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Westerns - Louis L'Amour - Kiowa Trail

Buy Kiowa Trail
Bantam Books Original 1964
Bantam Reissue 2005
176 pages

A classic Western tale by the best known name in Westerns was pulled from the dusty shelves to lure a new generation and bring fond memories of vintage 1950’s era Hollywood Western movies to older folks. The tone of this book is reminiscent of Gun Smoke’s Marshall Dillon and Miss Kitty, but it lacks the action brought by a good Clint Eastwood flick or even a B rated television series.

The story begins with foreman Conn Dury, ranch boss Kate Lundy, and the hired hands awaiting payment for the herd of cattle they just drove to a small Kansas town. Discrimination and prejudice were alive and well in the Old West, and this story underlines the tensions without being softened by political correctness. Inevitably, the gun slinging begins only to be followed by clashes with Indians and the town sheriff John Blake who could be a clone of Marshall Matt Dillon from Gun smoke.

Kate Lundy fails as a credible boss for The Tumbling B Ranch. To make her character believable, L’Amour needed to give her some emotions and witty comebacks. Instead, she is predictably tough and has a secret crush on her foreman Conn Dury. The story is narrated by Conn who is a stereotypical Clint Eastwood without the ability to “make your day.” L’Amour’s passive language and continual use of the word “we” makes the action hard to follow. In fact, there is really no action until 56 pages into the story. Finally, the “Git Along” pace of the story picks up a little. What action there is becomes hard to follow due to the continual flashbacks to Conn’s early life. While many authors use flashbacks to help their readers understand the character, Kiowa Trail’s transitions in time are choppy and don’t flow together well leaving the reader perplexed.

Kiowa Trail is definitely not L’Amour’s best story. For the reader looking for a good action-packed Western, Kiowa Trail will leave them cold in their saddle. It is still a worthwhile break in the day to those die hard fans who love 50’s Western movies

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