Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Louis L’Amour. Shalako (1962)

     Louis L’Amour. Shalako (1962) Shalako, a man with no past, meets up with a European hunting party led by Frederick von Hallstatt, a Prussian baron who wants to enjoy a “skirmish” with the Apache. Irina Carnarvon, whom Shalako accompanied back to the camp after finding their wagon-master dead, lends him her horse, and he leaves to find a place to hole up while the Apache deal with the hunting party and move on. But he of course he can’t stay away. One bloody event leads to another, the Prussian baron learns that his officer training is useless against guerrilla tactics, most of the hunting party die, Shalako fights a duel with Tats-ah-das-ay-go, a ruthless Apache warrior, and wins, barely. Shalako and Irina ride off together.
     L’Amour knew exactly what he was doing. His stories are chivalric romances. He puts us directly into the landscape, we can feel the heat, smell the dust, see the sun-bleached colours. The characters are just this side of caricature, what makes them believable is their ability to learn and change. The hero must overcome his impulse to avoid adult responsibility. As Tats-ah-das-ay-go falls to his death, Shalako cries out “Warrior! Brother!” and comes close to weeping.
      I like L’Amour’s books, even though they cover the same ground over and over again. He knows how to vary the plots, his narrative pace and rhythm keep us wanting to read. His writing is compact, there are no wasted words. This one is above his average. ***

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