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It is perhaps one of those fortunate turns of kismet that Bantam's
Louis L'Amour's Legacy Editions series should be launched at
roughly the same time as the premiere of "Deadwood," HBO's new
original western series. It is doubtful that it was planned that
way, given that such matters are usually scheduled a year or so in
advance. However, the interest in "Deadwood," a graphic and gritty
presentation that is not your daddy's "Bonanza," will hopefully
rekindle interest in the Western genre in general and L'Amour in

While L'Amour's name is known and revered to fans of the Western
genre, he was in the somewhat unenviable position of having his
work better known than he was to the general public. This was due
primarily to the adaptation of his fine novels to epic films, such
as How The West Was Won, The Shadow Riders and, of
course, Hondo.

L'Amour's HONDO is inexorably intertwined with John Wayne, who
played the lead role of Hondo Lane in the 1953 film. It is hard to
believe that the book of the same name was L'Amour's first
full-length novel. L'Amour had confined himself to the magazine
market up until then, honing his craft by refusing to sacrifice
quality at the expense of quantity, writing for reliable
publications such as Argosy (recently and brilliantly
revived) and creating word paintings on a huge, adventurous canvas.
The quality of HONDO demonstrates this for all time. Though over
fifty years has passed since its publication, L'Amour's prose
sparkles and shines with a brilliance that transcends time, place
and fashion.

Hondo is a mystery man, a loner, whose background is only roughly
sketched throughout the novel in a passage here, a sentence there.
He is a dispatch rider for General Crook, traveling through an
Arizona desert that he knows as well as his own name. In his
lifetime, he has lived among the Apache and the white man, usually
uncomfortably. Hondo is a legend among both, a roughhewed
individual who will live in peace if he is permitted but who will
kill without hesitation if he is attacked or disturbed. As the
novel begins the Apache are leaving the reservation, beginning a
rebellion that will ultimately lead to their inevitable

Hondo is on his way back to General Crook to bring him word of the
uprising when he stumbles across a small ranch in the desert worked
and defended by Angie Lowe and Johnny, her young son. Angie Lowe
has been deserted by her husband but is not about to desert the
land and small ranch that her father left to her. Lowe and Hondo
find themselves attracted to each other following their brief
meeting, and after Hondo completes his mission he is compelled to
return to Lowe in an attempt to persuade her to leave the ranch in
the face of the deadly Apache uprising.

Vittorio, the chief of the Apaches, is also aware of Lowe, and
respects her courage and that of Johnny. He desires to bring them
into his tribe of Apache warriors. While he respects Hondo as well,
there are those in his tribe who do not. One is Silva, who is
motivated by hatred rather than nobility, and who has set his sight
upon Lowe and her son in order to wreak a terrible vengeance.
L'Amour painstakingly but quickly draws these disparate people and
elements together, and if one anticipates the conclusion it is only
because it is a classic one that L'Amour had a hand in

The ending of HONDO, in its way, is perfect: one is left wanting
more, to learn what happened to Hondo Lane and to Angie Lowe, and
yet what is revealed is enough. And while HONDO is firmly and
finely steeped in the Western genre, its subject matter, and
L'Amour's resounding skill as a wordsmith, transcends
classification. HONDO is ultimately a necessity for any bookshelf,
published in the edition that it has earned and deserves.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011

by Louis L'Amour

  • Publication Date: April 27, 2004
  • Genres: Fiction, Western
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam
  • ISBN-10: 0553802992
  • ISBN-13: 9780553802993