Friday, July 29, 2011

Forgotten Books: The Sixth Shotgun -- Louis L'Amour

I can remember the days, long ago, when vendors at Texas flea markets and some secondhand bookstores sold Louis L'Amour books at a premium. You could get other paperback books for a dime at a flea market, but a L'Amour book would set you back a buck, minimum. Then the Internet came along. L'Amour books had huge printings and reprintings, and suddenly they were everywhere. Sometimes on eBay a first printing of Hondo won't even get a bid.

Anyhow, I suspect that while no Louis L'Amour book is really forgotten, some are less well-known than others. Besides, I was reading this one, and I needed something to talk about today.

This volume contains two L'Amour items, a short story and a novella, plus a lengthy intro by John Tuska, though you'd never know that from the cover, now would you? Do you think Leisure Books might have wanted people to think it was a novel? I wonder if they fooled anybody.

The intro is a reprint of Tuska's article in A Variable Harvest, published by McFarland in 1990. I didn't see it there, so I was glad to get it now, many years later. If you haven't read it, and if you have an interest in L'Amour, I recommend it highly. It confirms everything you've ever suspected about the lack of editing in L'Amour's later books, and it explains why L'Amour didn't want to acknowledge the Hopalong Cassidy novels he wrote. And a lot of other things, including the fact that L'Amour never renewed the copyrights on most of his stories. Great stuff.

The short story in the volume is "The Sixth Shotgun," a story that originally appeared in Ranch Romances. It's good L'Amour, with an outlaw hero who's really just a good old boy at heart, some romance, and a nice narrative movement. The ending will be obvious to just about everyone after a few pages, but it's still fun. I haven't read the novella, "The Rider of the Ruby Hills," but I'll get to it one of these days.


Charles Gramlich said...

Well this is one I haven't heard of, and I thought I had every L'Amour. Wow.

Steve Lewis said...

I thought it strange that Leisure titled this book after the short story, then I realized that the novella (The Rider of the Ruby Hills) was the title and lead story in a collection that came out from Bantam in the mid to late 80s.

I guess they really didn't want you to know that you were buying something you might already have.

It sounds as though L'Amour really didn't bother with renewing his copyrights. Tuska probably reprinted the stories straight from the pulp magazines they appeared in, without any of the changes L'Amour may have made later on.

Unknown said...

Steve, you're correct. "The Sixth Shotgun" also appeared from Bantam, but in different version.