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Sunday 30 April 2023

BOWDRIE - book review


This collection of eight short western stories by Louis L’Amour was published in 1983. I read his collection Bowdrie’s Law in 2003. The stories here are from his early period, when he was ‘learning the art of storytelling’ and were featured in the Popular Western magazine 1940-1948. As he says in his foreword, those days of many magazines buying and printing short stories are long gone; a great proving ground for beginning writers to hone their trade.

Chick Bowdrie is a Texas Ranger and is as tough as they come. ‘Me, I never learned to live with folks. Most youngsters learn to live with people by playin’ with other youngsters. I never had any of that. I never really belonged anywhere. I was a stranger among the Comanches an’ a stranger among my own people when I got back. I never belonged anywhere. I’m like that no-account horse of mine…’ (p150) In short, he was a drifter – at least until the Texas Rangers took him in and gave him a purpose.

Here you will find L’Amour’s trademark western knowledge of the terrain and the people who populated it. The stories are traditional, but not merely shoot-em-up tales but mysteries and even romances, each one adding to the depth of the continuing character, Bowdrie. Interspersed between each story are historical notes, in effect brief overviews of real-life Texas Rangers, all of which make fascinating reading.

Bowdrie explains about his odd first name: ‘My name was Charles. Most times Chuck is a nickname for Charles, but there was another boy in school who was called Chuck. He was bigger than I was, so they called me Chick. I never minded.’ So the odd name stuck.

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