Mojave Crossing Still Spellbinding: Louis L’Amour’s Classic Westerns Still Captivate Readers of Today
Louis L’Amour’s Mojave Crossing (Bantam Books, 13th printing) is truly a classic. Published almost fifty years ago, this book, like almost all classic westerns, is almost impossible to find in used bookstores. So what makes this book so entertaining and appealing, besides the fact that it’s written by Louis L’Amour? What makes classic westerns so enduring in their appeal?
Classic Western Style
For starters, Mojave Crossing is written in a typical, classic western style. The reader meets the main character (Tell Sackett) and stays with him throughout every single chapter in the book. The story is told only through Tell Sackett’s point of view. No other points of view are entertained. The reader warms to Sackett on the first page of the novel, and by the end of the book, one is ready to read more of this engaging character’s story. Of particular note in Mojave Crossing, is that the story is told entirely in first person, something fairly uncommon in western books.
The book, of course, has a female interest, and while the reader may find her interesting or intriguing, L’Amour keeps the focus entirely on Sackett and his exploits. Once the female character is introduced, the author never lets her disappear for long from the story, however, perhaps only a chapter or two at most.
There’s plenty of action in this book, and the author portrays Tell Sackett as truly a man’s man – someone who is not a prissy, touchy-feely, alienated pretty boy. Tell Sackett is all man and describes himself as decidedly not pretty or handsome. While he has fears and worries from time to time, he prevails and never backs down from doing what a “man’s gotta do.”
One huge appeal of L’Amour’s books is the historical and geographical accuracy of the books. L’Amour teaches throughout his novels. He uses actual places – and most of these are places where L’Amour himself has been, as one can see in his autobiography, Education of a Wandering Man, itself an excellent read.
In this particular novel, crossing the Mojave Desert is a main part of the story, as well as the area of California we now think of as Los Angeles. It’s interesting to read of the early history of this area regarding the buildings, clothing styles, lifestyle, and the Californios.
Perhaps the most appealing element of L’Amour’s books, and western books in general is the appeal of western ethics and morals. A man’s word meant something back in this time. Men were not so worried about being “politically correct” that they were afraid to be men. Men weren’t afraid, period, and if they were they kept it to themselves.
The resurgence in western literature (and all things western, really) is to be expected considering the convoluted quagmire society has found itself in. People are hungering for basic, simple values and want to be able to tell the difference between a good person and a bad. It’s a difficult time when one can no longer judge a man by his character – and some would say that most men don’t seem to have any.