Monday, December 28, 2009

The Strong Shall Live

No need to rehash the stories in this marvelous collection of western short stories by the immortal Louis L'Amour.  I've blurbed on my blog (blog-blurbed?) each time I finished a story in The Strong Shall Live so my thoughts are already posted.  All except the last one, "Bluff Creek Station."  That story is the perfect story to finish off the book; whomever selected the order of the stories is to be commended.

"Bluff Creek Station" is one of the shortest of the stories in the entire collection and yet it is one of the most inspiring.  It begins with the main character knowing he is soon to die, shot through the spine by Indians raiding the stage coach station.  His only purpose in living at this point is to warn the stage that is due in to the station shortly, striving to live just long enough to fire off his shotgun as a warning that Indians still lay in ambush.  His thoughts while he waits and as numbness sets in throughout his limbs are poignant indeed.  This is excellent writing and definitely keeps you on the edge of your seat for the few minutes it takes to reach the end.

I've said before that Louis L'Amour has two reputations: one as a hack western formula writer who churned out short book after short book for years and so was obviously a "bad" writer.  I know personally of some people who dismiss him as a horrible writer simply because there are so many of his books on the book store shelves.  Obviously he can't be any good.  Of course, they have never tried a single one; they choose to let their elitism keep them from enjoying a good reading experience.  Others have said that his writing is "authentic" and allows the readers of today a glimpse into the real west of the later 1800s.  I probably fall somewhere in between but I've read enough to know that he isn't just a western writer, having written all sorts of adventure books from the WWII era all the way back to the stoneage.  He puts a lot of real history in his stories.  His biography makes it clear that even though he was a self-taught man he did an enormous amount of research for his stories; walking the hills and valleys where they take place.  A quick check of my database reveals that this book is the 61st of his that I've read.  That puts him at number 2 on my all time list and I can honestly say that I've enjoyed all but perhaps 3 of them.  That's a pretty good record.  While I don't pretend to say he is a "great" writer, he certainly fits the description of an enjoyable writer.  And when all is said and done, that's a pretty good epitaph.

Coming soon: my end-of-the year "TopDragon" annual award winners.  Stay tuned!

1 comment:

  1. OK...this one sounds good for Dad. I don't need Christmas as an excuse to get him a L'Amour!


Top 10 Books in no particular order (Well Known Authors)

  • "The Stand" by Stephen King
  • "Kane and Able" by Jeffrey Archer
  • "The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara
  • "The Dark Elf Trilogy" by RA Salvatore
  • "Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss
  • "River God" by Wilbur Smith
  • "Mortalis" by RA Salvatore
  • "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card
  • "Centennial" by James A Michener
  • "The Repairman Jack" series by F. Paul Wilson

Top Books/ Series in no particular order (Lesser Known Authors)

  • "The Sculpter" by Gregory Funaro
  • "Power Down" by Ben Coes
  • "Revolution at Sea Saga" by James L. Nelson
  • "Black Rain" by Graham Brown
  • "Top Producer" by Norb Vonnegut
  • "Prairie" by Anna Lee Waldo
  • "The Wild Blue" by W. Boyne & S Thompson
  • "Unsolicited" series by Julie Kaewert
  • "Freedom" by William Safire