cover image No Traveller Returns

No Traveller Returns

Louis and Beau L’Amour. Bantam, $28 (256p) ISBN 978-0-4252-8444-5

As Louis L’Amour’s son, Beau, explains in an afterword, he has taken the “roughly patched” segments of what would have been his father’s first novel and turned them into a highly entertaining nautical adventure. The narrative focuses on the 33 men who comprise the crew of the tanker SS Lichenfield, which is carrying a cargo of highly explosive naphtha from Los Angeles across the Pacific in early 1939. L’Amour (1908–1988) drew on his experiences as a merchant seaman and those of his fellow sailors to create characters such as Dutchman Pete Brouwer, who’s always planning to return home but never making it; Tex Worden, the lone survivor of a shipwreck; and thoughtful Second Mate John Harlan, who delivers some of the book’s best lines (e.g. “a very slight change in atmospheric conditions or a difference of a few degrees of temperature, and we might no longer exist”). The fate of the ship and its crew matters less than the characters’ often conflicting relationships. Beau L’Amour has done his father’s fans a service by showcasing the future bestselling author’s already developed storytelling and mature insights into human nature. (Oct.)