Friday, 22 April 2016

Thoughts from an author: The Book I'd like to have written

Although I choose to write westerns, it isn't westerns that have influenced my writing on the whole. There is a shelf in my bookcase dedicated to my favourite stories, usually those that have touched me on some deep, emotional level or that have a complex plot that has unfolded to astound me in some way. It includes Catherine Cookson, Daphne DuMaurier, Robert Louis Stevenson, Rosemary Rogers, Sharon Salvato, Kathleen Woodiwiss and others. However, of all of them, the western I'd like to have written is To Tame A Land by Louis L'Amour. I read this book every year, and in fact have had to buy the Kindle version because my paperback, which was second hand when I bought it 34 years ago, is getting a bit fragile.

For such a thin book, which can easily be read in one sitting, it contains a sweeping story filled with very real characters that leap from the page and involve you in their lives. Written in the first person, it allows you to feel with and for the main character Rye Tyler as you move through his life from a boy travelling with his father on a wagon train, through his western education and through to the final showdown. Right from the beginning you root for him and by the end you feel for his predicament. It goes without saying, that the landscape is authentic but to me, it feels less formulaic than some of Louis L'Amour's other writing, and I say that as a major fan of his work. The end brings me to tears every time, not necessarily an emotion I would expect a L'Amour novel to elicit, because when all's said and done, they are written for a male audience.

When I write my own westerns, I try to infuse realism into the characters, and authenticity into the settings and scenarios. If I had to set myself a benchmark, To Tame A Land would be it. Maybe during my lifetime as a writer, I'll get close, but I doubt I'll ever hit it.

If you've never read a Louis L'Amour story this would be as good a place as any to start.

Rye Tyler was twelve when his father was killed in an Indian raid. Taken in by a mysterious stranger with a taste for books and an instinct for survival, Rye is schooled in the hard lessons of life in the West. But after killing a man, he is forced to leave his new home. He rides lonely mountain passes and works on dusty cattle drives until he finds a job breaking horses. Then he meets Liza Hetrik, and in her eyes he sees his future. After establishing himself as marshal of Alta, he returns, only to discover that Liza has been kidnapped. Tracking her to Robber's Roost, Rye is forced to face the man who taught him all he knows about books, guns, and friendship. Two old friends - one woman: Who will walk away?


  1. I've not read many L'Amour books but reckon it's time I hunted down a copy of this one.