Last of the Breed

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

An Indian with one Scottish highlander ancestor, Captain Joe Mack (Makatozi) is captured in a daring plot by Zametov, a Soviet official who expects to gain knowledge about American air defense. Zametov, however, fails to appreciate the kind of hero he has captured, and Joe soon escapes from prison. Reared in tribal traditions, he knows how to live as his warrior ancestors did.

Most of the book details Joe’s adventures as he learns to survive in the cold Siberian wilderness and to elude his pursuers. L’Amour develops an opposition between the hero, perfectly trained and adapted for wilderness life, and the ruthless and powerful Soviet officials who pursue him. The officials are hampered by the rivalries and inefficiencies of a multibranched bureaucracy and by their ignorance of the wilderness. They are also hampered by the many good people among both the officials and the exiles of Siberia, people who admire Joe and who will take risks to help him. Joe falls in love with one of the many sympathetic English-speaking exiles he meets. The only serious human threat to Joe is Alekhin, a typical L’Amour killer in the guise of a Russian “Indian.” A Yakut, Alekhin is the only Russian who both possesses skills like Joe’s and serves the system.

In many ways, this book is a typical L’Amour Western, with familiar characters and situations transplanted to a contemporary Russian wilderness. L’Amour’s views on Russian and American relations, revealed primarily in dialogue, distinguish the book from his Westerns; the conclusion suggests that a sequel is likely.