Louis L'Amour,
Lonely on the Mountain
(Bantam, 1980)

Tell, Tyrel and Orrin Sackett don't know why, but their cousin Logan has sent word that he needs cows, and fast, in British Columbia. So the gun-handy brothers, along with Cap Rountree and a handful of other men, are pushing cattle along through mountains and plains -- into a passel of trouble.

Lonely on the Mountain is the last chronological novel in L'Amour's long-running Sackett series. I mourn this book in part because I'd love to see more Sackett stories, but also because, as Sackett books go, this is one of the weakest.

Sure, there's plenty of action, including Sioux and Blackfeet warriors in their path, a buffalo stampede and some mysterious adversaries who want to stop the herd at all costs. There's also plenty of L'Amour's beautifully descriptive prose, from a writer who truly loved the landscape his characters traversed.

But the book feels disjointed at times, and the payoff at the end -- no spoilers, I promise -- lacks the punch I expected. Some of L'Amour's best novels are those that throw a bunch of Sacketts into the pot and stir, but in this case it feels forced -- almost as if the author hoped simply throwing the brothers and cousin into the plot was enough to carry the story to its conclusion. It's not.

The Sackett boys deserved a better send-off, but sadly, L'Amour -- who had quite a few Sackett novels on the drawing board -- died before returning to these beloved characters. Decades later, I still hope some of his notes fall into the hands of a talented writer who will finish some of those unwritten books.

book review by
Tom Knapp

1 April 2017

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