When I was in high school a friend suggested I try reading a Louis L’Amour book, and I didn’t enjoy it. A small group of people were struggling across the desert and then they reached the ocean and it was done. Bleh.
About a year later I was camping with a friend and he brought The Last of the Breed by L’Amour, and I read the first few pages one afternoon. That night after he hit the sack I read the next 200 pages. He let me borrow it and my whole family read it, and we read it to pieces. We bought him a nice hardcover copy in thanks. That’s when I fell in love with Louis L’Amour books.
Over the next 3 years or so I read everything he ever wrote. He had a contract to write 3 books per year, which is kind of crazy. Most of them were about 120-150 pages each, mostly about the American West in the 1800’s. This is what gave him a reputation as a western novelist. He had well over 100 novels released in his lifetime.
While writing all those short novels though, he was working on his long form novels, and those were my favorite. Only a couple were about the American West. The Last of the Breed is set in the 1980’s in Siberia. The Walking Drum is set in the 1100’s over most of Europe. Jubal Sackett is set in America in the early 1600’s and ranges from the East Coast to the other side of the Mississippi.
He also did an excellent series about the Sackett family. It starts in England in 1599 and over the next couple books moves to the East Coast of America, and even dips down into the Caribbean a bit. It swings through the 1700’s once, and then follows several brothers across the American West in the 1800’s. Most of these are pretty short, but a few are longer, and Jubal Sackett is very long.
Someone asked me for some favorites recently, and I’d like to say that I like them all because he’s an excellent writer. I’ve read other Western Novelists and found that I don’t really prefer the genre. L’Amour is just excellent. But here’s a list.
The Walking Drum is by far my favorite.
The Last of the Breed by far my second favorite, I did a review once long ago.
The Lonesome Gods is set in the American West, but it’s long form, and tons more history and politics of early California in it. Did you know Las Vegas was Yerba Buena first? Good herb sounds like a great name for a city in California.
I love the entire Sackett series, it’s just great.
West From Singapore, Yondering, and Beyond the Great Snow Mountains are all collections of short stories set in the early 20th century, in the South Pacific, and both Eastern and Western Asia . Many of these were inspired by L’Amour’s time in those locations at that time. There’s a strong feeling of Indiana Jones in here, and he wrote them decades before Indy came on the scene.
Sitka is set in Alaska, so it has that frontier feel, but it’s a different location.
The Ferguson Rifle is about the first quick-load rifle, and the impact it had on the West.
I’ll let it go at that, but keep in mind that just about everything he wrote is great. Wikipedia has a nice book list, look at the series, those are always a little better because he plans well.