Bendigo Shafter seems destined for classic status. This unusually long L’Amour novel has all the necessary ingredients. Bendigo Shafter, the youthful French-Canadian hero and narrator, is eighteen when the action begins, about 1862. In the next year or so, he moves, as do many of L’Amour’s heroes, from youth to early manhood and matures as a responsible pioneer, a hunter, a trail boss, a peacemaking friend of Indians, a town marshal, and an author. Trouble takes various forms: violent weather, unpredictably hostile Indians, dangerous rescue missions, the need to build homes and offices in a wilderness and out of its materials, discovery of gold (which attracts would-be robbers and killers), cattle rustlers, and the near-impossibility of making independent westerners see the virtues of a Plymouth Colony-like governmental structure.
The plot is divided into three numbered parts. The first two are of almost identical length; the third, typically, is cut short. Part 1 is centered on the new town site, and Ben narrates many episodes of danger (attacks by renegades, avoidance of religious fanatics), rescue (of missing children, Mormons lost in the snow, rather stupid pioneers, and a wounded Shoshone), and plans for the future—better homes, more reading, a school, money saved to buy cattle.
In part 2, Ben has adventures along the famous Oregon Trail—proceeding through desert and snow, rounding up cattle, hiring Indians to help him...
(The entire section is 475 words.)