Louis L'Amour

The Collected Stories by and the real story of Louis L’Amour
Often in works of fiction the experiences of the author help to shape his or her work. The Collected Short Stories of Louis L’Amour: The Frontier Stories exemplifies this. In his life he lived the stories he penned and he truly could have been of the characters in his stories.
L’Amour was born in North Dakota. He left home at the age of 15 to find out more about the world. He worked as a lumberjack, seaman, miner, cattle skinner, and an officer in the transportation corps during the Second World War. He was a professional boxer, and winner of 51 of 59 fights. He sailed around the world, was shipwrecked in the West Indies, and stranded in the Mojave Desert. These experiences, along with a lifetime of research, gave L’Amour’s stories an accuracy so often missing in the western genre, as well as an earnestness that can only be conveyed by one who has experienced what the characters have experienced.
L’Amours stories tell of tough, independent, proud, honest men and women struggling through the hardscrabble lifestyle of the western frontier of the 1800’s. Would their stories carry the same meaning if L’Amour did not have an intimate knowledge of these exact experiences? These characters are ranchers, crop farmers, gamblers, miners, cowboys, sheriffs, and outlaws. How would someone have been able to tell their stories so effectively if they had not lived such a similar lifestyle? The conflicts are many and easy to recognize and define, but not to resolve. Men and women struggle against themselves as they wrestle with moral dilemmas and decisions, they fight against others and forces of nature such as floods, the desert and blizzard; and they fight against evil in its many forms, like corruption, greed, and cruelty. More often than not the resolution comes from guns or fists. Some of the most effective actions sequences in the stories involve fist fights. L’Amour’s days as a professional boxer are seen in the precise detail and science of the fights, and felt in the emotion of the fighters; emotions which were no doubt felt by L’Amour when he was a fighter, and when he served in World War II.
These conflicts are always resolved, the evil are always defeated, the good are triumphant and happy and they have learned something about themselves, and chances are someone is going to get married. Indeed the most “distinguished” or “cultured” readers might say that L’Amour’s works are clichéd or overwrought, and that he is pigeonholed. But there is something immensely refreshing in reading his works. His works celebrate the strength of morals and hard work and the triumph of the individual. His works share these themes with the American story, especially of the conquering of the west. And much of why these stories have such meaning is that the experiences discussed in them are those experienced by the author himself. (JV 2013)

Use of Natural Images in Collected Short Stories of Louis L’Amour: Part II

The use of imagery in any work is essential to adding flavor to the piece. The use of natural imagery in The Collected Short Stories of Louis L’Amour: The Frontier Stories, Part II is especially effective in contributing to the engrossing quality of L’Amour’s stories.
L’Amour often uses comparison between character descriptions and animal descriptions. For example in “That Packsaddle Affair” a character is introduced as: “A narrow-shouldered man with thin wolf’s face…” Without any other description offered aspects of the character can be assumed by his comparison to a wolf; wolves are fierce and dangerous hunters, they traditionally have an evil image, and are identified as sly and stealthy animals. Therefore this individual can be assumed to not be the friendliest, and that he probably shares these qualities. Moreover, in the story “In Victorio’s Country”, Red Clanahan is described as having “…wide-jawed bulldogs face…” implying that he shares the strength and stubborn resolve of a bulldog. Both of these descriptions occur within the first page of the story. These characters show that the use of comparison to animals can effectively identify the character with no other information yet given.
Natural imagery is also used to discreetly describe the situation at hand in the story. For example in “Lit a Shuck for Texas” the Sandy Kid is chasing a stray ladino steer when he reaches an area called the willows. “Beyond the willows was a thicket of brush, rock, and cactus that made riding precarious and roping almost suicidal, and once that steer got into the tangle beyond he was gone.” It is right after this exchange that the Kid finds himself in a crevice where he finds the skeleton of a murdered prospector, and discovers that there is gold in the area, which brings upon the series of dangerous events leading to the climax. Just as the natural description of the rocks and the cactus and the danger of trying to rope the steer is tense and uncomfortable and restricting it foreshadows the discovery of the crevice and the prospector’s body. Another example is in “Lonigan” where the story opens with “Heat lay like the devil’s curse…”, and “The sun was almost lost in the brassy sky…” Following this description is Calkins revelation to Ruth Gurney that her herd will likely die and that she will probably will become broke. This reflects the devil’s curse and the loss of the sun reflects the loss of hope. Finally there is “West of Dry Creek” which takes place entirely during a massive blizzard, which foreshadows the impending danger. These all show how the natural imagery of L’Amour is able to set the stage and reflect and foreshadow the events of the story.
Finally the natural imagery illustrates the experiences of the characters and that they have a close relationship with and a distinct knowledge of nature. In “Regan of the Slash B” the title character describes watching “…wolves cut in and rip the herds to bits…” This gruesome imagery illustrates that he is a man who has experienced the dark and unpleasant side of nature and his acceptance of the natural way of things. It shows that his encounters with nature and its beauty as well as its harshness have given him an appreciation for nature and it has toughened and strengthened him.
While these are specific examples others can be found throughout the novel. While they may only be small phrases or similes they all establish setting or help to set the tone of the story. Louis L’Amour is very adept at using imagery to add another dimension to his stories. He especially uses natural imagery to describe characters and also establish their character, as well as foreshadowing or reflecting the events being described and finally illustrating the knowledge and experiences of the characters and how it has affected them. (JV 2013)