Louis L'Amour,
The Sky-Liners
(Bantam, 1967)

Louis L'Amour,
(Bantam, 1970)

There are handy lists out there telling readers a general order in which to read Louis L'Amour's popular Sackett series of novels, which weren't all written in chronological order.

Don't trust them. Sackett completists would have you believe that Galloway comes before The Sky-Liners. Not so.

Both are about a pair of Sackett siblings, Flagan and Galloway, who have made only minor appearances in a couple of previous books. (In fact, these books erroneously come after Treasure Mountain in the chronology, another goof.) And, although one of the books is titled Galloway, the primary character (and narrator) in both is his brother Flagan.

In some ways, these two brothers are new versions of Tyrel and Orrin, who featured in some of L'Amour's earlier Sackett novels. Like Tyrel, Flagan narrates the stories. Like Tyrel, Flagan is better and quicker with a gun than his brother is, and homelier and less comfortable with the ladies (although he always gets the girl). Perhaps L'Amour, realizing he had limited Tyrel and Orrin's storytelling potential after Orrin went into politics and Tyrel vowed to hang up his guns, decided to recreate them as nearly identical cousins.

Still, both are strong additions to the family saga. Like their cousins, Flagan and Galloway headed west from Tennessee to make their way in the world.

In The Sky-Liners, they have just returned to their mountain home to pay their late father's debts when they cross a brutal gang and are saddled with an Irish horse-trader's daughter, whom they must escort (against her will, because she's in love with a rogue) west to Colorado. The story features appearances by historical lawmen Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson, as well as frequent Sackett sidekick Cap Rountree.

In Galloway, Flagan is fleeing naked and unarmed in the wilderness after escaping a party of Apaches, and Galloway is trying to find him. Then, they decide to set up ranching in a bountiful land despite the ill will of another local rancher. Two previously underutilized Sacketts -- flatlander Parmalee and Clinch Mountain outlaw Logan -- come to their aid.

Oh, and there's a bit of ever-present romance, too -- in both cases, Flagan is the lucky man. As also happened in another pair of books featuring Tell Sackett, the object of our hero's affections in one book disappeared without explanation so that another lady could take her place in the next.

Neither book is as vital to the series as some of the earlier novels; the William Tell Sackett books are still the strongest must-read books in the set. Still, it's hard not to like these brothers, and their stories are solid, rowdy western adventures.

book review by
Tom Knapp

31 December 2016

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