Louis L'Amour Analysis

Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

What is a formulary Western, and what did Louis L’Amour contribute to the genre?

What is the difference between a romantic historical reconstruction and a historical reconstruction? What explains L’Amour’s success in the former but not in the latter?

Have the screen versions of L’Amour’s novels generally been faithful to the originals?

Mexican characters appear frequently in L’Amour’s novels. By and large, how does he characterize them?

Does the fact of L’Amour’s having written eighty-seven novels with similar settings, characters, and incidents raise questions about his continuing devotion to his art?

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Although Louis L’Amour (lah-MOHR) achieved his greatest success as a Western novelist, he began his career as a writer of short pulp fiction, later assembled in a number of collections. He also wrote some hard-boiled detective stories, and early in his career he issued a book of undistinguished poetry. In 1988, the year of his death, a collection of L’Amour quotations titled A Trail of Memories was issued. The following year saw the publication of Education of a Wandering Man, an autobiographical work.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

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.


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Bold, Christine. Selling the Wild West: Popular Western Fiction, 1860 to 1960. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987. Locates L’Amour within the pop culture tradition.

Gale, Robert L. Louis L’Amour: Revised Edition. New York: Twayne, 1992. A reliable biographical and critical source.

Hall, Hal W. The Work of Louis L’Amour: An Annotated Bibliography and Guide. San Bernardino, Calif.: Borgo Press, 1991. Contains primary and secondary material.

Hinds, Harold E., Jr. “Mexican and Mexican-American Images in the Western Novels of Louis L’Amour.” Southwestern American Literature 10 (Spring, 1985): 129-141. Examines L’Amour’s Mexican and Mexican American characters.

Marsden, Michael T. “Louis L’Amour.” In Fifty Western Writers: A Bio-Bibliographical Sourcebook, edited by Fred Erisman and Richard W. Etulain. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1982. Discusses L’Amour’s main themes.

Weinberg, Robert, ed. The Louis L’Amour Companion. Kansas City, Mo.: Andrews and McMeel, 1992. Annotated checklists of L’Amour’s publications, articles, letters, interviews, and several critical essays (some not previously published) concerning him.