Review

With These Hands

by Louis L'Amour



There was a time in American literature when Louis L'Amour ruled a
large roost. Stephen King merely appears to be a prolific writer;
L'Amour wrote 90 --- that's 9 - 0 --- novels; 24 short story
collections; a memoir; a volume of poetry; and a couple of
nonfiction volumes as well. He makes King look like he got a
literary vasectomy. And L'Amour's stuff, like King's, was the very
best there was for his time. L'Amour primarily wrote westerns, and
the mythos of the American West is by and large hewn by his
prodigious work.

Given the attention that L'Amour has received --- he still, years
after his death, retains a large fan base that ebbs and flows as
new readers discover him --- the issuance of WITH THESE HANDS is an
unexpected delight. WITH THESE HANDS is a collection of 11 of
L'Amour's shorter works never before collected in a single volume.
That these stories have previously escaped scrutiny is
understandable, perhaps, when it is taken into account that most of
them are not part of L'Amour's beloved westerns but are based in
that other strata of the adventure genre.

It is unfortunate that --- at least so far as the advanced copies
of WITH THESE HANDS are concerned --- there is no Bibliography
indicated for when and where these stories originally appeared. As
far as the when is concerned, I would guess the stories are from
roughly between the late 1930s and early 1950. As for where they
came from, they have the taste and flavor of some of the more
literary of the men's magazines published during that era,
magazines like Argosy and True Adventure and the
like, magazines that reflected a different and arguably better time
and place. So, too, do these stories reflect a time and culture
passed, a civility and honor that we may never see again, exhibited
by rumpled knights who involve themselves in matters not their
business, not because they necessarily want to but because they
must. This is perhaps best illustrated in "The Corpse on the
Carpet," wherein an ex-boxer witnesses what appears to be a robbery
setup and winds up exposing an organized crime ring.

Boxing, in fact, figures prominently in a number of these
stories--- "Phantom Fighter," "Fighters Don't Dive," and "Gloves
for a Tiger" to name but three more. This is no surprise given that
L'Amour, before turning to writing, was a fairly successful boxer,
winning 51 of 59 fights during the course of his career. It is also
noteworthy that in this collection some recurring characters
appear. Kip Morgan, for one, is featured in both "Phantom Fighter"
and "The Corpse on the Carpet." "Six-Gun Stampede," the single
western in WITH THESE HANDS, deals with a rancher who, while
running out of chances and life, discovers that he holds the key to
his own success within his own hands --- a discovery that may have
come too late to save him. And the title story of WITH THESE HANDS
functions as the hidden connection between the classic tale of
ROBINSON CRUSOE and the recent hit film Cast Away; some of
the resemblance of the latter to the story are almost
uncanny.

WITH THESE HANDS is an excellent introduction to those who are
unfamiliar with L'Amour's work or who have been curious about it
but have shied away from the western themes that permeate most of
his novels. It is also an excellent addition to the already
groaning shelves of L'Amour's admirers. L'Amour apparently left
some other works unpublished at the time of his death, and there
are plans afoot to publish those works as well. WITH THESE HANDS
serves as a means of whetting the appetite for more.

Reviewed by on January 24, 2011

With These Hands
by Louis L'Amour

  • Publication Date: April 30, 2002
  • Genres: Adventure, Fiction
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam
  • ISBN-10: 0553802739
  • ISBN-13: 9780553802733