All right, I confess to my semi-addiction to Louis L’Amour. I’ve probably read every novel and enjoyed most of them. When he got out of the western genre, as he occasionally did with forays into historic Mongolia or some other exotic period, he faltered. Within his own frame, though, he is unmatched. Monument Rock is a collection of “undiscovered” short stories and a brief novel–the book’s title piece.
The themes and characters are all stock, all predictable. I’ve heard that all plots can be summed up in two scenarios–1) Someone goes on a journey. 2) A stranger comes to town. That pretty much describes L’Amour. There’s the vulnerable lady being forced off her land by evil cattlemen. A stranger comes to town and saves her. There’s the guy who shot someone who needed shooting but is now on a journey away from his victims’ avenging relatives. And other variations. Same with the Collected Shorts, which I received as a gift a while after I read Monument Rock. It contains a few of the Monument Rock stories, but a bunch of others, too.
Every story takes off fast and gets faster, never catches its breath till the end. And justice prevails without ambiguity, though sometimes with irony, as when a crook is mistaken by a posse for another crook and hanged. Wrong identity, but right punishment. The universe is a tough, but well-ordered place.
I can make no argument for L’Amour as a literary icon, but as a master of this one narrow genre, he knows no peer. And if you like this kind of stuff–which I do–well, it’s the best mud a pig could slop in.