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TO TAME A LAND is the first L’Amour novel I’ve read in a number of years. The short story collections I’ve followed, but the last novels before this one were the four Hopalong Cassidys he wrote back in the early fifties.
I used to carry a list of titles I didn’t have in my wallet, handy for whenever I got near a bookstore. As the years went by and the sole bookstore in my little town closed(we don’t even have a used bookstore, a respectable one that is), not to mention health problems, that list kind of fell by the way. This was in the days before the internet was so readily available.
This is the story of Rye Tyler, a young boy who watched his Pap killed by Indians while trying to fix a broken wheel on their wagon. None of the train stopped to help and his Pap made him take off before the Indians got there.
Alone now, we watch the boy grow into a man, mentored by an older man on how to survive in the west.
As James Reasoner pointed out in his original post, this book has a little bit of everything, all the tropes of a good western.
Rye takes a job breaking horses for a rancher, falls in love with the daughter(though he didn’t realize it at the time), then becomes a drover, buying cattle along the way to earn money(he wants a ranch of his own).
Along the way he starts to get a reputation as a gunman, something he mightily tries to avoid. He doesn’t like killing and does so only when nothing else is possible. One thing I liked was that he wasn’t like most gunmen in westerns. Every kill preyed on him, making him wonder if he was becoming like them.
He eventually takes a job as town marshall and, at age twenty-one with his friend Mustang Roberts, tames the town’s wilder element.
And there at the end, when he braves a robbers roost of outlaws just on the possibility that that young girl, now a woman, he fell in love with was being held there against her will, I was surprised by who the head outlaw was and why he’d laid off Rye’s town.
What more can you ask?