Thursday, December 8, 2011

Why I Admire Louis L'Amour

One of the saddest days in my life came when I realized that I had read everything that Louis L'Amour had ever published. It felt akin to losing a loved one or a close friend. For several weeks I brooded, unsure of what to read next. I tried reading other authors and found several good ones, however most of them just didn't measure up.

I found several books with blurbs on the back stating: "If you like Louis L'Amour, then you'll love 'this' writer!" or "This writer is the next Louis L'Amour." I snatched those books off the library shelf only to be sorely disappointed after taking them home and cracking them open.

While some of those authors are excellent writers, their fiction lacks the essential element that separates L'Amour's work from everyone else. In addition to being a great storyteller, L'Amour had a code. He stood for something and his beliefs transferred into his writing.

There are a multitude of quotes from his work. However the one that has stuck with me over the years is this: "The difference between a man and a boy is the willingness to accept responsibility."

As a young man growing up I instilled that line into every aspect of my life until it became the code that I lived by. L'Amour's work often deals with morals and honor and closeness to family. I incorporated all of those virtues into my own personal code.

Although I never met him and didn't begin reading his work until after he passed away, L'Amour became a foster father to me. Someone that I admired and strove to emulate. The men and women that he wrote about became my heroes. I may sound crazy for admitting it, but some of his characters are my best friends.

Then one day, I had an epiphany. If I there weren't any more new L'Amour stories for me to read, I could create my own stories. I started writing and instantly became hooked. I had always loved to read but writing my own stories was a thrill all its own.

A story often told about Louis L'Amour is that once his daughter walked into the room while he was writing. She asked why he was typing so fast. L'Amour replied, "Because I want to see what happens next."

There are a myriad of reasons why writers write, even why I write. However, I began writing simply because I ran out of L'Amour stories. And I have continued because like L'Amour, I want to see what happens next.

I am not the 'next' Louis L'Amour. There was only one L'Amour and there will never be another. If you liked his work, you may or may not like mine. I don't write to be like Louis L'Amour. I write because of Louis L'Amour.


"The Wanted Man" is a collection of eight of my short stories and it is available for the Kindle at I am working on a version for the Nook through Barnes and Noble as well as a print version that will be published through Createspace.

If you have a Kindle or a device with a Kindle app, download The Wanted Man. It's available for just $0.99.

Update: It's now available as a Nook Book at Barnes and Noble: The Wanted Man for Nook.


  1. My goodness, I don't think I even know how much L'Amour ever published, let alone reading it all! But I've come to the end or nearly to the end of favorite authors' works (O. Henry, Agatha Christie, for instance) and I know the feeling of disappointment that there isn't any more. I think I've read about a dozen L'Amour books, plus his memoir Education of a Wandering Man. My favorite of his novels so far is Last Stand At Papago Wells.

    Great post, and congratulations on your book!

  2. Some of my favorite Louis L'Amour stories were his early non western ones. Like the pulp detective "Hills of Homicide" and the sea tales "Night over the Solomon's." Even his later works, such as "The Haunted Mesa", "The Walking Drum" and "Last Of The Breed", although technically not westerns, still has the code of honor that all of L'Amour's characters have. Good article.

  3. Thanks Elisabeth. Reaching the end of a favorite author's work is always disappointing.

    A lot of L'Amour's non western work tends to be overlooked. "The Haunted Mesa" and "The Walking Drum" are two of my favorites. I read that L'Amour was planning a sequel to "The Walking Drum" but passed away before he wrote it.

  4. I'll be downloading The Wanted Man on my Kindle! :)

  5. Thanks for writing this. I'm currently reading his THE QUICK AND THE DEAD and have been thinking about it next to the early westerns I've been reading. In them, the issue of character is a prominent theme; what makes a good man; what makes a bad man. What you learned from him as a young reader fits right into that tradition of the genre--in its earliest form.

    There are some interesting differences, too. I'll look forward to your thoughts about that when I post a review on my blog in the next week or so. Thanks, by the way, for all you are doing for western writers. I have no doubt L'Amour would be pleased by your generosity.

    Hope your stories find you a whole new bunch of readers. I look forward to the nook version.

  6. Thanks, Courtney.

    Ron, I'm glad you liked the post. One of the things I liked about L'Amour's work is that even his villains had a sense of honor. There was a line that they wouldn't cross. Thanks for the well wishes and kind words. I look forward to your blog post.

  7. HI, Matt! Love this post, especially the quote, "the difference between a man and a boy is the willingness to accept responsibility." I've never read L'Amour or any western fiction but watched dozens of western TV episodes and movies growing up in the 50s and 60s. have you ever seen the show Have Gun Will Travel? If not try to rent it or see on Netflix. The main character, Paladin,has a similar moral code. He was sort of the superhero of the 1950s. Well, I'm about read my 1st western fiction because I just bought your collection for my kindle! Your blog is off to a great start. Good luck with it!

  8. Thank you, Marcia. No, I haven't seen any episodes of Have Gun Will Travel but I will definitely try to find it. Thanks for buying a copy. I hope you enjoy it.

  9. I lived in Durango for a time. I saw the room he rented at the Statlers hotel to write some of his novels and also drove by his ranch. I grew up reading his books and ran out a long time ago. It's hard to find a similar author.

  10. I look forward to following the discussions here, Matt. Your comment about villains rings pretty much true for THE QUICK AND THE DEAD. Out of a gang of bad men, there's a whole range of badness, and his good guy isn't altogether squeaky clean. All the same, the worst of them is a "murderous skunk" without a redeeming bone in his body.

  11. JR, That's very cool. I wish I would have been able to meet him, but I did find a video interview of him a few years ago on YouTube that was fascinating.

    Ron, I think the biggest thing about all of L'Amour's characters, whether they were good or bad, is that there were very human and people could easily identify with them.

  12. Matt,
    Excellent post, and I'm adding your blog to my blogroll. I'm not as big a L'Amour fan as you are, but there are some of his books (FLINT, TO TAME A LAND, and THE DAYBREAKERS come to mind) that I consider among the finest Westerns ever written. Many of his short stories are top-notch as well.

  13. Matt,
    I'm a big fan of L'Amour and have read (and own) all of his novels. A fascinating writer who could tell a good tale. Ah, but there is something colorful and intriguing about the Old West. Best of luck in your writing.

  14. Matt,
    I am a HUGE L'Amour fan! I started reading his books several years back, and got my dad hooked on them. I would pass them to him once I finished...then he began to read so fast he was having to wait on me! LOL I let him have everything I had bought and read them first, and we sure had some good discussions about those books that I will treasure forever. Remember in Conagher when Smoke Parnell lets Conagher live? That was the line he wouldn't cross. I loved that book and often use it to teach fiction writing classes with. I LOVED The Last of the Breed--even though it wasn't a western. What a story! And yes, Paladin...see if you can't find that. I bet you'd love it. (Yeah, I saw it the first time around...)LOL
    Great post Matt! I enjoyed it.

  15. James, thanks for your kind words. I'm a bit biased because I like all of his work, but FLINT is one of my favorites because I can identify pretty well with Jim Flint.

    Judy, thank you. Best of luck with your writing as well. There is something mystical about the Old West.

    Cheryl, I'm glad you liked the post. I remember that part in Conagher. A lot of his other villains had that same trait, like Buckdun in FLINT who as a hired killer, but when he took money for a job, he did the job. Have you read THE HAUNTED MESA? That's a good one too that not a Western. I'm definitely going to find a few episodes of Have Gun, Will Travel and I'm looking forward to it.

  16. Great post, Matthew, and good luck with the book. I'll put it on my list. I've not read many L'Amour books, but I have a half-dozen or so waiting to be read. Good luck with your blog. It's off to a fine start, and thewesternon-line is a fine magazine.

  17. Remind me to send you a copy of Pitchfork Justice when it becomes available (July). One bad guy has a line he won't cross. Turns out he's not so bad after all. Kinda the same thing happens in Dollar a Day. Maybe you should read some Chuck Tyrell . . . (no claim to LL fame. He's incomparable, and I've also read everything he ever wrote). Thanks to you, Matt.

  18. Thanks, Chuck. I'd love to have a copy of Pitchfork Justice. I've read all of your Westerns that I can find for the Kindle and have started reading the Masacado Scrolls as well. Good stuff, I've enjoyed them all.

  19. Count me as another fan of Louis L'Amour and I too have read all of his books and short stories.

    I loaned one of his books to a friend who had owned book stores in England and France and was a student of the written word.

    Her quote stayed with me , "I don't think he is a very good writer, but I had to finish the book before I went to sleep!"