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A Trope Codifier for The Western, Louis L'Amour note  (March 22, 1908 – June 10, 1988) wrote eighty-six novels and numerous other short stories over the course of his life. While Westerns were his preferred genre, he referred to all of his novels as "frontier stories" and wrote historical fiction set in other eras as well, plus the occasional thriller or fantasy.

Where other adventure writers can talk the talk, L'Amour walked the adventurer walk. At the age of fifteen he left home and began Walking the Earth, eventually becoming a merchant seaman and then serving with the United States Army in World War II, and at one point or another visited every continent except Antarctica.

He died of lung cancer on June 10, 1988. His autobiography, Education of a Wandering Man, was published posthumously.

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Works by Louis L'Amour with their own pages:

Other works by Louis L'Amour contain examples of:

  • The Ace: Kilkenny is incredibly fast with a gun, can beat a very good boxer and is very intelligent.
  • Action Girl: Not all the time, but there are a few. Echo Sackett is just as badass as her nephews will become. Em Talon(nee-Sackett) is as well, being the mother of Milo Talon and a main character in Ride the Dark Trail, Judith Costello in The Skyliners, Lila from Sackett's Land, To The Far Blue Mountains, and The Warrior's Trail.
  • Actually, That's My Assistant: In "The Shadow Riders" when Ashford and three of his men ride to the ranch house of Martin Connery (whose smuggling contacts they hope to use) Connery mistakes Ashford's aide Cushing for Ashford (or maybe just pretends to in order to annoy the pompous colonel) and extends the greeting to him.
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  • Adaptation Expansion: Quite a few of his short stories ended up being turned into novels. Trap of Gold into Taggart, Desperate Men into Kid Rodelo, A Man Called Trent into The Mountain Valley War, and Dutchman's Flat into The Key-Lock Man, among others.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: In the novels, Tell Sackett describes himself as homely and has a "wedge-shaped" face. In the Sackett mini-series, he's played by the ruggedly handsome Sam Elliott
  • Adaptational Villainy: In some of the books expanding premises from one of L'Amours short stories.
    • In The Gift of Cochise Ed Lane is a Nice Guy (albeit a slightly reckless one) who dies defending the main character when he's being unjustly accosted in a three-to-one gunfight and dies asking him to keep his family safe. In the full length novel Hondo (and its film) Ed Lane has essentially abandoned his family and dies trying to rob and murder the man who goes on to take care of his family.
    • In the short story Tucker was based on the three villains don't kill the narrators father (although not entirely for lack of trying), and aren't portrayed as being treacherous and callous towards each other.
    • In both the book and film versions of Catlow Rio Bray is The Starscream to Catlow, but he has some redeeming qualities in the book and ultimately dies fighting alongside Catlow, while in the film he's killed after yet another betrayal which saw him taking part in an attempt to rob and desert most of his friends and leave them in Indian country with no guns.
  • Aerith and Bob:
    • The Sackett brothers are William Tell, Orrin, Tyrel, Bob and Joe.
    • Barnabas' sons are named Kin-Ring, Yance, Jubal and Brian.
  • Affably Evil: Some of his baddies, like Rafe Leckenbie from Fair Blows The Wind, are pretty affable despite being amoral monsters.
  • Airport Novel: His early books, but he grew out of it.
  • All for Nothing: In Borden Chantry, the ending reveals that five (sympathetic) characters were all murdered by a man paranoid about being recognized and caught over an old shooting, when the man he'd shot had survived and decided against pressing charges, meaning he wasn't in any danger.
  • Amazonian Beauty: Lila from Sackett's Land and To The Far Blue Mountains is about as tall as Barnabas Sackett, and is also described as muscular and lovely, too. She's also a good swordswoman and fighter, as well.
  • And Now For Something Completely Different: Almost all his books were westerns, but towards the end of his life he branched out to other genres. The most obvious example is The Haunted Mesa, which is a Trapped in Another World Heroic Fantasy. Another is The Walking Drum, which is still historical fiction, but is about the Moorish Empire.
    • Last of the Breed is a (then) modern day escape from the Soviet Union.
    • Borden Chantry is a Murder Mystery where the protagonist is already married.
    • How The West Was Won is a Generational Saga about the Prescott family and his only novelization.
    • Fair Blows The Wind, Sackett's Land, and a few others are set in the 1500's or 1600's.
  • Antagonist in Mourning: Barnabas Sackett's Indian adversaries, with a heavy dose of Now What??
  • Anti-Hero: A great deal of his protagonists fall into this category, sticking a whole lot closer to a code of honor (don't hit women, don't steal cattle, don't shoot a man in the back, etc.) than actual laws. It's rare that the protagonist isn't at least a Knight in Sour Armor.
  • Anyone Can Die: Even one of the Sackett narrators Barnabas, the founder of the clan, and the wife of another Ange. Eddie, the Deuteragonist of Hanging Woman Creek provides one of the biggest Gut Punch examples. Shalako, and High Lonesome each with a Dwindling Party, have the strongest example of this, with many major and sympathetic characters abruptly dying. The titular hero of Borden Chantry is also mentioned has having been murdered in a later book about his son.
  • Apathetic Citizens: Occasionally, but they usually get better by the end of the book.
  • Aren't You Going to Ravish Me?:
    • In The Walking Drum, Kerbouchard and Comtesse Suzanne are incognito in Kiev as brother and sister, meaning they must share a room at an inn. She defiantly tells him that she has a dagger and will kill him if he tries anything. Kerbouchard, who had no intentions of the sort, teases her about it, getting her even more worried, and then simply goes to sleep, knowing that while he's having a peaceful night's sleep, she'll be lying awake all night worrying and wishing he'd at least try so she could get some sleep. And yes, she's a little insulted in the morning that he didn't even consider it.
    • Remy Kastelle in Rustler Roundup has to stay the night in Finn Mahone's cabin, due to not being able to travel the trails after dark. She alternately thinks she's happy he didn't molest her, but disappointed he didn't try to.
  • Artistic License – History: In To The Far Blue Mountains, Barnabas' ship, Abigail, is mentioned as arriving just as the Siege of Kinsale began, before then heading across the Atlantic to the Americas. After they cross, which takes a couple months, it's still a bit before winter and things only start getting cold. The Siege of Kinsale began on October 2, 1601, so it would have been into January when they arrived in the Americas.
  • Artistic License – Ships: In his "Ponga Jim" Mayo stories, Ponga Jim's ship, Semiramis, is at first armed with a 4" gun, then a 5.9" gun and then 5 5.9" guns. Thing is, it's illegal for merchant ships to be armed without a navy presence onboard. When one official points this out, and that a convoy that they witnessed be destroyed, the official says that Ponga Jim and his crew could be pirates and could have done it. Everyone just brushes him off. It turns out he's a Nazi agent. In the South of Suez short story in the Ponga Jim series, there is the battleship Khamsin. It's completely covered in steel armor making it mostly shell, bomb and torpedo-proof. Thing is, such a heavy steel covering would sink the ship. Not to mention the fact that Egypt in the early 1940s wouldn't have the capacity to build such a ship. Large guns and face-hardened armor are a labor intensive and lengthy build process, even moreso for a state building one in secret with no experience in building one.
  • Author Tract: Used occasionally, but never to political reasons.
    • In later novels, like Sackett's Land, To The Far Blue Mountains and Jubal Sackett, he talks a lot about Roman pre-Columbus visits to the Americas, though he never uses any of the Mighty Whitey tropes that sometimes come with it, only that they reached the Americas and usually just talks about how seafarers would know being close to land is more dangerous than being away from it.
    • Relations between different cultures. He states in numerous books that Native Americans have very different beliefs than the Europeans that they came into contact with and that fueled a lot of the friction between them. He also wasn't shy about having interracial romances in his books or short stories, with several main characters marrying Mexican American or Native American women, or even women that were already mixed-race. Notably, several were written before it was culturally acceptable.
  • Awesome McCoolname: Quite a few characters in his books. Lance Kilkenny, Rafe Caradec, William Tell Sackett...
  • Badass Crew: By the time of the third Kilkenny book, Kilkenny has quite a powerful group of friends.
  • Badass Family: The Sacketts. In Borden Chantry, one of the side characters, after seeing that Tyrel's brother Joe Sackett was murdered says that the titular marshal had better get the murder solved before the Sacketts level the town.
    • We get to see what happens when the Sackett family gets riled in The Sackett Brand when Tell's wife Ange gets murdered by the head of a large cattle ranch. About every named Sackett that appeared in any of the books shows up and they destroy the bad guys.
  • Being Good Sucks: In Sackett, Tell thinks this as he has to carry down a Mook, who had been trying to kill him, but had broken his leg down a mountain, while the mook is on a makeshift stretcher, with a woman, in a snowstorm with more bad guys chasing them. When they make it down, the mook is understandably impressed.
  • Beta Couple: On occasion, such as in the short story 'From the Listening Hills were the romance between the narrators brother Johnny and his girlfriend/wife Ellie gets just as much if not more focus than Boone's with the girl he ends up marrying. One is implied between Lona and Gordon in Monument Rock.
  • Black-and-White Morality: For the most part, bad guys are very bad, and innocent people are very good. However, his protagonists tend to be a lot more morally ambiguous.
  • Bookends: The Daybreakers starts and ends with Tyrel defending Orrin from somebody trying to shoot him.
  • Boom Town:
    • Tell Sackett founds one of these almost inadvertently in Sackett, as a cover for his more profitable gold strike some distance away.
    • In Fallon, the titular character starts a boomtown on top of a boomtown.
    • In The Iron Marshall it's pointed out several times that the town didn't exist just a year before.
    • In Bendigo Shafter, building a town is the whole point.
  • Bounty Hunter: "Kid Rodelo" follows escapees from Yuma prison who are pursued by local Natives who pursue them across the desert and kill them (and aren't above shooting the dead corpses of ones who died of heatstroke and thirst in order to collect those bounties as well).
  • The Bus Came Back: Rusty Gates, from the first Kilkenny story, Rider From Lost Creek, doesn't appear in the final two Kilkenny novels, but reappears in "Monument Rock'', set after the final Kilkenny novel.
  • Byronic Hero: Some protagonists have this and a few that turn into antagonists, as well.
  • Changing of the Guard: Happens repeatedly in his generational saga about the Sackett family.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Several novels have an antagonist be someone who The Hero has a feud with but enter the plot in a completely unrelated way. Some cases come across as justified though, due to the nature of people in the west to run into each other.
    • The Big Bad of Rider of the Lost Creek is eventually revealed to be Royal Barnes, a previously mentioned gunman who is the half-brother of three men who died in a gunfight with Kilkenny. Barnes explicitly states that he set out simply to make a dishonest profit and was unaware that he'd encounter Kilkenny, although he acknowledges that some of his remaining relatives have encouraged him to kill Kilkenny and so he figures why not do it in defense of his criminal enterprise.
    • In the short story Riding for the Brand two hired gunmen for the Big Bad (both of whom were hired before the protagonist of the story became involved in any way) turn out to be men the protagonist has had conflict with in the past: the brother and the crony of a crooked gambler he shot.
    • In the short story We Shaped the Land with Our Guns, The Dragon turns out to be the brother of one of the few men Rye killed before trying to stop his gun fighting ways.
    • The final villain of To Tame a Land Turns out to be the hero's mentor under an alias.
    • In North to the Rails two henchmen hired by the villain in the final act turn out to be the murderers of the hero's father.
    • In Kilkenny, the titular hero settles down in an area which is soon occupied by a sleazy Cattle Baron whose youngest son he killed in a recent shootout.
    • Although it is foreshadowed in Kiowa Trail, one of the Big Bad Duumvirate turns out to be the last survivor of a group of outlaws who murdered the narrators friend and mentor over a decade earlier (using an assumed name).
    • In Showdown at Yellow Butte, its eventually revealed that The Dragon is the Sole Survivor of a wagon train that the Big Bad slaughtered many years ago, although said Dragon never seems to find out about this.
  • Cool Pet:
    • Paisano, Jubal's pet buffalo bull in Jubal Sackett.
    • In Galloway, Flagan Sackett has a pet wolf.
  • Courtroom Antics:
    • In Crossfire Trail Rafe acts as his own attorney, first keeping the jury from being stacked with prejudiced people and then exposing the two main witnesses against him for perjury by poking holes in their stories.
    • In Where the Long Grass Grows the trial turns into a brawl/gunfight after both the heroes innocence of the murder and his ownership of valuable property come to light.
    • One Chick Bowdrie short story has Chick clearing a man on trial for poisoning a horse by proving that it actually just ate a bad weed on its own and that the witness was somewhere else in the trial.
  • Daddy's Little Villain: See, e.g., The Daybreakers, Lando (although in that one her evilness is a bit debatable), The Lonely Men and Kiowa Trail. L'Amour's good girls become grown-up pioneer women and cut the cord with their fathers.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Kilkenny wears a black hat, black vest and black chaps, but is a hero, albeit a reluctant one.
  • Death by Childbirth: Mary in To Tame a Land as revealed in the final pages. It is unrevealed if the baby died to, but either way her husband was emotionally broken, left town and became an outlaw.
  • Deconstruction: Matagorda towards the Feuding Families concept. Given how much money they have, and how the families themselves have been whittled down by attrition, very few actual members of the Munson and Kittery clans take part in the fighting, while plenty of hired gunmen, family friends or third parties (such as Tom Kittery's partner in a cattle drive who tries to stay out of things but eventually becomes Neutral No Longer) do most of the fighting.
  • Death Seeker: James Kettleman/Flint, from Flint. He's dying of stomach cancer, so he heads west to die. He eventually gets involved in protecting the Kaybar ranch, hoping to die in battle defending them. It turns out the doctor who diagnosed him with cancer was wrong, and it was just stomach ulcers.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Women a lot of times were considered "of age" and able to be married at 15 or 16. This is justified, since most of his novels where this occurs takes place in the 1860s-1880s or earlier, when that was pretty normal.
  • Determined Widow: Mary Breydon in The Cherokee Trail.
    • Evie Teale from Conagher.
  • Doomed Predecessor: Treasure Mountain features the Sackett brothers reading their father's diary while following the trail he took in search for a gold mine, before he and some of the others involved were murdered. Interestingly, the story focuses primarily on the search for the Doomed Predecessor, with the treasure being a bonus.
  • Do Not Go Gentle: Most heroic characters who die (and the occasional villainous one) go out fighting. In the short story "Jackson of Horntown", a sheriff is informed that FireHat Jackson has died in a shootout with Mexican soldiers, after killing eight of them.
Sheriff Redman: Them Jacksons never die alone. If one of 'em has a gun he'll take somebody along!
  • Do with Him as You Will: In Silver Canyon, the heroes lay out the evidence against The Man Behind the Man in a way that convinces everyone of his guilt but lacks any hard evidence. The local sheriff then makes a point of walking away, as do the heroes, leaving the Big Bad alone with the loyal ranch hands of a man he murdered. Those ranch hands then start making preparations to lynch the Big Bad, causing him to confess to the sheriff out of desperation to at least buy himself a few more weeks of life until the trial.
  • Dragon Ascendant: Cub Hale in The Mountain Valley War becomes the Big Bad after his father commits suicide.
  • Driven to Suicide: King Bill Hale in The Mountain Valley War, after going through Humiliation Conga, shoots himself.
  • Dulcinea Effect: All the time. Most of the time the characters know their getting themselves into trouble over a pretty face.
  • Easy Amnesia: In The Man Called Noon, the protagonist gets this after being shot in the head (non-fatally, obviously) and falling out a window. All he has is his name (which someone else tells him), freakishly good skill with a gun, and hints that he's supposed to know where a massive hidden treasure is. The book is spent trying to retrace his tracks and figure out who he is, what he was trying to do, and who shot him in the first place... all without letting on to anyone else. In a bit of a reversal of Criminal Amnesiac, it turns out that Noon was actually a bad guy, although amnesia gave him a fresh start and he turns out to be good.
  • Entertainingly Wrong: In Flint Gaddis turns out to be one of the two survivors of the men Flint shot it out with at the beginning, and a lot of his behavior from earlier in the story is explained by the fact that he believes that Kettleman is the hired killer that he shot and has returned to seek revenge on him. In fact, Kettleman is Flint's friend, "The Kid at the Crossing" who shot Gaddis and his friends, doesn't recognize Gaddis and has no interest in revenge even after finding out who he is.
  • Epic Race: A non-official example occurs in the short story Home in the Valley which begins with The Hero having just finished a perilous Cattle Drive (losing two men) and being poised to pay off the sinister Loan Shark with a bank note he got for the cattle, only to be informed that the bank just collapsed, and he and his neighbors will lose their money and their ranches. He then spends the rest of the story traveling cross-country by horse, trying to reach the next-nearest branch of that bank, hundreds of miles away, before the steamboat which will bring it news of the collapse, so he can cash his bank draft there.
  • Fake Defector: In Where The Long Grass Grows after the hero is framed for murder, two friends seemingly betray him for the bounty, but they actually did this to keep him from being murdered and ensure that he'd get a fair trial (while helping get evidence to defend him).
  • Fake Ultimate Hero: the titular Marshal of Canyon Gap has been on the job for years by intimidating any trouble-maker by tossing a card in the air and proving his skills by shooting through an exact spot of it. Only, Marshal McLane actually palms the first card he shows and instead tosses out one which already has holes in it, and is not a gunman at all, as he's lead the town to believe, but a retired actor. At the end of the short story, he encounters a criminal who won't back down to his bluff Surprisingly, McLane manages to win the duel, although it causes him to start Feeling Their Age and retire... to run for mayor.
  • Femme Fatale: On occasion, although direct "sexiness" or any mention of sex at all is extremely rare. He will mention that they have "curves in all the right places".
  • Feuding Families:
    • The first Sackett book opens with the conclusion of the long-lasting Sackett-Higgins feud. Long Higgins (the last male member of his family) is killed during an attempt to ambush and murder Orrin Sackett (who has over a dozen surviving male members of his family) at a wedding. The cause of the feud is never revealed.
    • Matagorda features the Munson-Kittery feud and is a bit of a Deconstruction of the trope. The Kittery Family has been reduced to just a few members (and relies on outside allies), while the Munsons let hired gunmen do a lot of their killing. The last confirmed instance of a blood member of either family personally killing a member of the other family happens several weeks before the book begins.
    • Matt Ryan, The Hero of the short story "A Texan Takes Over," once took part in a feud with a family named Kenzie.
    [A]t the last count there were five Kenzies and one Ryan left. And now there was still one Ryan.
    • The short story "From the Listening Hills" features a bloody feud between two groups: the five Tremayne Brothers on one side, and the three Watson Brothers, their cronies and their two brothers-in-law on the other. The feud starts when the Watsons become jealous over being beaten in a horse race by Johnny Tremayne.
    • In The Proving Trail, the Yant Family has spent three generations trying to kill their distant cousins over a disputed inheritance. Shortly before being murdered, the main character's father writes in a letter, "At last count there were thirteen of them and but three of us." It's unclear who the third member of his side of the family is, but his son kills about half of the Yants in self-defense over the course of the book.
    • The villains of Radigan once fought a neighboring family in a range war that saw the patriarchs of both families and a son of the neighboring family killed. The villains are alarmed when a cousin of the people they fought against arrives to help the hero.
    • In the short story "The Trail to Pie Town," Dusty Barron and his family have been feuding with the Hickmans (a family with ten fighting men and four cronies or cousins) for an unspecified amount of time. Dusty tries to negotiate an end to the feud and is forced to kill Dan Hickman in self-defense, causing him to go on the run. Later, he finds out that his two brothers single-handedly killed most of the Hickmans in response and made the last two leave town.
    • Short story "Squatters on the Lonetree." Morgan was once involved in a feud where he single-handedly killed the last four members of the opposing family at the age of sixteen when they shot one of his relatives In the Back.
    Ann Tanner:' Morgan Tanner's mother was a Lowry, from the Neuces Country. You may remember what happened to the Fullers.
    Wiley Dunn stared at her, shocked. Every detail of the twenty-five year feud was known to everyone in cattle country. The Fullers, or some people who called themselves that, had killed a Lowry boy in an argument over horses, and every Fuller had died.
  • Fourth Date Marriage: courtships in his stories often go remarkably fast, sometimes with a dose of Love at First Sight.
  • Friendly Sniper:
    • The Kentuckian Hatfield brothers from "The Mountain Valley War", good neighbors and friends who do most of the books long distance shooting.
    • Tom Burnside in "Trouble Shooter" is a retired lawman who was hired to provide security for the local stagecoach by his son-in-law (the express agent) as a way fo giving him an easier job in retirement, but still one that he finds purpose doing. Burnside is armed with a rifle to use against potential robbers and is described as having paced all of the areas on the cliffs and take practice shots to test his range from every area he could shoot from (and he does indeed end up killing two stage robbers later on). Off duty, he's a pleasant family man with an open mind who proves to be friendly towards the heroes.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Nolan Pollard/Ash Milo. with a heavy dose of We Used to Be Friends.
  • Generational Saga: The Sacketts series follows the titular clan from medieval England to colonial America to, of course, the Old West over 17 books. There's also books that follow the Talon and Chantry families (although both families eventually marry into the Sacketts), although those are much shorter series, with 4 Chantry novels(with 2 others with them as significant side characters in Ride the River and Over on the Dry Side) and 3 Talon novels, with another, Ride the Dark Trail having 3 Talons as significant side characters. All three families were to have more details and novels, totalling around "forty-ish" about them before Louis's untimely death.
  • Gilligan Cut: in the short story One Night Stand, Stephen Malone. the out-of work actor protagonist overhears a man next door who's being threatened by a hired gun man bemoan that he'd pay a thousand dollars to see Wild Bill Hickok, an old friend of his, walk through the door. Stephen (knowing a cue when he hears one) walks up to the door, knocks, and says that he's Wild Bill Hickok, when they open the door...
    Mr. Cooley: You're not Wild Bill Hickok.
    Stephen: No, but for a thousand dollars, I will be.
  • Gold Fever: Comes up a time or two in his books, usually among the bad guys.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: There is a brawl between the good guy and either the bad guy or his minion in pretty near every single book. In a bit of a reversal of the portrayal of many "fisticuffs" incidents in books, the protagonists generally win not merely because they know all the dirty tricks (in fact, they often withhold from dirty tricks to show their moral superiority) but because they know real boxing or wrestling techniques. This one is likely a result of L'Amour's time spent as a professional boxer.
  • Graceful Loser: Some of the villains take their defeats calmly (particularly in Know When to Fold 'Em scenarios) and might even pay a compliment to the heroes, such as in Conagher, Flint, and Galloway.
  • Guile Hero: Numerous characters but a notable one is the hero of the short story Duffy's Man. Rather than face the outlaws about to come racing into town (in order to switch their tired horses with fresh ones to outrun the posse) in battle, the stable hand sets a trap for them. He puts burrs under the saddles of their horses, and then cuts the saddle straps most of the way through, so that when the outlaws jump on the horses, they'll push in the burs, causing the horses to buck hard enough to snap the sawn-through saddle cinches, at which point the townspeople step out of their buildings and knock the outlaws over the head and such as their getting up.
  • The Gunfighter Wannabe: Sackett has one of the hanger-on type of gunfighter wannabe.
  • The Gunslinger: Most of his protagonists.
  • Gun Twirling: In an effort to subvert this trope, L'Amour had one of his characters twirling his gun and accidentally killing a man. When he's hanged, the townspeople put a sign around his neck saying "This was no accident".
  • Heel Realization: On occasion. Notable, in The Burning Hills, first Cattle Bob Bayless experiences this as he lays dying and, looking down at him, Trace softly, sincerely states that the horse Bob had been riding had been stolen from him, and he realizes that Trace means it. Some of his sons and hands (the ones not involved with stealing Trace's horses and killing his partner in the first place behind Bob's back) experience this when they catch up with Jordan and he proves his horses were stolen and that they've been hunting him down over a justified shooting.
  • Heroic Build: Most of his heroes. Many of his protagonists are around 6' tall and 200lbs, all muscle. This was also L'Amour's height and weight when he was boxing.
  • Hidden Depths: Often. One good example is Ax-Crazy Rigger Molina from The Trail to Peach Meadow Canyon, and it's extended version Son of a Wanted Man, who proves to have a case of Undying Loyalty, and is mentioned as having once gone several miles out of his way to take the Sole Survivor of a posse he'd shot up to a doctor.
  • History Repeats: Kind of implied in To The Far Blue Mountains, when Barnabas Sackett meets a young stowaway on his ship called "Tatton", whose story is similar to Tatton Chantry, who was mentioned as having heard of by Barnabas after having gotten rich, and whose story is told in Fair Blows the Wind, with him having been orphaned and left ashore by a friendly stranger, just like the younger Tatton.
  • Honor Before Reason: Responsible for more than a few of the heroes getting involved in plots, and also for a number of avoidable, albeit sometimes meaningful, deaths such as Harry Lott in Kilkenny who goes on a self-appointed Suicide Mission to try and kill The Dragon to avenge his humiliation, knowing this will cripple the Tetlow's. He fails but does get Phin Tetlow.
  • Hopeless Suitor:
    • Tell Sackett gets married to Ange Kerry, but she is murdered in The Sackett Brand, setting off the book's plot. He never gets the girl in any other of his stories, either.
    • Flagan Sackett, depending on which way they're supposed to be read, either doesn't get Judith Costello in The Sky-Liners or Meg Rossiter in Galloway. Canonically, it appears he gets Judith Costello, despite the novel being written before Galloway, which most fans prefer, since she's a Action Girl, who kills several men while helping Flagan, saving his life at least twice.
  • Ignored Expert: In the short story "Merrano of the Dry Country," small rancher warns the big ranchers that they're overgrazing the range and their cattle will soon start starving. Despite his ranching expertise, none of the big ranchers listen to Barry because 1) they don't want to think about how financially devastating it will be for them if he's right, 2) they can't accept that someone half their age knows the country they settled better than they do, 3) Barry is the son of a man they hate for winning the heart of the girl they all wanted to marry, and 4) Barry's father was Mexican, and several of them are racists. Once Barry is proven right, rather than apologize, many of those ranchers promptly try to force their way onto Barry's range (the only land that isn't suffering from the drought) to feed their cattle.
  • Karma Houdini: Now and then. The Slavery Is a Special Kind of Evil Big Bad, Joseph Pittingel, of The Warriors Path disappears after being wounded by Kin-Ring. It's left ambiguous whether he died or survived his wound, but if he survived, it's implied at the least he'll be exposed and have his respectability destroyed. Pirate captain Nick Bardle, who is responsible for killing Barnabas's father in-law, and having Barnabas Press-Ganged is one who becomes a case of What Happened to the Mouse?.
  • Known Only by Their Nickname:
    • Tatton Chantry's true name in Fair Blows the Wind is never stated. Tatton Chantry is a name from a man who washed ashore near the protagonist's home. It was also hinted at several times in the novel that the original Tatton Chantry was someone important, but we never find out why.
    • The protagonist of Flint. He was found near a burned wagon train when 2 years old, not knowing his name. He was given the name "James T. Kettleman" by the original Flint, and he also uses the name "Jim Flint" through much of the book. His true name is never stated.
  • Last of His Kind: Jubal speculates that the woolly mammoth that he was forced to kill may be the last of its kind or close to it in Jubal Sackett.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: Kin-Ring Sackett, Barnabas' first son was named because he was kin and the person who was standing over his birth, defending him and his mother from any Indians that broke through was Jeremy Ring.
  • Loose Canon: All of his books supposedly take place over the same continuity. But, several take place in the same location and others have uncertain points in which their continuities go. For example, The Skyliners takes place after Galloway, though they're written, according to Louis L'Amour, in opposite order, and both feature Flagan and Galloway Sackett. Neither novel references the other's plot points, but both reference The Sackett Brand.
  • Love at First Sight: Quite often. It occurs in Crossfire Trail, Silver Canyon, Rider of Lost Creek, and several others.
  • Made of Iron: Quite a few of his protagonists survive being shot. Notably through his 3 books and 4 short stories, Kilkenny is shot 10 times and survives.
  • Moody Mount: About half of his heroes' horses.
  • My Girl Is Not a Slut: The heroines, and their boyfriends, regard even dancing in saloon as a Fate Worse than Death.
    • Not always the case. Dance hall girls sometimes show up as the romantic interest of side characters or friendly assistance to the protagonist and Nita Riordan, the Love Interest of recurring character Lance Kilkenny, actually runs a string of successful saloons throughout her appearances.
  • Mysterious Past: Red Mike, one of the cowhands in Kiowa Trail, started working for Kate and Tom after they found him floating down a river with three bullet holes in him and nursed him back to health. Mike never reveals the story behind who shot him.
  • New Old West: The Broken Gun is set in the 1950s, with a reporter following up on century-old journal pages stuffed in a revolver.
  • Noble Savage: L'Amour loved the Apache nation. Native Americans were rarely the big bad of his books, they were mostly like a force of nature.
  • One Steve Limit: Often averted.
    • One short story, We Shaped the Land with Our Guns has two main characters (Tap Henry and Rye Tyler) who share the names of two novel main characters and another short story character but are clearly separate individuals.
    • The novel Comstock Lode apparently has two separate bit part henchmen both named Teem (although it could be a continuity error). The first is a man who tries to burglarize Grita's hotel room and quits after being wounded. Later another local petty crook (specifically noted as being a stranger to the man who hired the first Teem) is hired to ride cross country and deliver a message to The Dragon, and to help rob the protagonists and that man also is referred to as "Teem" at one point.
  • Only Sane Man: Usually the villains have one who recognizes that their outmatched, or sometimes even in the wrong. Some pull a Heel–Face Turn (like the Huron in The Quick and the Dead, and Ben Tetlow in Kilkenny), others Know When to Fold 'Em (like Grat in The Riders of High Rock) and surrender, pull a Screw This, I'm Outta Here! (the foreman in Radigan and Frank Mowatt in Over on The Dry Side), or have an Alas, Poor Villain Moment (like Lee Fox in Utah Blaine and Ed Framson in The Rustlers of West Fork). A memorable one who does none of these (and ultimately turns out to be The Un Fought) is Rocker Dunn in Galloway who is an amusing example of this trope given that the first mention of him says he’d rather be shooting than talking but apparently he changed with the times, given how he's never seen getting into a gunfight across the novel and constantly advocates packing up and moving on rather than escalating the fight but never abandons his family when they disregard his advice.
  • The Pioneer: Barnabas Sackett, founder of the Sackett dynasty, starting in Sackett's Land.
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: The Clinch Mountain Sacketts. Nolan and Logan in particular are supposed to be outlaws and rustlers with posses out after them, but while onstage they never actually steal anybody's cows, horses or money; indeed, they never commit any crime at all, except possibly to stretch self-defense beyond its legal limits. In the backstory, they're stated to have robbed stagecoaches and a few other crimes, but they never do it in any of the books where they're the main characters.
  • Prematurely Marked Grave:
    • In the short story One Night Stand the hero (an actor disguised as Wild Bill Hickok) intimidates a hired gunman in this fashion, looking him over, and then hiring two man at the bar to dig a grave and procure a headstone for the man as (successful) psychological warfare to scare the gunman into abandoning his job.
    'the fake Wild Bill Hickok: Don't bother with the name. Within the week, they'll have forgotten who he was, anyway. Just carve on it HE SHOULD HAVE LEFT TOWN BEFORE THE SUN WENT DOWN.
    • In the short story "Men to Match the Hills," Jim Bostwick is being stalked by a Cold Sniper. To unnerve his opponent, Jim carves, "Here lies Cap Moffit, killer, shot down upon this spot, April 1877," into a nearby tree.
  • Prospector:
    • In "Sackett" Tell Sackett more or less stumbles into becoming a prospector when he finds the trial to an old mine that was never completely finished while riding cross country to visit his brothers.
    • Shorty Wilson in the short story Hattan's Castle discovered a rich ore vein when he drunkenly grabbed onto an embankment to keep from falling over drunk and pulled loose some dirt rot reveal gold. He is shorty afterwards murdered for it by the founder of the shady boom town established nearby.
    • Ed Pearson (one of the murder victims in Borden Chantry).
    • Dick Felton and his partners (Zeller, Cohan and the old man who first found the gold years earlier and remembered the location) as well as various side characters in The Empty Land, although they graduate into major mine owners.
    • A modern version is provided by the murder victim in "The Vanished Blonde".
    • Much of the cast of Comstock Load.
    • Nat Bodine in the short story Desert Death Song is accused of being an outlaw partially based on Suspicious Spending that is later revealed to be the result of an ore deposit he found.
    • Wetherton in The Trap of Gold, who nearly suffers from Death by Materialism by digging for a little too much before coming to his senses.
    • A group of them appear in the story What Gold Does to a Man and have to deal with a greedy murderer among their number.
    • In the short story Murphy Plays his Hand Brad Murphy spends three months trapped inside a canyon as the result of a landslide while on a prospecting expedition and finds gold, which he spends those three months dining out of the ground before he gets rescued by some outlaws who then try to kill him and take the gold as soon as they find out about it, [and find out they've messed with the wrong guy.
  • Rated M for Manly: Every novel consists of manly men doing manly things.
  • The Remnant: Some villains, such as Colonel Ashford and Justin Parley, are literally Still Fighting the Civil War, although both of them have followers motivated more by the opportunity to Rape, Pillage, and Burn.
  • Retired Gunfighter: Kilkenny, in several books by Louis L'Amour, is The Drifter because he wants to retire, but people won't let him once they find out who he is.
    • Canaval. in Silver Canyon.
    • Rye Tyler at the end of To Tame a Land.
    • Tyrel Sackett at the end of The Daybreakers, although he sometimes steps up again whenever one of his family is in trouble.
  • Romantic False Lead: From time to time. Mary in Utah Blaine is one example, although she and the local newspaperman Pair the Spares and she admits to herself that what she felt for Blaine wasn't really that deep. Similarly, King Mabry and Janice Ryan in Heller With A Gun, with the latter getting with troupe leader Healy in the end.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Tom Lundy in Kiowa Trail is a veteran of several Indian fights and a good horseman and cowhand, as well as the younger brother of the head of the ranch, Kate Lundy. He's killed as the catalyst for the main plot.
  • Scarily Competent Tracker: Several, but Jacob Lantz from The Burning Hills probably sets the bar for the others to reach.
  • Serial Killer: Steve Lord from The Rider From Lost Creek started out like the typical one, hurting and killing animals for fun before moving onto people.
  • The Sheriff: In The Daybreakers, Orrin Sackett parlays his successful term as a town marshal for Mora, New Mexico to run for county sheriff. His brother Tyrel's turn as town marshal for a small mining town doesn't go as well, though he makes a fine deputy sheriff later.
  • The Siege: In Kiowa Trail, after her younger brother is murdered in cold blood by several high-ranking townsfolk, the cowhands led by Kate Lundy fence in the town, preventing its life blood: trail herds - from getting through.
  • The So-Called Coward: Can be found in both heroes and supporting characters, like Darby Lewis from Dark Canyon and Tom Chantry, and villains like Ab Slade and Rope-Nose George from the short stories "Big Man" and "The Passing of Rope-Nose George."
  • Someone to Remember Him By: In From the Listening Hills, Boone and Johnny Tremayne both leave behind pregnant wives although Boone isn't dead when last seen he expects to die soon.
  • Southern Gentleman: Drake Morrell from Bendigo Shafter.
  • Spoiler Title:
    • A chapter example from "The Rustlers of West Fork" is Bizco Takes Lead Medicine. Bizco is the name of a semi-prominent henchmen for the first several chapters. And sure enough, that chapter is his last.
    • The short story "Case Closed, No Prisoners" is telling about how the final fight goes for the bad guys.
    • The short story "The Passing of Rope-Nose George" has the death of George, the saloonkeeper in an outlaw town, at the very end when initially he looked to be removed from the main action.
    • The short story "The Sixth Shotgun" makes it abundantly clear who the real murderer is once it's mentioned who does own the six shotguns in town (a few pages before the end of the story), in addition to the man's general unpleasantness and having a good motive.
  • Statuesque Stunner: A few that also tended to be action girls.
    • Em Talon is 5'11 1/2"/182cm, and when she was young, she was "a fine-looking woman". She was always disappointed that she didn't make 6'/183cm tall like her brothers did.
    • Lila from Sackett's Land and To The Far Blue Mountains is about as tall as Barnabas Sackett, possibly even taller, described as muscular and lovely, too, and marries Sackett family friend Jeremy Ring.
    • Kristina from The Key-Lock Man is described as beautiful and "taller than most men".
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Occasionally, given his long writing career, but the most striking example is with the Sackett Twins, Nolan and Logan. Not once do they ever appear together (which borders on They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot), no one ever mistakes one for the other, and they’re nearly identical characters in personalities, skills and actions. If the books are ever adapted to screen they could easily be made into a Composite Character with no changes to speak of. It could be that after Mustang Man, the book focusing on Nolan, Nolan was now rich and going to be married, so L'Amour may have wanted someone similar to Nolan, creating his brother, Logan.
  • Tangled Family Tree:
    • There are so many Sackett's, with generations going so far back they go, that it isn't easy to tell how distant of cousins most of them are. The Sackett Companion includes a family tree, but L'Amour acknowledges that even it doesn't have all the named Sacketts, missing Emily, Mordecai, Macon and Trulove Sacketts and their children.
    • Downplayed with the Fetchen's from "The Skyliners." There are six named Fetchen's, a couple unnamed ones and Coby Raffin The Dragon (who according to the Sackett Companion novel is a cousin of the Fetchen's), with none of them having their exact relationship to each other described any further than at least one of the others being the brother of Big Bad Black Fetchen.
    • The Allard's in ''Brionne" are another example with the leader of the group being the brother of Dave Allard (who was arrested and hanged by Brionne) and it being unclear how two family members who travel with him (and at least three other briefly mentioned relatives who aren't outlaws) are related to those two.
  • The Teetotaler: Averted, most of his protagonists will have the occasional drink, they just never have enough to get drunk.
  • Thicker Than Water: The calling card of the Sacketts. Hurt one and they come running, though usually one's enough for any fight. When a large cattle outfit is after Tell Sackett after one of the leaders killed Ange, his wife, a large number of Sacketts and their family friends come to his aid.
  • Thirsty Desert: One of L'Amour's standard plots is to throw the protagonist in the middle of a desert with no water, no horse, and no friendly faces for miles. Like many of his other standard scenarios, he based this on real experiences—in this case, walking out of Death Valley when he was a young man. The Sonoran Desert tends to be the specific desert used.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Some outlaw gangs only have one bad apple, but also only need one. Aaron Fobes is to the Ballard Gang in the first Chick Bowdrie short story. The rest Know When to Fold 'Em (except Northup) and never meant to kill anyone.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Neill in The Key-Lock Man goes from a semi-meek rancher who is going along with the rest of the ranchers to lynch Matt Keelock after they think he backshot a friend of theirs. He grows a spine through the story and is instrumental in saving Keelock and Kristina.
  • Train Job: The Trail to Peach Meadow Canyon has the protagonist plan out the robbery of a train carrying a fortune in gold.
  • Tunnel King: Yuma prisoners Tom Badger (a Native American) and Gopher in Kid Rodelo.
    Gopher: (explaining his nickname) I was forever tryin' to dig cut. Dug so many tunnels. It was partly because of [[Badger]]. He was the Badger and bigger than me, so they called me the Gopher.
  • Unexpected Inheritance: In the Hardboiled Detective short story "The Vanished Blonde", Confirmed Bachelor and Prospector Jim Buckle died without relatives. He left his fortune in gold to four acquaintances: a man who let Buckle stay at his house when he came into town, the mechanic who kept his jeep in repair, a typist who forwarded things to his mining claims, and the eponymous character (a relative stranger who supported him through a vacation to the big city where he felt like a Fish out of Water). Three of the four had no idea about the will.
  • Unexplained Recovery: Kapata's group of Tensa and Natchee indians gets wiped out and "all killed" except Kapata by the Komantsi in Jubal Sackett. They return alive and well a few chapters later, with no explanation.
  • Violently Protective Girlfriend: Several of the female leads. Jessica in Matagorda is a good example but when she gets the drop on The Dragon as he's about to shoot her fiancé, she does she does warn him and give him a chance to leave rather than just blowing him away, but makes it coldly clear that she isn't bluffing.
  • The 'Verse: Every book is implied to take place in the same continuity (although the continuity of the short stories is more ambiguous), though most stories are not directly connected to one another.
  • Walking the Earth: Several protagonists, as well as L'Amour in his youth.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Tom Sunday ends up being the final antagonist of The Daybreakers, who was a friend of Cap Rountree, Tyrel and Orrin Sackett before becoming increasingly resentful of Orrin's success in life. Tyrel ends up having to shoot him when he ends up trying to kill Orrin.
  • The Western: Pretty well the Trope Codifier, what with the immense popularity and accessibility of his novels.
  • Wham Line: Borden Chantry has a subtle one, which reveals the Lazy Alias of the villain (the combination of one of his old partners' first name and another's last name), with the culprit being a close friend of Borden.
    Tye Sackett: No officer named Ford Mason was known, but he answered the description of a deserter who had been involved in a bank robbery with Langdon Moore, a man named Wells, and a Charley Adams.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Quite often, perhaps because of his Zerg Rush writing pace. A lot of short-term allies just vanish from the narrative like in Matagorda, Chancy and The Man Called Noon. Some henchmen also suffer this fate, like Bill Joiner, Jake Wilbur, Kentucky and The Greek in Catlow. Occasionally even major villains just disappear into the narrative like Al Damon in Fallon or Trotter and his cronies in Bendigo Shafter (plus lots of female villains he wouldn't kill but leaves their fates of ambiguous). Henry, the friend of Kin-Ring in The Warrior's Path disappears from the story after saying he'll go with Kin to his village. Even a few Sacketts, such as Bob, a brother of Tye, Tell and Orrin, just stop appearing after a while.
    • Fergus MacAskill's fate isn't revealed in Fair Blows The Wind. He was last shown diving into the sea and was stated to be a strong swimmer, but it's never stated if he survived.
  • White Hair, Black Heart: If a woman or man is blond in his books, chances are they are bad guys.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: The reason so many of the female antagonists pull a Karma Houdini. This works both ways though, as most of the villains believe in it as well and sometimes succumb to infighting when there's one of their number who Would Hit a Girl.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Another way some of L'Amour's antagonists are semi-simpathetic. Some wouldn't dream of hurting a child.
  • You Killed My Father: On occasion, although "You Killed My Brother" is far more common for both heroes and villains. When the hero is targeted because of this, ultimately it may be called off out of honor by those who accept that the brother/s killed was/were worthless or that the killing was justified, like the Gleason’s in Here Ends The Trail, and Cain Brockman in The Mountain Valley War (Benson Bigelow almost does this in "Sackett" but it ends up tragically subverted when he can't quite let it go). It's also sometimes abandoned out of cowardice when the actual fight is at hand, or out of pragmatism as sort of a Hazy Feel Turn like with Jim Pinder in Silver Canyon, and Con Gore in The Trail to Seven Pines.
    • The Tremaynes in the short story From The Listening Hills are a notable example in that they’re the heroes, and delay seeking revenge a bit but still do it after being pushed harder, and it doesn’t end well for them after they're branded as murderers by the law.
    • Villainous Sibling Team's like the ones in Passing Through, The Trail to Seven Pines, The Sky-Liners, and Galloway may not start out this way but are feeling it by the end after their clashes with heroes claim their brothers (although avenging those losses tend to take a back seat to making money).
    • Sometimes rather than go for revenge personally, villains who experience this may place bounties on their brothers killer (like the Bennett's in Taggart).
    • Ben Lock is a notable example whose a sidekick but while he kills some of the villains, it’s the hero who kills his brothers murderer.
    • Bill Shedd, from L’Amour’s first novel Westward The Ride is a side character seeking to avenge his murdered half-brother, but as The Hero of the book is someone else and the killer is the Big Bad, Shedd tragically ends up dead for his troubles.
    • The Allard’s in Brionne are after the hero whose a lawman who brought in their relative who was tried and hanged, while he also feels that It's Personal after they kill his wife.
    • The Mullhaven’s in Monument Rock are secondary characters who survive seeking revenge for this, but unusually, their brother is still alive (although just barely, he was shot nine times during a bank robbery) and their just seeking revenge for his injury. They also don’t get everyone who shot him.
    • Sometimes it’s hinted this will happen but the mentioned brother/s turn out to be The Ghost and never show up, like in Fallon.
  • Young Gun: often subverted or portrayed in a negative way like with Tiree Fetchen, Lonnie Cagle, Johnny Call, the Pioche kid, the Mohave Kid, Bud Barlow and Curly Dunn. Other times, the protagonist can be a version of this from some or all fo the story, like Tye Sackett, Conn Dury, Killoe, Milo Talon, Shad Tucker, Rye Tyler, Lando Sackett (although he prefers using his fists), Flagan and Galloway Sackett, Kearney and Pistol McRaven, Mike Bastian and Val Darrant. Kid Newton from The Trail to Seven Pines is a rare sympathetic version who isn't The Hero.
  • Zerg Rush: L'Amour wrote very, very fast, occasionally writing three full novels in one year. Often, the copyright dates listed inside his books state the month as well as they year they were published, so that collectors will know what order to put them in.

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