By Bruce Fretts
June 13, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

May There Be a Road

B+
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Louis L’Amour was at home on the range — that’s why more than 260 million copies of his oaters are in print. Since his death in 1988, he’s become the Tupac Shakur of the Old West, as previously unpublished or uncollected works — most recently the short-story collection May There Be a Road — continue to emerge. Included are a pair of mini horse operas, ”The Cactus Kid” and ”Red Butte Showdown” (they’re as colorful as their titles), but it turns out Westerns weren’t L’Amour’s sole love.

A onetime professional boxer, the author set some of his earliest efforts in the ring, and the three fight tales featured here drip with deliciously pulpy prose (”good heavyweights are scarcer than feather pillows in an Eskimo’s igloo”). The volume is bookended by cases from the files of L.A. PI Neil Shannon, and they’re intriguing enough to make you wish L’Amour had tried his hand at a full-length mystery. Most surprising, the well-traveled writer’s title story trades the West for the Far East. The romantic adventure concerns a Tibetan warrior’s fight to save his bride and his tribe from the encroaching Chinese Red Army. Submitted in 1960 to the Saturday Evening Post (which never ran it), the minor masterpiece was intended to awaken Americans to Tibet’s plight. L’Amour was hip to the cause long before Richard Gere, and ”Road” may make you rethink the man’s square image.

May There Be a Road

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