MAY THERE BE A ROAD
To most readers, Louis L'Amour is the quintessential writer of westerns; few know that among his 118 published volumes are stories set far from sagebrush country. In this volume of 10 previously uncollected short stories written early in his career and issued now, 13 years after his death, with an afterword by his son, Beau, L'Amour's broader interests are on display. Two of the tales, "Red Butte Showdown" and "The Cactus Kid" do indeed evoke the frontier settings L'Amour is best known for, but three of them, "Making It the Hard Way," "Fighter's Fiasco" and "The Ghost Fighter," are about prizefighting and indicate the influence of writers like Jack London and Ernest Hemingway. No less surprising in their modern California settings are "A Friend of a Hero" and "The Vanished Blonde," which echo Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett; Hemingway's themes are again reflected in "May There Be a Road" and "Wings Over Brazil," two yarns set against the volatile backdrop of war and revolution far from the purple mountains of Montana or the desolate plains of the Dakotas. The title story (never before published) unfolds in a rough-riding Tibet. Though influenced by other writers, each story follows L'Amour's patented formula, evident already in this early work. A tense situation is revealed, brief characterization and background follow, then the tale is tied up in a sequence of hard-hitting action sequences. These are professionally written stories, minor gems collected from the dustier corners of L'Amour's oeuvre. (May 8)
Forecast:Banking on the enduring appeal of L'Amour, the Book-of-the-Month Club, the Literary Guild and the Doubleday Book Club are making his latest posthumous offering an alternate selection, and sales should be strong. One more volume of stories is yet to come before the well runs dry.