Tag Archives: books about the old west

Book Review: Last Stand at Papago Wells by Louis L’Amour

Last Stand at Papago Wells - Louis L'Amour Wiki

Here we are, readers – the first post of a new year! Today’s topic is a Louis L’Amour novel, one of my favorites. Last Stand at Papago Wells was one of the first two or three L’Amour books that I read, and it has a special place in my heart because of that.

This tale is a beauty. Full of suspense, action, intrigue, and tension, L’Amour poured a great deal into this story. It would make a fantastic film, and I hope someone gets the rights to it one of these days. This is a Western that deserves to be on the silver screen!

Okay, enough of the fan-ranting. It’s time to describe the story!

Logan Cates is drifting through the desert when he picks up a trail going toward Yuma. At roughly the same time, he spots a cloud of dust moving in the same general direction. It could be nothing more than a posse or a few travelers headed West….

But with Churupati, a half-Apache, half-Yaqui Indian raiding, pillaging, and murdering small farms and settlements throughout this section of Arizona, those explanations are not entirely satisfactory. Either set of trails Logan has seen and is following could belong to the renegade’s men. It is hard to make sure at a distance, though one trail definitely seems to have been made by white men and not Indians.

Worried by the flurry of activity in what should be a fairly empty desert, Logan pushes forward. This portion of the Territory is largely waterless; only a few tanks up ahead hold out any hope of water. Known as Papago Wells, these particular tanks fill up with water inch by inch over the desert months. Catch them at the right time and you will find enough water to help you along. Come upon them at the wrong time, and you are dead. Logan needs water, and so he is headed to the Wells to refill his canteens….

Last Stand at Papago Wells by Louis L'Amour ...

…And that’s the same place everyone else he has noticed seems to be heading as well.

Up ahead, Jennifer Fair and her fiancé, Grant Kimbrough, are on their way to Yuma to marry. Pursuing them is Jennifer’s father, Jim Fair, a well-known and well-respected cattleman. Having been to school back East for the last few years, Jennifer has come to hate her father and Arizona. This hatred has been fed to greater heights by the fact that she saw her father gun down a young man her ten or eleven year old self had a crush on. She is determined to leave the country by any means available or necessary.

Taking advantage of all this, Kimbrough proposed to her. When her father absolutely refused to accept him as a prospective son-in-law, he suggested they run away to marry, which Jennifer was all too happy to do. On the way toward Yuma they happen across the remains of two cowpunchers the Apaches killed and mutilated.

Lonnie Foreman, the only survivor of the attack, pops up from the rocks and explains what happened. Hitching a ride with the couple, they continue on to Papago Wells. There they meet an old buffalo hunter and his Pima Indian companion, who were pursued to Papago Wells by a posse from Yuma after they killed a young man intent on making a name for himself by murdering one or both of them.

Elsewhere, Junie Hatchet is taken captive by a band of marauding Indians. She escapes them temporarily, only to be chased into an outcropping of rock over the course of the following day. A cavalry patrol which was absorbed into the posse finds and rescues her before heading into Papago Wells, too.

Prior to their arrival Logan pulls into the tanks and mentions the Apaches are watching and waiting to strike at those who will congregate at the Wells. Not long after the gang is all together, Churupati puts them under siege. Elected leader of the group, Logan Cates must find a way to keep them all alive until search parties from Yuma, a nearby fort, or Jim Fair reaches them. Otherwise they are doomed to die at the hands of the Apache.

This book is a tense, action packed little novel that will keep you on the edge of your seat, readers. Part horror, part Treasure of the Sierra Madre, L’Amour’s Last Stand at Papago Wells is a worthy addition to any library. It is one of the best stories the man ever wrote. I recommend you pick it up and enjoy it at your earliest opportunity, because you won’t be disappointed by it. 😉

‘Til next time!

Flickriver: Photoset 'The Western Novels of Louis L'Amour ...

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Responsibility

She remembered so well what her father had said, “Don’t waste time worrying about the mistakes of yesterday. Each morning is a beginning. Start from there.” – The Cherokee Trail by Louis L’Amour

“One day,” her father had often said, “this will all be yours, so you must learn how it functions. Never trust your affairs to anyone else. If you have a foreman or a super intendant, that’s fine, but be sure you know what is going on. You give the orders, you check to make sure your wishes are carried out.” – The Cherokee Trail by Louis L’Amour

Book Review: The Proving Trail by Louis L’Amour

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Kearney McRaven comes down from the mountains, where he has been punching cows all winter, to find his father dead. According to several people, Mr. McRaven committed suicide after losing a poker game.

Except, as Kearney McRaven knows, his father was not a quitter. He had been gambling for several years now, and losing every time. Yet never before did he ever consider killing himself after losing a game. So why the sudden change?

Then Kearney overhears men in the tavern talking, and he learns that his father did not lose said card game. Actually, he won nine to ten thousand dollars that night. So if that is the case, then he could not have killed himself. He had won his first poker game, and he had won it big. He had no reason to commit suicide.

But whoever he was playing against had thousands of reasons to murder him.

Kearney goes to the town judge to get his father’s belongings, and the judge sticks to the story he was first told: his father lost the game and committed suicide. But Kearney is not having it. Keeping his father’s pistol on the judge, he tells him to take out the money – and the deed – that his father won in the poker game.

The judge does not like it, especially since Kearney is so young. He is not even eighteen. But he is in no position to argue with the pistol that Kearney is holding, despite having a gun of his own in his safe. He hands over the money and the deed, but not without trying to sweet talk Kearney into entrusting it to him.

Kearney would rather light it on fire and watch it burn. He gets out of town, heading back for the cabin where he lived while he kept watch over the cattle. He stashes the money and the deed along the way, just in case. This turns out to be fortuitous when, in the cabin where he lived for the last few months, he meets the judge and some thugs. They beat him up and demand that he tell them where he hid the money.

But Kearney knows that if he tells them where he hid it, they will kill him. So he lies and says it was stolen, in order to buy himself some time to make a plan. Eventually, he manages to escape the judge and his cronies. But he is so banged up that he would not survive if he did not run into a group of friendly Indians. The Indians take care of him until he is well enough to ride off.

Doing this, Kearney comes to another town. There he meets a man who, from behind, strongly resembles his father. He is so taken aback that he calls the man “Pa,” startling the man and making him turn.

He really, really should not have said anything to the man. Why?

Let’s just say the money Mr. McRaven won in that card game is not the only reason someone would want him dead. It turns out that Mr. McRaven came from somewhere in the American south. He went west to escape a family feud that has been tearing his clan apart for generations. They wanted him out of the way so they could claim sole possession of the land Mr. McRaven held through inheritance. Thinking the senior McRaven had no heirs, this branch of the family now believes they are in the clear because of his death….

Until Kearney calls this man “Pa.”

The Proving Trail is a fast paced, thrilling tale of murder and intrigue. It was the second L’Amour novel that I read, the first being The Cherokee Trail. The historical accuracy is, as usual, superb. Mr. L’Amour shows he is a knowledgeable man in this story. The McCoys and the Hatfields have nothing on the McRavens and the Yants. But you do not need to take my word for it, readers! Pick up The Proving Trail and find out for yourselves how good a story it is!

Book Review: Flint by Louis L’Amour

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Welcome back to the Wild, Wild West, readers! Here is yet another review for a Louis L’Amour novel that you may peruse at your pleasure. I am making up for lost time on this, am I not?

Well, it cannot be helped. I have reviewed lots of other books, and left one of my favorite authors on the shelf. That should not have happened. So now this blogger intends to see to it that a great man’s work is exposed to a good bit of daylight. This time, the focus is another western of Mr. L’Amour’s: Flint.

Jim Flint, under the alias of James T. Kettleman, is headed back west. Having come east to disappear, he is now headed west to do the same. See, Jim Flint is a big, powerful man. He has been strong since boyhood. Who his parents were he has no idea, for he was found and raised by a wandering gunman who only went by the name Flint.

Well, Flint met the end which was the doom of many a gun hand. Jim did not take this too well, and he had a lot to say about it – mostly with his own six-shooter. That is why he disappeared east, taking the name Kettleman when he did, a play on “cattleman.”

Now he is going back. Diagnosed with cancer, Jim Flint is headed back west to die.

His wife, whom he married simply because he wanted company, does not want to wait for the cancer to run its course. While he was back east, Flint made a fortune in the stock market and on many other business ventures. He is one of the wealthiest men in the nation, getting wealthier all the time. So, with her father’s help, Mrs. Kettleman planned to kill Jim.

But she does not know her husband very well, since Flint is a man of sparse speech and very reticent about his past. This meant that she and her father had no idea Jim was good with a gun – and better than the man they sent to kill him at a gambler’s table on a ferry.

They are also initially unaware of the fact that Jim knows they want his money. And he has no intention that they should see a penny more than he wishes to leave them (i.e., he will leave his wife enough to live on, but not in the way she wants to live on it). With his lawyer’s help, he sets up all his assets to be liquidated as he sees fit, making sure his wife and father-in-law will not get his fortune.

Now, on the train west, Flint spots a man who is definitely trouble. This man is Buckdun, a hired killer. Jim does not know his name yet, but he knows his type; dangerous as you can find. Jim Flint also spots a very pretty young woman on the train whose name he overhears: Nancy Kerrigan.

Now Nancy Kerrigan, owner of the Kaybar Ranch, has her own problems. Settlers are streaming west, and a former political animal – now styling himself a businessman – has come to the locale of her ranch from back east to make his fortune in the unimaginable wealth of the west. Port Baldwin is trying to become a power in the area. This concerns Nancy because her ranch, the Kaybar, is a land claim. She has no title, no deed, for it. Her father purchased some of the ranch land from the Indians, but Indians do not give out titles or deeds. What is more, one Indian can always claim that those Indians who sold the land had no right to sell it.

This puts her ranch and livelihood in serious jeopardy. Her father and her uncle built the ranch up over the years, held it against Indian attacks (which she lived through), and she does not want to lose it. The Kaybar is her home, and she intends to hold it no matter what.

The biggest, most immediate problem with this is that Port Baldwin has started to brew a range war. Range wars are ugly, violent affairs that can end very badly for those involved. And when Nancy sends one of her hands out to file a claim on the Kaybar so she can later buy the rights back from him, along with several others, the man is ambushed and left for dead.

Enter Jim Flint, who has no intention of getting caught up in a range war but who also does not care if he lives through it or dies in it, since he is going to die anyway. And a man who has nothing to lose is a one big bag of terrifying. With no fear of his own death, Flint cannot be forced to simply back down. If you want him out of your way, you will have to kill him. And he is a hard man to kill.

Flint is one of L’Amour’s more complex stories. Jim Flint does not fit the type of the western hero with which we are all familiar; even among L’Amour’s own stock of protagonists, he stands out. He is different, harsher, because he is going to die…

Or is he?

From here, you will have to break your own trail, readers. Have fun reading Flint, and may you find many more L’Amour stories to interest you as time goes by!

May there be a road!

The Mithril Guardian

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Book Review: Hondo by Louis L’Amour

Hondo Lane.

What a name that is. Some never heard it. Some heard it too late. Those who heard it received it second hand, or they were not on the wrong end of his gun. If they were there, and somehow survived, it was because he saw fit to spare them.

A tall, lean, wide-shouldered man with a hard-boned face was Hondo Lane. There was no softness in him, yet also no cruelty. At heart, a kind man, with gentleness in him that was hidden and well-protected. To show kindness and compassion at the wrong moment in his time could lead to a quick end.

And Hondo Lane is not interested in dying soon.

But at the beginning of his story, that seems hard to avoid. A couple of young Apaches shot his horse out from under him, thinking to make a quick kill. They end up dead alongside the horse – but a man without a horse in the desert is a man who will not live long.

Then Hondo comes upon a little ranch house in a nearby valley. In the house are Angie Lowe and her son, Johnny. They are situated smack dab in Apache territory, and currently the Apaches are not happy. They are on the war trail.

This is why Hondo lost his horse and was almost killed. The treaty made with the Apaches has been broken, and now they want the white man to pay. So the U.S. Army has moved in to take care of the trouble. Hondo is carrying dispatches for the Army, since he is a scout for them, and he needs to get them to the nearest fort as soon as possible. To do that, he needs a horse.

Angie Lowe has two horses to choose from, and she allows Hondo to pick out and borrow one. But she dismisses Hondo’s warnings about the Indians. Angie tells him that the Apaches have always gotten along well with them, and that her husband will be back soon.

Hondo, however, has read the spoor around her land. Not only are the Apaches running around the place on their way to war, the hoof prints from her husband’s horse are old. He has been gone a long time, long enough for the ranch he has not been taking care of to fall into further disrepair.

To pay for his meal, bed, and horse, Hondo sharpens the family’s axe and chops wood for them. He also re-shoes the plough horses, whose hooves have grown over the old shoes. He tells Angie again that she would be safer coming with him out of Indian Territory than staying in it, even if the land is hers through inheritance from her father. He also tells her that she is an “almighty poor liar,” and he knows her husband is not present or coming back any time soon.

Angie is most upset by this. Her husband, who was raised with her on the ranch, is actually a bum. The guy works little on maintaining the ranch and goes on “trips” to the fort and nearby towns. There he gambles, drinks, and pays attention to the saloon girls. Meanwhile, Angie is left to mind the ranch and raise Johnny. She cannot handle the ranch alone, but she loves it and it is hers. So she is determined to take care of it to the best of her ability.

But most of what upsets her is that she likes Hondo. She likes him very, very much. Of course, being married to another man, for better or worse, that kind of puts a damper on things for her and Hondo.

The story spins its way out from here, readers, and this is as much of the trail as I am going to guide you on. From here on, you will have to saddle, bridle, and rope this book yourselves. If you do all that, then you may do to ride the river with. If you have already crossed this and other trails of Louis L’Amour’s, then I salute you and am happy to ride in your company.

Hondo was Louis L’Amour’s first full-length publication. Before Hondo was published, Mr. L’Amour had only produced short stories for various magazines. Hondo was his breakout novel. After it hit the market, he had no need to look back. He was off to the races, and he kept going till the end of his days.

John Wayne was in a film based on Hondo. The film goes by the same name as the book. It is a good film – a great one, I think. And before some of you say that it is just a “cowboy movie,” let me step in here and make something clear. A “cowboy” is someone who “punches cows.” He manages another man’s herd for him, whether it is cattle or horses. He helps with the branding, driving, and protecting of the herd from outside attackers.

Hondo is not a cowboy. He is a scout for the Army. So when John Wayne played Hondo Lane in the film Hondo, he played a U.S. Army scout. There is plenty of daylight between the two positions, as much as there is between a military sniper and a beat cop. Do not ever go mixing the two up – especially around me.

You get that story straight, and you’ll do to ride the river with.

See ya around, readers!

The Mithril Guardian

Book Review: Shane by Jack Schaefer

“Call me Shane.”

I do not recollect seeing the film Shane. I know that Fonzie, of Happy Days fame, swore by the movie and would become highly upset with someone who admitted that they had never seen it.

But I have done one better. I have read the book.

“Call me Shane.” That is what the stranger who rides up to the Starrett farm tells the man of the house. Joe Starrett, owner of this homestead in the Wyoming territory, is trying to make the farm work. His son, Robert MacPherson Starrett – “Bob” because his full title is “too much name for a boy” – is the protagonist of the story. Having watched Shane approach from a distance, Bob is intrigued by the stranger. Of all the men he has seen in town, none are like Shane. Not even his father, whom he loves more than any other man, quite compares to Shane’s carefully concealed strength.

Joe Starrett invites Shane in for dinner and introduces him to his wife, Marian. Shane treats her like the lady from the East that she is, inspiring her to curtsy to him when he makes the proper opening gesture of respect. Shane accepts Joe’s offer of a place to sleep that night, though since the house only has enough room for the family, he will have to sleep in the barn.

The next day, Bob’s father tells the drifter that he is in a tight spot. One of the local ranchers – a man named Fletcher – is trying to “crowd” Mr. Starrett and a bunch of other farmers off of their land. Called “nesters” by Fletcher (and other ranchers like him) because they “nest” on the open range the ranchers used to let their herds feed on freely, the farmers are no match for Fletcher’s wealth, influence, and power. For instance, just a few months before, Joe’s young helper was chased off by some of Fletcher’s men. They beat him up badly, after which he packed his things, “cursed” Joe Starrett, and left without a backward glance.

Joe makes sure to mention this to Shane when he essentially offers to hire the other man. Shane states he knows nothing about farming, but he takes the job all the same. Months pass, and as they do, Bob watches Shane. Over the course of time he grows to love Shane as a second father.

Shane is a short book, but it is well worth reading. My description of it here is diminished because if I say much more, I will spoil the story completely. A longer book has more leeway for description; more happens that can be described without spoiling the novel too much.

Jack Schaefer’s book, while it is sixteen chapters, does not have a lot of flexibility in this regard. If I say too much more about the story, I will tell you a good deal more than I wish to say.

As a final note, I know why Fonzie swears by the film. If it was even half as good as the book, it is worth swearing by. Shane is a classic, without question. If you can grab a copy, readers, it will be well worth your money!

See ya around!

The Mithril Guardian

Book Review: The Cherokee Trail by Louis L’Amour

The Cherokee Trail

Those of you who have attended to this blog for any length of time will recognize the title of this post. If you were to type The Cherokee Trail into the search engine on the right hand side of your screen, you would probably get more results than I care to calculate.

At the dawn of this blog’s existence, I wrote a post about a book which contained many quotes from Louis L’Amour’s stories. This book had been compiled by the famous author’s actress daughter, Angelique L’Amour. And yet, despite the fact that he is one of my favorite authors, I have not reviewed a novel written by the man who brought the West to life for so many people.

That ends today, readers. This post is about The Cherokee Trail, written by Louis L’Amour, published in 1982.

The Cherokee Trail focuses on one M. O. Breydon, the widow of Major M. O. Breydon. Mrs. Mary O. Breydon is on her way west with her daughter, Peg. She is riding the stagecoach to Cherokee Station, a stage station along the Cherokee Trail. This station is where her husband planned to get a job. Since he is dead, murdered by guerrillas, the job has fallen to her. She needs the money, and she intends to hold this job no matter what.

Mrs. Breydon and Peg are not the only passengers on this stage. There is an Irish girl just a few years younger than Mrs. Breydon herself and a well dressed, heavy set man. There is also a younger man, seated at the opposite end of the bench across from her and her daughter, whose insinuating glances discomfit Mrs. Breydon.

And there is a young, grey eyed man with three pistols in his belt and a black hat pulled low over his face who is seated right next to Peg.

The Irish girl, Matty Maginnis, initiates a conversation with Mrs. Breydon, which the men enter in on. During this conversation it is revealed that Cherokee Station is run by an uncouth drunk named Scant Luther. The man has a bad reputation and no respect for women. Nevertheless, Mary Breydon plans to dismiss him as her husband would have. And she plans to take his job, which her husband accepted before he was murdered: the management of Cherokee Station.

Well, the stage pulls into the station, a soused Luther comes out, and a scene ensues. Mary Breydon has the letter giving him notice of his discharge and replacement read out loud in front of him and the other stage passengers. Luther does not take kindly to being replaced – especially by a woman from back East. He sits down in the doorway of the station and challenges Mrs. Breydon to fire him.

And fire him she does – with a horsewhip! Right in the middle of his statement of the rules for the challenge, she takes the stage driver’s whip from his hand and it is obvious she knows how to use it. Four lashes later, plus one hard look from the grey eyed man on the stage, and Luther decides to hustle on out of the way. For now.

Mrs. Breydon cleans up some of the mess he left behind in the station building and gets a suitable lunch set out for the passengers. Two of the men ride on in the stage while Matty remains at the station, taking Mrs. Breydon’s offer of a job as maid and cook. The grey eyed man, Temple Boone, decides to stay the night as well, since he has a horse waiting for him in the station’s stables.

In addition, Mrs. Breydon finds a young boy named Wat Tanner standing outside the station building. She invites him to work for her as well, and he agrees, so long as its “man’s work” and not “women’s work” – such as washing the dishes!

The Cherokee Trail was, I believe, the first novel of Louis L’Amour’s which I ever read. It not only impressed me, it made me hungry for more. Mr. L’Amour led a colorful life, and he wrote something on the order of over two hundred books. He used a variety of pen names before signing his books with his real name. Apparently, the publishers did not believe a name like “Louis L’Amour” would catch people’s attention. John Wayne – real name Marion Morrison – had to use a pseudonym in his work for similar reasons.

Louis L’Amour researched all his novels carefully, and the Author’s Note which precedes The Cherokee Trail proves it. Someday soon I will review another novel of his. For the time being, readers, you have an assignment: search out and read The Cherokee Trail. It is worth the hunt, and if you do not love it for any reason, I am truly sorry to hear that. If you do like it – welcome to the range, partner! We’ve been expectin’ ya!

Until next time!

The Mithril Guardian