (the 1950s through the 1970s), but even now all his books remain in print.
The Rider of Lost Creek is a fairly standard Western story. Lance Kilkenny, feared gunman, rides into Live Oak country, where a budding range war is developing. Kilkenny, who always rides alone and doesn’t take sides, takes a side. The person at the center of the whole thing knows Kilkenny, and wants revenge for a wrong done a long time ago.
It’s all pretty standard stuff. L’Amour isn’t breaking new ground, here – which is odd for someone who wrote so often about the frontier. Anyway.
Let’s see if this book checks all the boxes:
- solitary hero
- feisty and beautiful woman
- fastest gun in the west
- lots of violence that would be PG if filmed as written
- formulaic story
- no people of color (except a woman who says señor a lot)
- pedestrian writing
Yep. I’m pretty sure the checklist was complete, here.
There was obviously a huge market for these books, and it’s not hard to see why. There isn’t much depth, here, and the only growth is in the love interest – in that she grows to love Kilkenny.
There is a thick strain of Americanism, here. I remember a George Bush political ad from the 1988 campaign with Lee Greenwood singing “God Bless the USA”. That was playing on a constant loop while reading this book. I’m only being slightly hyperbolic, here. I’m not a fan of jingoism. or American exceptionalism. Or pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. Which is why – even though this book was reasonably entertaining – I can’t say I liked this book.
I’m not the audience – which I can only assume was a white man who grew up watching Leave it to Beaver and John Wayne movies. So, if you like those things, this might be the book for you.