The first book I’ve finished in 2009 was not on my to-do list; in fact, it was quite a surprise. On a recent trip to the library, I was looking for something else on a rack of genre paperbacks and noticed Sackett. It was short and looked inviting. As I’d never read a Louis L’Amour novel before, I figured this might make as good a start as any, and I figured I might squeeze it in.
I glanced at the first page at a red light on my way home, and it was all I read during my bits of spare time over the next couple days. I wish I’d had the fortitude to stay up later and read it all that first night.
L’Amour’s voice is crystal clear and original. There are clichés, of course, but L’Amour puts them in a historical context that takes their grounding in reality for granted and reminds us of how they came to be clichés in the first place. But for every drawling challenge delivered in a saloon we also get private epics of survival in the glorious untamed wilderness. This must be my penchant for Romantic landscapes bubbling up, but I was captivated by the frequent scenes of gritty worship of the rugged outdoors.
L’Amour’s little novel has plenty of action, but it’s never padded; no exaggerated Hollywood nonsense here. If an actual pioneer were writing a diary of these events, it wight well read just like this.
I returned Sackett and picked up a collection of L’Amour’s stories and his novel The Quick and the Dead. Both are excellent so far, and I’m surprised to find an honest range of emotion in his short stories (the first one I read was a tragic sketch about sailors in China).
Sackett isn’t the first in L’Amour’s series of novels tracking the adventures of the Sackett family, so you might want to start with another one. Myself, I intend to go back and enjoy them all. I’ve even entertained the notion of setting aside a year and reading nothing but L’Amour’s complete works. It would undeniably be time well spent.
But now that I’ve read my first, I have to grapple with the question, how in the world did I make it to my 30’s without ever reading a Louis L’Amour novel?