Louis L’Amour’s Last of the Breed is a western set in the Siberian wilderness. Its hero contends, not with Indians, but with the Soviet army, KGB, and black marketeers who will sell anything or anyone for a price.
U.S. Air Force Major Joseph Makatozi, called Joe Mack by friends, has been picked up by the Soviets after the experimental aircraft he was testing over the Bering Sea failed.
He’s been taken to an isolated prison camp where kidnapped foreigner experts with technical know-how Russia wants are interrogated and killed.
Colonel Zamatev expects Joe will willingly reveal military secrets: Joe is an American Indian.
Russians know from American films that Indians hate the white men who stole their land.
With days of his capture, Joe pole-vaults over the prison fence and into the wild.
Joe spent his boyhood in the American wilderness, getting his food, clothes, and shelter from what he found there.
Zamatev’s city-reared soldiers are no match for Joe. However, Alekhim, a Siberian native tracker may be.
The adventure unfolds in an unfamiliar setting that in L’Amour’s hands become one its protagonists.
L’Amour’s characters don’t develop, but they don’t need to. L’Amour gives them sufficient depth that readers are carried away on the strength of the story line.
Jubal Sackett is Louis L’Amour’s 1985 offering in what it’s the dust jacket informs me is a series of 17 books about the Sacketts.
Jubal includes TV-guide sized summary of those volumes: Fugitive Barnabas Sackett immigrated from England to America, settling without official sanction in the Tennessee River Valley, where he raised three sons and a daughter.
In Jubal Sackett, anticipating his own death, Barnabas sends Jubal west to find a place where common people like the Sacketts can own land.
Jubal would probably have gone without his father’s commission: He has the wanderlust.
Jubal is scarcely out of the yard when he falls in with a Kickapoo named Keokotah, who has west a smattering of English and a wanderlust equal to his own.
Together they meet an old Natchee Indian who asks Jubal to find the daughter of the Sun, their tribe’s ruling order, who has gone to find a less dangerous place for her people to live.
Jubal can’t refuse a request made in his father’s name.
The rest of the novel is predictable.
There are wild animals, wild Indians, wild Spanish, wild blizzards.
The intrepid hero and his equally intrepid sidekick end up happily in a place with lots to explore, at least until L’Amour’s next Sackett novel.
Louis L’Amour’s western adventure The Lonesome Gods is as irresistible as it is implausible.
When readers meet the novel’s hero, Johannes Verne is six years old. His dying father is taking him to California to his only other living relative.
Johannes remembers overhearing his parents say his grandfather hates him. Before he gets to California, he learns that his grandfather hates him enough to leave him to die alone in the desert.
Fortunately, good people take to Johannes instinctively. He’s nurtured by people who have common sense, extensive contacts, wide reading, and loyalty.
At 20, Johannes is a mid-twentieth century silver screen western hero plunked down in 1840s California.
L’Amour lets Johannes narrate the episodes in which he appears and an omniscient narrator relate the others. This technique gives an unwarranted aura of objectivity to implausible people and events.
There’s more than a whiff of Horatio Alger about The Lonesome Gods. Johannes’ friends impress on him the value of education, the importance of knowing how to do business regardless of one’s job, the need to have a goal for what he wants to become as well as for what he wants to do.
L’Amour’s story is forgettable; the advice in it worth remembering.
The Lonesome Gods by Louis L’Amour
Bantam Books. 1983. 450 p.
1983 bestseller #10. My grade: B