Who is Louis L’Amour?
Louis Dearborn L’Amour (/ˈluːi ləˈmʊər/; March 22, 1908 – June 10, 1988) was an American novelist and short-story writer. His books consisted primarily of Western novels (though he called his work “frontier stories”); however, he also wrote historical fiction (The Walking Drum), science fiction (Haunted Mesa), non-fiction (Frontier), as well as poetry and short-story collections. Many of his stories were made into films. L’Amour’s books remain popular and most have gone through multiple printings. At the time of his death almost all of his 105 existing works (89 novels, 14 short-story collections, and two full-length works of nonfiction) were still in print, and he was “one of the world’s most popular writers”.
Louis Dearborn LaMoore was born in Jamestown, North Dakota, in 1908, the seventh child of Dr. Louis Charles LaMoore (who had changed the french spelling of the name L’Amour) and Emily Dearborn LaMoore. He was of French-Canadian ancestry through his father and Irish through his mother. Dr. LaMoore was a large-animal veterinarian, local politician and farm-equipment broker who had arrived in Dakota Territory in 1882.
Although the area around Jamestown was mostly farm land, cowboys and livestock often traveled through Jamestown on their way to or from ranches in Montana and the markets to the east. Louis played “Cowboys and Indians” in the family barn, which served as his father’s veterinary hospital, and spent much of his free time at the local library, the Alfred E. Dickey Free Library, reading, particularly G. A. Henty, a British author of historical boys’ novels during the late nineteenth century. L’Amour once said, “[Henty’s works] enabled me to go into school with a great deal of knowledge that even my teachers didn’t have about wars and politics.”
After a series of bank failures devastated the economy of the upper Midwest, Dr. LaMoore and Emily took to the road. Removing Louis and his adopted brother John from school, they headed south in the winter of 1923. Over the next seven or eight years, they skinned cattle in west Texas, baled hay in the Pecos Valley of New Mexico, worked in the mines of Arizona, California and Nevada, and in the sawmills and lumber camps of the Pacific Northwest. It was in colorful places like these that Louis met a wide variety of people, upon whom he later modeled the characters in his novels, many of them actual Old West personalities who had survived into the nineteen-twenties and -thirties.
Making his way as a mine assessment worker, professional boxer and merchant seaman, Louis traveled the country and the world, sometimes with his family, sometimes not. He visited all of the western states plus England, Japan, China, Borneo, the Dutch East Indies, Arabia, Egypt, and Panama, finally moving with his parents to Choctaw, Oklahoma in the early 1930s. There, he changed his name to the original French spelling “L’Amour” and settled down to try to make something of himself as a writer.