Review

From the Listening Hills

by Louis L'Amour



What hasn't been said about Louis L'Amour by now? The name L'Amour
is synonymous with adventure fiction and, if the genre that he is
primarily known for, the Western, has fallen on fallow times, his
work is nonetheless still known and appreciated, even enjoying
cyclical revivals. And so it should be; the man published 90
novels, including HOW THE WEST WAS WON --- which was adapted into
what might be the ultimate Western film epic --- and seventeen or
so novels dealing with the Sackett family. Somewhere in between, he
managed to write enough short stories to fill over two-dozen
collections. And they still keep coming, thanks to the fine folks
at Bantam Books.

The latest --- and apparently the last of these --- is FROM THE
LISTENING HILLS, a compilation of 12 L'Amour short stories that
were previously uncollected. Interestingly enough, two of these
stories are apparently published here for the first time. The
first, the title story, is a bit unwieldy but is nonetheless a
strong tale of justice gone wrong. The other, "Sand Trap," is about
an innocent party who is at the wrong place at the wrong time and
witnesses a murder. The murderers try to frame him for the deed and
then kill him so he can't deny it. He turns the tables so neatly on
them that you want to stand up and cheer by the end. It is possibly
one of the best pieces of short fiction that L'Amour ever wrote; if
it has, indeed, never been published before, it is a puzzle as to
why it has not seen the light of day until now.

In addition to these apparently unpublished works, FROM THE
LISTENING HILLS is noteworthy for including the first, and last,
pieces of short fiction that L'Amour wrote. Neither, interestingly
enough, are westerns. "Anything For A Pal," his first short story,
is only a few pages long and, although the ending is telegraphed,
it nonetheless showcases the irony for which L'Amour's work later
became so well known. The last story is a short parable with the
haunting title "The Moon of the Trees Broken By Snow." The ending
is more obvious now than it probably was when the story was first
published, but no matter; it's still a beautiful and interesting
story that provides more food for thought than one might expect
from a tale that is only a few pages long.

The remainder of the tales spans the gamut from sports stories
("Backfield Battering Ram," "Moran of the Tigers") to war stories
("Flight to the North," "Down Paagumene Way") to, of course,
westerns ("A Night At Wagon Camp," "Murphy Plays His Hand").
L'Amour occasionally tried to jam too much into one story --- "Down
Paagumene Way" is an example of this --- but even at his worst,
L'Amour's ability to create suspense always shines through, even
when details become murky. There is also imbued into every story a
sense of fairness, values and ideals, where a man's word, spoken or
unspoken, was his bond. There are heroes, villains and, usually, a
woman to be saved from peril. What more does one need for great
literature?

It is not known at this point whether there will be more L'Amour
collections published. Certainly, however, there is enough of a
bibliography presently in existence to keep even the most
vociferous reader busy, as well as enchanted. FROM THE LISTENING
HILLS is a worthy addition to his legacy.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011

From the Listening Hills
by Louis L'Amour

  • Publication Date: April 29, 2003
  • Genres: Adventure, Fiction
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam
  • ISBN-10: 055380328X
  • ISBN-13: 9780553803280