Thursday, September 10, 2015

Book Review - The Wild West of Louis L'Amour

The Wild West of Louis L'Amour: An Illustrated Companion to the Frontier Fiction of an American Icon

By: Tim Champlin
Publisher: Voyageur Press
Publication Date: August 2015
ISBN: 978-0760346884
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: September 11, 2015

There’s nothing like sitting down in a favorite comfy sofa on a cold winter’s day and getting lost in a Louis L’Amour novel. The reader is taken to a long-ago world, as the Old West comes to life under his expert guidance. Now, Tim Champlin, fellow Western historical fiction author, guides the reader through the real frontier world that shaped L’Amour’s novels.

With over 100 published works to his credit, Louis L’Amour is THE author most people associate with western fiction. Born in North Dakota, L’Amour knew well the land and people he wrote about. While his novels took place in the post-Civil War American West, not much had changed between those years and L’Amour’s youth. He wrote about the land, the cowboys, the villains and the animals that, with perhaps the exception of the ‘bad guys,’ still flourish in the West. As an avid fan of L’Amour’s, Tim Champlin thought it was time to capture that world in a book. Now, with stunning photographs and interesting text, he guides the reader through that world and it’s a trip you shouldn’t miss.

Champlin starts his book with a brief biography of L’Amour and then gets to the meat of the book, the world that L’Amour wrote about. Divided into ten chapters, including The Lay of the Land; Gunfighters; Mining and Ranching; Women; Food and Transportation; Indians; as well as Gold and Glory, the author uses an abundance of visually stunning images to accompany his text. These pictures include original paintings and illustrations, photographs from the era L’Amour set his stories in as well as contemporary photos.

Champlin frequently ties his text into specific L’Amour novels which I found particularly interesting. For example, in the chapter on ‘Women’ where there are numerous original photos of ‘rough’ women, the author notes that L’Amour rarely portrayed his women in a negative light. However, “...L’Amour in North to the Rails, depicted a totally different type of woman. Sarah..the greedy, murderous one of the pair...” (pg. 87) and across the page from this is a photo of Laura Bullion, a member of the Butch Cassidy gang.

The author has also included several informative sub-sections within chapters such as one on “Firearms Development” in the Gunfighters chapter as well as my favorite, “Slip Ups and Miscues” that discusses the intense schedule L’Amour’s publisher kept him on and the ‘oops/errors’ that found their way into his books because of the speed at which they were written and published. There is a lot of information packed into this book and whether you’re an avid Louis L’Amour fan or just love reading about the West, this is a great book to add to your collection.

Quill says: A perfect companion book for Louis L’Amour fans as well as an all-around enjoyable and informative book for those who simply wish to learn more about the Old West.

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