He's the bestelling western writer of all time and most of his back list is now available in the eBook formart and so for Wild West eMonday, the Tainted Archive in conversation with Beau L'amour the man responsible for keeping his father's legacy alive.
More than 300 million
copies of his books in print. The only author ever to be awarded both
the Congressional Gold Medal and the Medal of Freedom. Louis L’amour
stands head and shoulders above every other western author in terms of
both sales and acclaim.
He is the benchmark by which all other western authors measure themselves.
He is the western writer’s writer.
Archive talks to Beau L’amour about his father’s amazing legacy which
continues to entertain readers and will do so, no doubt, for as long as
books are read.
QUOTES IN BOLD are from Louis L’amour himself. I have used these, with
permission, from an entertaining video on the official website. To see
the full video click HERE.
many way Louis L’amour’s name recognition with western fans is equal
with say that of John Wayne. I wonder at what age did Beau become aware
that his father was this legendry figure?
“We lived in Hollywood
where any writer is a fairly minor player. Until I was in my early
teens our income was pretty modest and Dad was only recognized by
certain groups. I would argue that his name recognition is still way
below Wayne's. In many of the areas we travelled and with many of the
people we socialized with westerns were not considered special or
important. Dad was known for being an interesting guy in a lot of ways
and to a lot of people ... I've always thought that his work was almost
the least of him. He was an amazing individual and in social gatherings
his personality, life experiences, and wisdom on many subjects was more
valued than his writings or what eventually became fame.”
Louis L’amour first put pen to paper the days of the Old West were not
that far away – in fact, in many ways the young writer touched the
period. What stories did he tell that may not have seen their way into
“This would be too long to tell and I wouldn't do as good
a job as the man himself. There is a 30 minute interview at the end of
our latest Audio Drama, Son of a Wanted Man, that is all about the
different western characters that Louis knew in his youth. In my
opinion the so-called accuracy of Louis's novels is not nearly as
important as the fact that he actually touched the time period he wrote
about ... the people he knew and the places he lived prepared him as
well as any research.”
“My great grandfather was killed by Indians and scalped. And my grandfather fought Indians. I grew up being told stories like that.”
Louis L’amour had a reputation as a wondering man. I wonder, did his itchy feet ever leave him?
settled pretty firmly in Los Angeles 1946, living there until he died
in 1988. He never had a driver's license so he was trapped in town
unless he could recruit a friend, my mother, or me. To a certain extent
he did this on purpose, to impose discipline so he would work. You
can't write 89 novels and more than 300 short stories if your doing too
much wandering around!”
“I like to spend time in the mountains. In the really wild country – mountains or desert.”
L’amour’s early life was as rough and rowdy as that experienced by any
of his characters. He was, for instance, quite an accomplished boxer.
What other stories are there of his adventures?
A section of
our nearly finished Adventure Stories site that covers some of louis's
personal adventures and contains pictures and artifacts from his life.”
“I used to do some boxing. Every town had a fella thought he
was a fighter. I fought fifty fights and I lost five – thirty four
knock outs. I never lost a fight when I was eating regularly.”
like myself are huge L’amour fans and would love to know what your
father was like in everyday life? Was he always wandering around looking
“Rarely, though he loved to do just that. He knew that most good idea
don't come to you when you search for them but during the execution of
other pieces of work. He tended to sit in his office (at first a small
one then later a much bigger one) in our house and write. Usually a
couple of hours before breakfast, then 'til lunch. Then he'd eat,
exercise for an hour or two and either write or read up to dinner time.
After dinner he might write for another few hours. Time in the
wilderness was just once or twice a year and only for a few weeks total,
if that. Dad didn't make enough mon
until the very end of his career (when he was in his 70s) to relax
much. We had a comfortable middle class lifestyle as long as he wrote 3
to 4 books a year. It was only after all the books had been selling a
long time that the financial situation got much better. This was
typical of everybody writing paperback originals in that era. The
advances were quite low and so were the royalties ... it was only if
your books stayed in print that you made any real money.”
there any unfinished manuscripts that could one day see the light of
day? Will any other writer be working one day on unfinished works?
were plenty, we've published them in the last many short story
collections but no further stories that seemed to have had a particular
ending indicated by Louis that I could finish or polish. My rule of
thumb was always to do the least that I possibly could. First, I would
try to cut a story into publishable condition with no additional
writing, then I would sometimes write "bridging material" if the cuts
were too severe. Occasionally, I'd do more, "modernizing" some stories
(removing some of the political incorrectness from the narration ... but
rarely the dialogue ... hey, that's how people talked!), clearing up
cluttered plots and strengthening characters. Dad and I were a good
team, he didn't like rewriting and I love it. Only once did I "write"
nearly a whole story, the novella The Diamond of Jeru (which I also
turned into a movie and now a Dramatized Audio production ... exhausting
ALL the possib
and that was because the book was looking like it was not going to be
under length so creating a 80 page novella from a really rough draft of a
short short story was called for to bulk up the book.
There are quite a few unfinished stories documented at http://www.louislamourslosttreasures.com/
but none of which did I feel comfortable finishing because the end
of the story trajectory was indicated ... probably why Louis never
finished them. The site also contains finished work, notes, and
correspondence. The site will have three sections, one is already
finished and one partly done.”
political in-correctness from the original scripts. There are those that
would say that is sacrilege. Was this decision the publishers or yours?
decision. Louis was one of the most open and unprejudiced people I've
ever run into but different times have different vocabularies. So my
decision, mostly on the Crime and Adventure stories, was to alter the
narrator voice but very, very rarely, the dialogue. So the characters
speak in era specific vernacular but the narrator has a more universal
voice, which is appropriate to the concept of a third person narrator.”
“I always wanted to be a writer but it’s tough getting started because there’s nowhere to begin. As
soon as you start trying to sell stories you are competing with the
best people who sell stories. So you’ve got to be good from the start.”
Looking after the backlist of books, every one of which is still in print must take some doing. So is this a full time job?
full time. I occasionally work in the film industry and often write
and direct our audio dramas but the main effort are the books. Today
that is a completely backlist operations but until the early 2000s we
had a new book every year.”
If Louis L’amour were around today and working would be still be producing westerns?
certainly but he really enjoyed writing books like The Walking Drum and
was looking forward to more work in the Science Fiction genre, like The
Thanks for Beau L’amour for taking the time to answer these questions.
Louis L’amour on the web:
This interview is respectfully dedicated to the memory of Louis L'amour.