Thursday, July 17, 2008

Last of the Breed by Louis L'Amour

First off, I wanted to mention that I think Louis L’Amour is one of my favorite storytellers. He has written numerous books with interesting characters and plots. I have read quite a few of his Westerns in the past. I enjoy reading them because for me it is pure entertainment. I can relax while reading because I don’t have to think too hard yet I do become entranced in the book that I want to keep reading. I understand that many people don’t really care for Westerns and I can understand that. So, I decided to review one of L’Amour’s books that is considered a contemporary adventure novel rather than a Western. Here it is:

Last of the Breed

By Louis L’Amour

This story follows the events of U.S. Air Force Major Joseph Makatozi "Joe Mack" who is part Sioux, part Cheyenne, and an exemplary athlete which was intriguing to me from the beginning. It is set in the "Wild East" of the Siberian landscape. (This is a place that I’ve never been nor do I know very much about it. I enjoyed L’Amour’s details and descriptions of this seemingly barren landscape although I can’t really comment on his accuracy since I’m not an expert.) It begins with Joe Mack being shot down by the Russians and captured. He did not go down easily and now he feels desperate in the Soviet prison camp. He realizes if there is any chance for escape he has to act immediately. There is really only one way out – a route that lies over the icy land to the Bering Strait and across the cold sea to America.

What would a L’Amour book be without proper enemies? (Spoiler Alert!)

Joe Mack’s enemies are Soviet Colonel Arkady Zamatev and his Yakut henchman Alekhin. They are intelligent characters with the experience necessary to trap Joe Mack again. It takes all that Joe Mack could possibly posses within him along with the knowledge that he is from a lineage of pure bred survivors. He uses every skill he ever knew and he endures beyond that in order to overcome, Alekhin, the Yakut scout. The race for escape and survival is on for Joe Mack and the orders to track and capture him begin for Alekhin.
Filled with suspense artfully done, Joe Mack has thoughts that he needs no one and avoids all contact with others. Soon, he is forced to humble himself and take shelter from a lovely Romanian woman, Natalya, and her father. I liked Natalya for her mystique. Perhaps, because between her and Joe Mack, they silently fall in love or maybe there will always be a warm memory of good friendship. I felt this scene gives the book a rare glimpse of humanity to Joe Mack’s character. For most of the book, Joe Mack is isolated undergoing a rough transition to merge himself with the wilderness. There is nothing insularly noble about him or the way he conducts himself throughout the story but it is riveting just the same.

An interesting note is that this book was published in 1986 and was written to take place sometime in the 1980's. This means that this story was possibly written during the Cold War but that it took place before the opening of the Iron Curtain revealed the kidnapping of American pilots by the Soviets.

A lot of speculation has been mentioned about a sequel because of the limited amount of closure in the ending. I am personally glad to find out that L’Amour had supposedly never planned or has ever written a sequel. I prefer it that way as sequels can be mundane. I think Last of the Breed stands on its own.


Unknown said...

I've never read a Louis L'Amour novel, but I've heard he writes well - after all, not everything on earth has to be War and Peace. And thank goodness for that. I have this terrible image of reading War and Peace over and over forever... *shudder*. It kind of reminds of "The Running Man", by Stephen King (thought I think it's back when he didn't call himself Stephen King), where a man is in a terrible future gameshow, where they set you loose in the city, and your object is to not be killed for as long as possible. IF someone kills you they get a big ransom from the game show, and the longer you stay alive the more money your family gets after you're dead. But it was the same feeling of man versus a hostile world, of the overriding feeling of isolation and the loss of connection with humanity.

Amanda said...

That sounds stolen from "The Most Dangerous Game," that Stephen King novel. Never read that one.

Julie - is this your favorite L'Amour book? I seem to recall being assigned to read one of his books in high school, or maybe it was another guy I get him mixed up with. Maybe Stephen Crane? Yeah, I just looked up Stephen Crane and that's who we were assigned to read - The Red Badge of Courage. I'm not sure why I somehow crossed my brainwires to make Mr. Crane and Mr. L'Amour into the same person. I wonder if my dad had books by both of them on the same shelf or something when I was growing up. Anyway, they apparently aren't at all alike. I've always avoided L'Amour because I hated the above-named novel, haha! :)

Amanda said...

I just reread my comment and realized that first paragraph makes it sound like I think King wrote "The Most Dangerous Game" when in reality I meant to say the King novel Jason mentioned sounded like the short story written NOT by King. Sorry about the confusion.

Unknown said...

Go to bed, Amanda... ;P

Julie said...

I read L'Amour just for fun, not in a literary sense. I like how he can tell a story. He can be repetitive and unrealistic which makes it funny.
I've never read much of Stephen King so I don't know anything about the "The Running Man" that Jason mentioned.
My favorite L'Amour novel is actually a Western called "Utah Blaine."
Another novel that he did that's not Western was called "Fair Blows the Wind" which reminded me of "Treasure Island" by Stevenson.
I never read L'Amour in high school, Jared introduced me to Westerns when we were first married. I thought I wouldn't like them but now I've read a few of them. I can't say that they are my most favorite books but I like reading about the time period of the 1800's in the Westerns.

Amanda said...

Riders of the Purple Sage is supposed to be a good western. That's one of the ones that I read about on Librivox and didn't know it was a Western and it caught my eye. Not by L'Amour, though.

Chris said...

Nice review. You should check out my blog, The Louis L'Amour project. You can click on my name or go to Check it out! Also, good luck with your own project--looks like you're making great progress.