Friday, January 29, 2016

FFB: The Tall Stranger -- Louis L'Amour

Hondo, a novelization of a screenplay based on a story by L'Amour, turned out well.  Someone must have thought that if it worked once, it would work again, so we have The Tall Stranger, a novelization of a screenplay based on a story by L'Amour.  But it didn't work this time.  The Tall Stranger is a mess.  

How messy is it?  Well, on the proofreading level, there's a character named either Satterfield or Scatterfield.  Take your pick.  I think the preponderance of evidence is with Satterfield, but I didn't count.  At one point a man is referred to as "she," and there are a number of typos, like "horrer" for "horror."  

The book is very short, a little over 120 pages.  Ordinarily I'd think that was okay, but not here.  There are a lot of things that need to be fleshed out, like characters, their motivations, and the story itself.  It's almost as if L'Amour started to do a really good job but got tired of it and turned in the book.  When he's writing about the landscape, there are pages that are just fine, but they seem out of place with the rest of the book.  As for the characters, they're very sketchy, and they do, or don't do, things just in service of the story, whether they make sense or not.  Very near the end of the book, L'Amour devotes several pages to the backstories of a couple of minor characters just to set up their final confrontations.  

Throughout the book Rock Bannon, the protagonist, is described as being unable to express himself, but at one point when he describes a particular valley, he bursts forth for a page or so with the eloquence of a rustic Wordsworth. 

I'm not going into the plot.  I'll just say that I've read and enjoyed a lot of L'Amour's novels, but this one is just plain bad.  It went through several printings from Gold Medal, though, and was reprinted later by Bantam.  I don't know if any revisions were made for any of those editions, and I'm not moved to find out.  Maybe the movie is better.  It would just about have to be.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I watched the movie a while back, and thought it was a typical, good Joel McCrea western. I read the novel many years ago, and remember I didn't care much for it.

Bill Crider said...

I read the summary of the movie on Wikipedia, and it sounds a good bit different from the book.

Todd Mason said...

Definitely sounds like a rush job, and quite possibly a ghosted item?

statree said...

I'm not surprised that you're the proud owner of these figures.