Friday, July 21, 2017

Forgotten Heist Novels: High Lonesome - Louis L'Amour

I first read this novel more than 35 years ago and remembered that I liked it quite a bit. It's also one of Louis L'Amour's novels that you don't hear much about, and a bank robbery is the driving factor in the plot, so it seemed like a good choice to reread for Forgotten Heist Novels Week.

After holding up a bank doesn't net them as much money as they expected, a gang consisting of four men decide to rob a bank in another town that's famous for never being held up successfully. The leader of the bunch is Considine; Dutch is the explosives expert; Hardy is a young gunman; and the Kiowa is a tracker, scout, and highly efficient killer. Considine has always avoided hitting this particular bank because it's in his hometown, and the local marshal is his former best friend who wound up marrying the girl they both loved.

HIGH LONESOME has the classic three-part heist novel setup: the planning, the job itself, the getaway and pursuit. Complications, as they always do, ensue. In this case the main complications are an old man and his beautiful daughter, who are being stalked by Apaches. Do the outlaws get away, or do they risk their freedom and their lives to help these pilgrims?

This novel held up very well on rereading. It's still my third favorite L'Amour novel after TO TAME A LAND and FLINT. I'm not as big a fan of L'Amour's work as many Western readers. His novels tend to have a repetitiveness and lack of attention to detail, and there's a little of that in HIGH LONESOME, but for the most part it's very tight and well-written. The second half of the book, following the bank robbery, is especially suspenseful and effective. There's one of those long, brutal fistfights you get sometimes in L'Amour books, and plenty of other action as well. When he was at the top of his game, L'Amour was very good indeed, and that's true in this novel. It works as both a crime novel and a Western, and I'm glad this week's theme on Forgotten Books gave me a good excuse to reread it. Recommended.


Charles Gramlich said...

I certainly remember reading it and enjoying it. To Tame a Land is my favorite L'Amour as well. And Flint is certainly in my top five.

Andrew McBride said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew McBride said...

It turns up as the movie FOUR GUNS TO THE BORDER (1954) with Rory Calhoun.