Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Booty for a Badman by Louis L'Amour, 1960

My belly was as empty as my prospect hole, and it didn't seem like I had much choice.

When young William Tell Sackett, the oldest of the three Sackett brothers, has no luck panning for gold, he agrees to carry 50 pounds of the yellow metal out of the camp and deliver it safely to a bank in Hardyville—all for a princely fee of $100. The gold belongs to four miners who trust him. There's just one problem: he must carry it through desert-mountain country over five days. And Tell knows he won't be alone on the trecherous journey. The Cooper gang, who make a living out of robbing and killing successful prospectors, will be hot on his trail. 

Unmindful of dangers on the trail, the quiet, honest, and tough cowboy packs a horse and rides out with the gold, each pound worth $1,000. He is not worried about the Coopers. While he can take on the desperadoes, he's not so sure what to do when he encounters Christine Mallory, a pretty woman on the run from her soldier-husband and stranded in the middle of nowhere. Disregarding his father Colburn Sackett's advice to stay clear of women because "They'll trouble you. Love 'em and leave 'em, that's the way," the chivalrous Tell agrees to escort her to Hardyville on the Colorado, even if it means slowing down and risking his life.

Right then I'd much rather have tangled with the Coopers than faced up to that woman down there, but that no-account roan was taking me right to her. Worst of it was, she was almighty pretty.

And then, all of a sudden, the Cooper gang turns up. Here it comes.

Booty for a Badman is a fine Western story told in an engaging, concise, and easy style, a Louis L'Amour trademark. The author draws a vivid picture of the wild country, the hostile terrain, the dust raised by his pursuers in the distance, the night campfire and smoke without going into a lot of detail. Tell is a god-fearing and an honourable man, as evident from his gentlemanly behaviour towards Christine who he addresses as "Mrs. Mallory," but he can't help dreaming of settling down with a woman like her and raising a family. In the end L'Amour throws up a couple of twists that I didn't see. I'm glad for it's the element of surprise that holds my interest in a story, especially a Western that often finishes along predictable lines. 

The short story, first published in The Saturday Evening Post, July 1960, and subsequently reprinted in the same magazine, 1975 and 1988, is part of The Collected Short Stories of Louis L'Amour: The Frontier Stories, Volume One. I believe there are at least four other volumes in this series, and including other stories add up to more than 250. I read L'Amour—one of the most popular and prolific writers of the last century—after many years, and I'm prompted to read (and reread) his Sackett series among other novels.



Note: For more Friday's Forgotten Book reviews, visit Todd Mason's blog Sweet Freedom. Todd is doing the FBB honours this Friday in place of Patti Abbott at her blog Pattinase.

30 comments:

  1. I'm pretty sure I must have read this but it doesn't strike a chord with me at the moment. I'll have to checkm my collecctions

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Charles, I don't remember ever reading L'Amour's short stories, and I don't plan to stop now.

      Delete
  2. I devoured L'Amour as a teenager, but I haven't read much of his work in a decade or more. Thanks for the review and reminder I need to read more...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome, Ben. I haven't read his stories or novels since the eighties and early nineties. I want to read his non-Western books.

      Delete
    2. One of my all-time favorite Louis L'Amour novels is the non-Western The Last of the Breed.

      Delete
    3. I have not read that one, Ben. In fact, there's a lot of L'Amour I haven't read. Thanks for mentioning it.

      Delete
  3. In my opinion, no-one (except, perhaps, Zane Grey) is more associated with the Western than L'Amour, Prashant. I'm glad you highlighted one of his books today. He did much for that genre.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're probably right, Margot. I haven't read many influential Western authors. But L'Amour was, and still is, in the Top 5 of the genre. I will be reading him more often.

      Delete
  4. Sounds like an absolute Western type of novel. Bad boys, pretty women and innocent young man all in one! Thanks for the review.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mystica, it is a conventional Western story in many ways. However, the end came as a surprise, especially Tell Sackett's handling of the situation with the Coopers.

      Delete
  5. Not picked a Western up for a while, time to dig one out maybe.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Col, Western is one of my favourite genres though I don't read in it as often as I'd like. This was a nice little story.

      Delete
  6. Prashant – Thanks for the review. I’ve enjoyed a lot of L’Amour’s books over the years, but my favorite is his memoir, EDUCATION OF A WANDERING MAN.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome, Elgin. I enjoy Westerns a lot though I haven't read a lot of L'Amour. Thanks for mentioning his memoir, which I didn't know about until now.

      Delete
  7. Welcome back to book reviewing Prashant! I have never read any of his, though seen several films and TV shows based on them. Sounds, thanks chum.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Sergio. I do want to post reviews as often as possible but time is not on my side, what with personal and professional commitments and commuting to and from work.

      Delete
  8. Good to see you back, Prashant. Only westerns I've read in a while were Ed Gorman's. It's been so long since I've read any L'Amour I can't remember at all what I did read. Thanks for the reminder--and this one sounds like a good place to step back in.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's nice to be back, Mathew — thank you. Since I have read very few short stories by L'Amour, I'm not sure this would be the right one to revisit the author. BOOTY FOR A BADMAN is a fine tale thought I'm sure there are better ones.

      Delete
  9. L'Amour's title would have a different interpretation by today's readers! L'Amour continues to be popular all around the world.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. George, I never thought of the title that way, though L'Amour was probably referring to both girl and gold. L'Amour remains fairly popular in India and his novels continue to be displayed and sold in new bookstores.

      Delete
  10. Te SATURDAY EVENING POST didn't give him cover billing, but maybe the cover illustration...now posted at my blog...welcome back!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Todd. Good to be back. When I didn't see L'Amour's story on the cover of TSEP, I wondered if I'd, in fact, got the right issue. I double-checked month and issue before posting it here.

      Delete
  11. I have been planning to read some Westerns, Prashant, but I had not thought of trying some Western short stories. Good idea. And very nice review.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Tracy. When I don't have time for full-length novels, I try and read short stories. The important thing is to read something or other by authors on my wish-list on those I'm familiar with but haven't read yet.

      Delete
  12. Thanks for spot lighting an American writer I have not read. Very good post

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Mel. Louis L'Amour wrote mainly westerns as well as historical fiction, science fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and several short stories. His poetry may interest you though I have not read any.

      Delete
  13. Nice review, Prashant. I haven't read much of L'Amour, but what I have, I liked. As a western writer, I appreciate his popularity.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Oscar. I like L'Amour's clean and uncomplicated narrative style, just the way I like my Westerns.

      Delete
  14. This seems an interesting story Prashant. I esp like the fact that the hero is a decent man with a certain integrity. Since you have read so many Westerns, can you suggest a good one (with a mystery element) since I've to read one for a challenge?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow, Neer, that's a tough one. I'm not sure I can help you. While I love Westerns, I'm no expert in the genre. I have so many 20th century Western novels to read that I wouldn't even be able to suggest one off the top of my head. What makes your query tricky is the fact that most Westerns have elements of crime and mystery, to a higher or lesser degree. A Google search may be more useful than my advice.

      Delete