Louis L'Amour, |
Oh sure, the hero (popularized in film by John Wayne) is a hard-bitten, Apache-fighting man, much like many who populate Louis L'Amour's books. But when he meets Angie Lowe and her son, Johnny, alone at a desert ranch, the novel shifts gears.
Hondo, written more than a half-century ago, was L'Amour's first big, critical success. Wayne himself said it was his favorite western novel. And there's a reason it's still in print. Hondo Lane, who has lived with the Apaches and who scouts and carries dispatches for the army, is a powerful protagonist, cunning and savvy. His growing relationship with Angie Lowe -- and the sharp turn the story takes when her long-absent husband reappears -- is even more central to the tale than the growing danger as Apache chief Vittoro prepares the tribes for war.
Even sweeter, though, is Hondo's budding paternal friendship with Johnny, a young boy in need of a father. L'Amour's writing here is deftly tender, without being overly sentimental.
Of course, a L'Amour book always has plenty of fighting, from man-on-man gun battles to large conflicts between the Apaches and U.S. troops. Although the action centers mostly on its eponymous hero, there is a strong sidebar depicting the valor of Company C, a detachment of calvary troops caught out in Apache territory. Their story is terribly moving, and adds a note of solemnity to the novel.
Hondo is a no-nonsense western hero, a man alone who is forced to face what's missing in his life, even as the landscape erupts in chaos around him. Powerful stuff.
book review by
17 September 2016
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