I got this book after reading the glowing reveiws written on about it, as well as L'Amour's other works. I love westerns and L'Amour was high on my list so I felt it was time to give it a shot. The book is filled with charming characters, endearing scenes and some classic western action. However, the fact is the book is just not that well written.
The dialogue is extremely stilted and unatural. Things that should be be described in narration are instead awkwardly spoken by the characters. For example, when a charater's wife asks if her husband has shot a gun, the husband replies by saying "I have not. In England only the great land owners hunt." It is an instance where L"Amour is trying to explain to the reader why the character hasn't shot a gun. But the husband and wife are both from England, so wouldn't this information be common knowledge to someone who grew up there? It's dialogue that no real human would ever speak. The story also jumps around from place to place often before you really get solid feel for where the characers are. There is often little description of places beyond the most superficial detail.
I do not want to blast this book. L'Amour is a legend in the western genre and I respect what he has done. It's also clear from other reviews that he is much loved by many people. I want to make clear that there is a lot of good in this book and I can see why so many people love it. But I myself just can't get past the technically poor writing, especially when there are incredibly well written works in the western genre by authors like McMurty, McCarthy, and Guthrie.
I bought this book in my post Wheel of Time euphoria, just after I finished the final installment of the series. I am a big fan of the western genre and I wasn't quite ready to come down from my Robert Jordan high, so I thought I give this one a go.
Let me say first that Robert Jordan is not William Faulkner, and the technical aspects of his writing often lean toward the juvenile. However, I do believe that it isn't a requirement for all writers to have pretty prose, and what Jordan lacks in technique he makes up for in an engaging story. The story is very dynamic and exciting with well developed (albeit somewhat two-dimensional) characters who I did grow to have feelings for. And while I don't know for sure how accurate it is, Jordan seems to be very knowledgeable about the subject he writes about.
And for the Wheel of Time fans who are thinking of buying this, it is fun to see where some of the ideas in WoT might have come from. I can really see a lot of Aiel in the Cheyenne, in their dialogue and actions. This obviously can't live up to WoT but any WoT fan would enjoy it. I laughed out loud when McCabe entered the Cheyenne camp and his mouth went dry (a common physical nervous reaction in WoT).
I would recommend this as a light read in between heavy hitters. It's a short fun story that is highly entertaining and well suited for audiobook. Michael Kramer does a good job as well. Like I said, this is a light read. If you are looking for a western along the lines of McCarthy or McMurtry, look elsewhere. But if you are just looking for an entertaining story, give it a try.
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