Potboilers, to be sure, but good fun, and just the thing for fans of L’Amour’s better-known Westerns.

THE COLLECTED SHORT STORIES OF LOUIS L’AMOUR

THE ADVENTURE STORIES: VOLUME FOUR

Workmanlike action tales from prolific author L’Amour (1908–88; Beyond the Great Snow Mountains, 1999, etc.).

From the 1920s to the ’40s, L’Amour wrote great numbers of magazine stories, glad to find a serial that paid on acceptance, even when the publication was a little risqué. (Of one magazine he writes, “It pays rather well but is somewhat sensational. The magazine…is generally illustrated by several pictures of partially undressed ladies, and they are usually rather heavily constructed ladies also.”) This volume, part of an ongoing project to collect L’Amour’s scattered serial publications, gathers pieces that likely otherwise would have been lost, published in long-extinct magazines such as 10 Story Book and Thrilling Adventures. As L’Amour’s son Beau writes in the afterword, L’Amour worked under the influence of Jack London, Eugene O’Neill and John Steinbeck, and these tales are marked by a kind of bare-chested realism that is not without its poetry (“I’d had my share of the smell of coal smoke and cinders in the rain, the roar of a freight and the driving run-and-catch of a speeding train in the night, and then the sun coming up over the desert or going down over the sea, and the islands looming up and the taste of salt spray on my lips and the sound of bow wash about the hull”). The realism gets a touch less believable with a nicely plotted sequence of stories surrounding “pirates with wings” Steve Cowan and Turk Madden, soldiers of fortune loyal to nothing but the American way of life, with a talent for operating knife and machine gun, and with a definite dislike for the “sons of Nippon.” Literary archaeologists will prize this sequence as an insight into the American mindset at the time of World War II. L’Amour was not a consciously literary writer, not by any stretch, but with a little fine tuning, his story “The Man Who Stole Shakespeare” could pass for Borges. In all events, the stories are more than competently rendered, and fuel for a hundred old-timey Buster Crabbe serials.

Potboilers, to be sure, but good fun, and just the thing for fans of L’Amour’s better-known Westerns.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2006

ISBN: 0-553-80494-4

Page Count: 672

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2006

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The book is pure fun, although slender. Another volume of Maud’s misdeeds would be most welcome.

AN ELDERLY LADY IS UP TO NO GOOD

Five connected stories about a murderous old Swedish lady.

Maud has a good thing going. At age 88, she’s lived in a large apartment rent-free for 70 years because of a clause in an old contract. Never married, she loves to travel alone and to be alone. In the first story, "An Elderly Lady Has Accommodation Problems," a rare event happens: Her doorbell rings. Jasmin Schimmerhof, a 40-year-old avant-garde artist who lives in the building, stops by to say hello. The daughter of celebrities, her past includes drugs, multiple divorces, and tragedy. Her current art project strives to “unmask the domineering tactics of the patriarchy,” meaning that her small apartment is filled with phalluses—some even hanging from the ceiling. She is delightfully overbearing as she constantly tries to weasel her way into Maud’s good graces. But Maud isn’t stupid or senile, and she knows Jasmin is up to something. Once Maud figures out what it is, her solution is drastic, funny, and final. Maud is a seasoned world traveler who once, at age 18, had been engaged to Lt. Gustaf Adelsiöö. He’d emphatically broken off their engagement on learning her family wasn’t rich. Now, in “An Elderly Lady on Her Travels,” she reads in the newspaper that he is a wealthy 90-year-old widower about to marry the 55-year-old Zazza, whom ex-teacher Maud knows as her long-ago student, a schemer and a failed soft-core porn actress. When Maud arranges to get near her at a spa and then overhears Zazza’s plans to take control of Gustaf’s estate, Maud devises an emphatic countermeasure. And then in “An Elderly Lady Seeks Peace at Christmastime,” she deals with “The Problem” in the apartment above her. Maud’s murders always have plausible motives, and she is a sympathetic character as long as one keeps a safe distance. Each story takes its sweet time to develop and concludes with a juicy dose of senior justice.

The book is pure fun, although slender. Another volume of Maud’s misdeeds would be most welcome.

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-64129-011-1

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Soho

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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BEYOND THE GREAT SNOW MOUNTAINS

Superb stylist L’Amour returns (End of the Drive, 1997, etc.), albeit posthumously, with ten stories never seen before in book form—and narrated in his usual hard-edged, close-cropped sentences, jutting up from under fierce blue skies. This is the first of four collections of L’Amour material expected from Bantam, edited by his daughter Angelique, featuring an eclectic mix of early historicals and adventure stories set in China, on the high seas, and in the boxing ring, all drawing from the author’s exploits as a carnival barker and from his mysterious and sundry travels. During this period, L’Amour was trying to break away from being a writer only of westerns. Also included is something of an update on Angelique’s progress with her father’s biography: i.e., a stunningly varied list of her father’s acquaintances from around the world whom she’d like to contact for her research. Meanwhile, in the title story here, a missionary’s daughter who crashes in northern Asia during the early years of the Sino-Japanese War is taken captive by a nomadic leader and kept as his wife for 15 years, until his death. When a plane lands, she must choose between taking her teenaged son back to civilization or leaving him alone with the nomads. In “By the Waters of San Tadeo,” set on the southern coast of Chile, Julie Marrat, whose father has just perished, is trapped in San Esteban, a gold field surrounded by impassable mountains, with only one inlet available for anyone’s escape. “Meeting at Falmouth,” a historical, takes place in January 1794 during a dreadful Atlantic storm: “Volleys of rain rattled along the cobblestones like a scattering of broken teeth.” In this a notorious American, unnamed until the last paragraph, helps Talleyrand flee to America. A master storyteller only whets the appetite for his next three volumes.

Pub Date: May 11, 1999

ISBN: 0-553-10963-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1999

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