Louis Dearborn L’Amour (22 March 1908 – 10 June 1988) was an American author. His books consisted primarily of Western novels (though he called his work ‘Frontier Stories’), however he also wrote historical fiction (The Walking Drum), science fiction (The Haunted Mesa), nonfiction (Frontier), as well as poetry and short-story collections. Many of his stories were made into movies. L’Amour’s books remain popular and most have gone through multiple printings. At the time of his death some of his 105 existing works were in print (89 novels, 14 short-story collections, and two full-length works of nonfiction) and he was considered “one of the world’s most popular writers”.
In the typical L’Amour book, law triumphs over lawlessness and order over chaos. But he was less concerned with stereotypes of good guys and bad guys than with his characters’ spunkiness. The typical L’Amour hero was a strapping young man in his late teens or early 20’s, a resilient and somewhat romantic fighter bent on self-improvement. Tell Sackett carried law books in his saddlebags; Bendigo Shafter read Montaigne, Plutarch and Thoreau; and Drake Morrel, a one-time riverboat gambler, read Juvenal in the original Latin.
His novels are full of brief historical asides, geographical observations, and survival tips. It would be wrong to say that L’Amour’s characters never evolve during their adventures, but his typical protagonist begins a story with a set of principles, applies them to a series of challenges, and then emerges with those principles affirmed rather than shaken or mocked.
Moral ambiguity didn’t interest L’Amour. He had a clear sense of right and wrong: People should build rather than destroy, protect the innocent and vulnerable, and recognize that law and order can descend into chaos and barbarism with savage swiftness. L’Amour also didn’t write sex scenes, which made him a bit of an outlier among the popular novelists of his time. He called sex “a leisure activity” and said he had more important things to write about: “I am concerned with people building a nation, learning to live together, with establishing towns, homes, and bridges to the future.”