Trailing Louis L’Amour in Arizona
(by Bert Murphy, MBAR Publishing, Roswell, N.M., 2008, $22.
In his third book in the Trailing Louis L’Amour series, Bert Murphy, a fan of L’Amour (1908–1988) since the 1950s, again explores the geography of places mentioned in the writer’s ever-popular novels. Murphy’s prior entries were Trailing Louis L’Amour in New Mexico (1996) and Trailing Louis L’Amour from California to Alaska (1999). This volume offers information, pictures and maps on locales found in such works as Hondo, Catlow, The Lonely Man, The Sackett Brand, High Lonesome and The Burning Hills. Murphy’s recommendation on how to use any of the three volumes in the series: “Read the novels, using the maps to follow the action; then read the background material in the books; then do your own research and reread the novels while visiting their locations.”
Why bother to make such an in-depth connection with a fiction writer, albeit one whose 100-plus books have sold 300 million copies? For one thing, Murphy says, “[L’Amour’s] geography, history and facts are well reasoned, researched and accurate.” For another, he adds, “The knowledge to be gained and the values and virtues included in his stories are invaluable.” Murphy says Hondo, which ignited L’Amour’s writing career and led to the eponymous 1953 John Wayne film, is a good place to start, as it relates the dramatic, deadly story of the U.S. Army’s fight against the Chiricahua Apaches. High Lonesome covers Arizona Territory’s early 1880s outlaw period, while five of L’Amour’s novels are set in Arizona’s central highlands. The Grand Canyon gets top billing in L’Amour’s Son of a Wanted Man. “The canyon area is mystery and magic,” Murphy writes. “Most souls will be impacted by its majesty. I sorrow for those who aren’t.”
Originally published in the December 2009 issue of Wild West. To subscribe, click here.