Louis L'Amour,
(Bantam, 1961)

In The Daybreakers, we met Tyrel and Orrin Sackett, brothers from the Tennessee hills who drifted west and made a place for themselves in a fledgling New Mexico town. Now, we meet their older brother, William Tell Sackett, who has been drifting 10 years since the end of the Civil War and has finally decided to find a home for himself, too.

A trip to see his brothers and Ma gets sidetracked, however, when he spies an irresistable trail in the Wyoming mountains. He follows it and finds gold -- and gold changes a man, and his circumstances, in ways he can't even imagine. With his saddlebags full of ore, Tell heads on down to see his kin, get an outfit for mining and picks up Tyrel's friend Cap Rountree before returning to claim his mine and, as the unavoidable side effect of discovering gold, starting a town for the hopeful miners who flock on his path.

But there's men who want to take Tell's gold rather than digging for their own. And there's men who want to avenge their brother, who died at the bad end of Tell's gun after an argument of cards, and cheating.

And there's a girl, lost and alone in the mountains, with red-gold hair.

Tell relates his story in the first person, and if you like Tyrel in The Daybreakers, you'll love Tell. Tell has even more humor, which manifests in his asides as he faces down gunmen and unforgiving snowstorms in steep canyons. He has a hunger for the education he never got, and he works at a book of Blackstone commentaries on the law to teach himself to read and, in the process, evolve his understanding of social justice.

And Tell has firm opinions on the subject, even when it means putting his life at risk to help someone who, moments before, was trying to kill him.

Future books in the Sackett series will introduce readers to plenty of cousins in the clan. But this is William Tell, the best of the lot, and Louis L'Amour has given him a proper introduction.

book review by
Tom Knapp

27 August 2016

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