Louis L’Amour was the most phenomenal Western writer America has ever produced. Each of his eighty-five novels, mostly traditional Westerns, has sold at least one million copies; ten of his novels have doubled that figure. His books have been translated into more than one dozen foreign languages. More than thirty of his plots have been made into motion-picture and television dramas. In 1981, with Comstock Lode, L’Amour became a formidable presence in the hardbound-book market; he immediately made the best-seller list; all of his subsequent hardbound novels matched this performance. By 1977, L’Amour had sold fifty million copies of his books. In 1987, the figure was 175 million.
L’Amour also received important awards and honors. He won the Western Writers of America (WWA) Golden Spur Award in 1969 for Down the Long Hills and the Western Writers of America Golden Saddleman Award in 1981 for overall achievement and contribution to an understanding of the American West. When, in 1985, the WWA published a list of the twenty-six best Western novels of all time, L’Amour’s Hondo made the list. In 1982, the U.S. Congress awarded him a National Gold Medal, and one year later, President Ronald Reagan awarded him the United States Medal of Freedom.
L’Amour was not averse to peddling his own wares. In June of 1980, he cruised the Midwest and the South in a leased luxury bus, meeting fans and selling autographed copies of his seventy-five books then available. He also appeared on television to promote his Louis L’Amour Collection of novels. His publisher (Bantam Books) offered L’Amour calendars, audiotape dramas (multivoiced, with sound effects) of certain L’Amour stories, and an audiocassette of their star author’s personal reminiscences.