Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Louis L’Amour. Riding for the Brand (1986)

     Louis L’Amour. Riding for the Brand (1986) A collection of short stories, the second one that L’Amour issued because some other publisher had put out a collection without his approval. I’d like to know more about the copyright issues. He added introductory remarks, which made it possible to copyright this collection, even though he’d lost the rights to some of the stories.
     The stories are nicely done bite-size chunks of typical L’Amour material: the tough loner wandering in search of some stability, who becomes entangled in a conflict despite his efforts to keep to himself, and eventually defeats the forces of disorder and chaos. His reward is of course the girl, who usually has a nice little property attached.
     L’Amour has said of himself that I like to think of myself in the oral tradition – as a troubadour, a village taleteller, the man in the shadows of the campfire. I think he’s right, especially with the reference to the troubadour, who sang songs of chivalry, of knights errant that fought and destroyed the forces of darkness, protected the weak against the rapaciousness of the strong, and were guided by a ethic that made self-preservation important only because you can’t fight if you’re dead. His romance has more than a few traits of Courtly Love, with the Girl always presented as nearly unattainable, and in every respect a paragon of womanhood.
     These short stories show that L’Amour was a master of the clearly delineated character-driven plot, and of sketching a complete world for the story’s setting. Each of these tales has enough implicit complexity to make for easy conversion to a movie.  The impression of L’Amour that one gets from them is of a man who had a strong romantic streak, a great love of the Western landscape, admiration for the people who settled there and survived, and a clear-eyed awareness of the necessity of impersonal ruthlessness when justice depends on a mans’ ability to fight and kill the lawbreaker. ***

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