Louis L'Amour,
The Lonely Men
(Bantam, 1969)

Louis L'Amour,
Treasure Mountain
(Bantam, 1972)

William Tell Sackett is my favorite of the Sackett clan. His brother Tyrel might be faster with a gun, and Orrin is the good-looking orator of the family. Cousin Lando is the pugilist, and Nolan and Logan are the outlaws. Flagan and Galloway, only mentioned briefly in novels so far, are as yet unknown quantities.

But Tell is a solid protagonist. A loner, often known to make bad decisions, unlucky in love and too willing to lend a hand at his own expense, he avoids a "sadsack" label because he's so very good at what he does. There's no quit in him, and he shoots and rides with the best of them. While he's an expert at getting into scrapes, he's also good at surviving them, although sometimes he might come through with a bit more lead in him than he started with.

These two novels, The Lonely Men and Treasure Mountain, are excellent stand-alone tales in Tell's storied history.

In the first, Tell is the unwitting victim of his former sister-in-law, Laura Sackett. News travels slow in the Old West, and Tell doesn't know Orrin and Laura have parted ways. So when she tracks him down and tells him his nephew (who doesn't really exist) has been taken by Apaches over the Mexican border, Tell naturally saddles up to save the boy. With him ride three men -- not friends so much as acquaintances, but that stood for a lot in those days -- who have vowed to aid him in his rescue attempt, even though the risk is great.

Of course, there are other folks gunning for Tell, too, but let's face it, the Apaches are the biggest threat here.

In Treasure Mountain, Tell and Orrin hope to set their Ma's heart at ease by uncovering the fate of their pa, who has been missing for 20 years.

It's safe to assume he's dead, but figuring out how, when and why he died is a difficult task, even for expert trackers like the Sacketts. Their quest begins in New Orleans, where they know he went for a job, and leads them to a remote western mountain where men fought and died for hidden gold. Some of those men are still alive -- and eager to keep their secrets -- and others are equally curious to learn what befell their kin.

And, of course, there's gold. More importantly, where Tell is concerned, there's Nell Trelawney, a gal from back home in Tennessee, who sparks a level of interest lacking since his beloved wife Ange was murdered. (Yeah, there's a hint of romance in The Lonely Men, too, but the unfortunate girl conveniently disappears so Nell can make her move in the next volume.)

The tales of the Sackett clan are very nearly complete. Fortunately, Tell will be back before this series ends.

book review by
Tom Knapp

14 January 2017

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