Thursday, December 6, 2018

The Gift of Cochise

He had several drinks—his first in months—in one of the saloons. As the liquor warmed his stomach, Ed Lowe looked around agreeably. For a moment, his eyes clouded with worry as he thought about his wife and children back in Apache country, but it was not in Ed Lowe to worry for long. He had another drink and leaned on the bar, talking to the bartender. All Ed had ever asked of life was enough to eat, a horse to ride, an occasional drink, and companions to talk with. Not that he had anything important to say. He just liked to talk.

That passage nails one of the gifts of Louis L ’Amour, his ability to paint a picture of a man’s character in a few brief defining sentences and small actions. This terseness is often mistaken for simplicity. It is as far from simple as gimlet-eyed observation gets.

L ’Amour’s “simplicity” was in aid of propulsive narrative. He at times allowed it to traipse into formula, but when he was working with full burners, as in this story—you’ve got gold.

A fine story indeed.

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