Book Review: “Dead Man’s Trail” by Louis L’Amour (1947)

Also included: “With Death in His Corner”
“One Last Gun Notch”
“Trap of Gold”
“The Marshall of Painted Rock”

I grew up two years too late. My grandfather was a die-hard Louis L’Amour man, and so was my dad. The love was bound to make it to the third generation, and it did: just not to me. My brother, a year and a half older than me, inherited the L’Amour gene and ate up all them Westerns like so much candy, while I wasted myself all the way up until college not ever caring for books. What a sad time of my life! I cannot even remember what I ever did with my time. All I know for sure is that I did not spend it reading Louis L’Amour. But since I’ve aged, I’ve felt the urge to try my eyes one the books that please the family. I have not yet delved into the mystery authors that my parents love so much–Agatha Christie, Ellis Peters, Rex Stout, Nagio Marsh, M. Allingham–mostly because I’m not a mystery buff. But “Dead Man’s Trail” by Louis L’Amour may have at least given me the itch.

This short story starts like nearly every other private eye rag, with young Kip Morgan waiting in his office for a client of some sort, only to find stepping in for his services a hot blonde with a problem. This short story and “With Death in His Corner” both star this young ex-fighter detective, and both have the gritty feel, the curt dialogue, and the bloody fistfights that I recall from my brother’s tales of L’Amour’s more-Western novels. I enjoyed the stories, the second more than first, as far as plot-lines go, though it seems with L’Amour that “plot” is merely a vehicle his vivid characters use to get out and get known.

The plot of “One Last Gun Notch” escapes me entirely now as I write this review, though that of “Trap of Gold” has kept me thinking for a few days now. In fact, this short story reminds me much of the type of story I would have written in college–the author painting himself and his character into such a corner that even they, let alone the reader, have no clue how the story will end. I can get used to that kind of story (O.Henry comes to mind).

“The Marshall of Painted Rock” also included a colorful plot that helped shuttle its vivid characters well into my memory. With such thoughtful and exciting writing as I saw in these few short stories, I must admit that I sort of regret never having read L’Amour before. Presently I have much too large a backlog of things to read that it will take me quite some time to get back to him. But I look forward to the day, and in the meantime, I recommend you try dabbling in Louis L’Amour, if you never have before, by checking out a few of his short stories.

©2012 E.T.

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Gallery | This entry was posted in Action, Book Review, Fiction, Mystery, Western. Bookmark the permalink.

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