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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 Traveling 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: 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 and Judith Costello in The Skyliners.
  • Aerith and Bob: The Sackett brothers are William Tell, Orrin, Tyrel, Bob and Joe.
  • Airport Novel: His early books, but he grew out of it.
  • 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.
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  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Awesome McCoolname: Quite a few characters in his books. Lance Kilkenny, Rafe Caradoc, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Daddy's Little Villain: see, e.g., The Daybreakers, Lando, 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.
  • 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 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.
  • Determined Widow: Mary Breydon in The Cherokee Trail.
    • Evie Teale from Conagher.
  • Doomed Predecessor: Treasure Mountain features the Sackett brothers reading their fathers 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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".
  • Fourth Date Marriage: courtships in his stories often go remarkably fast, sometimes with a dose of Love at First Sight.
  • 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 Ireland 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 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 Hithcokcock, an old friend of his, walk through the door. Stephen walks up to the door, knocks, and says that he's Wild Bill Hitchock, when they open the door...
    Mr. Cooley: You're not Wild Bill Hitchcock.
    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.
  • 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.
  • Honor Before Reason: Responsible for more than a few of the heroes getting involved in plots, an 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 Barlow's. He fails but does get Phin Barlow.
  • 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.
  • Karma Houdini: Now and then. The Slavery Is a Special Kind of Evil Big Bad of The Warriors Path remains The Un Fought, although 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?.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 in Kilkenny), others Know When to Fold 'Em (like Grat in The Riders of High Rock), 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.
  • 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.
  • Prospector: In Sackett, Tell Sackett more or less stumbles into becoming one.
  • 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.
    • Tye 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.
  • Scarily Competent Tracker: Several, but Jacob Lantz from The Burning Hills probably sets the abr for the others to reach.
  • 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 So-Called Coward: Can be found in both heroes and supporting characters, like Dary Lewis from Dark Canyon and Tom Chantry, and villains like Ab Slade and Rope-Nose George.
  • Southern Gentleman: Drake Morrell from Bendigo Shafter.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Train Job: The Trail to Peach Meadow Canyon has the protagonist plan out the robbery of a train carrying a fortune in gold.
  • 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, though most stories are not directly connected to one another.
  • Walking the Earth: Several protagonists, as well as L'Amour in his youth.
  • The Western: Pretty well the Trope Codifier, what with the immense popularity and accessibility of his novels.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: quite often, perhaps because of his Zerg Rush writing pace. A lot of short-term sidekick character just vanish 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 the fates of ambiguous). Even a few Sackett's, such as Bob, a brother of Tye, Tell and Orrin, just stop appearing after a while.
  • 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.
  • 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 but it ends upbut tragically subverted). 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.
    • Villains 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 (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 main hero of the book is someone else and the killer is the Big Bad, he 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 they don’t get everyone who shot him.
    • Sometimes it’s hinted this will happen but the brothers 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 Mc Raven, Mike Bastian and Val Darrant.
  • 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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