An American icon for Americana stories of the Old West, Louis Dearborn L'Amour is among the greatest authors of United States literature. Born 22 March 1908 and died 10 June 1988, his last name spelled as LaMoore, is known for his Western novels, but also wrote historical fiction like The Walking Drum, poetry and short stories. He even wrote one science fiction novel entitled The Haunted Mesa. In 1954 he was nominated the Academy Award for Best Story.
Born in 1908 he was the seventh child of Dr. Louis Charles LaMoore (veterinarian) and Emily Dearborn LaMoore in Jamestown, North Dakota. His father was French and his mother was Irish. Growing up in an area that was farm land with cowboys and cattle passing through Jamestown on the way to or from ranches in Montana to the markets of the east, he spent a good deal of time at the local library. His favorite novels were historical adventures written by British author G.A. Henty.
A series of bank failures caused the L'Amour family to remove Louis and his adopted brother John from school and headed southward in the winter of 1923. In the following seven-eight years, they skinned cattle in Texas, baled hay in the Pecos Valley, New Mexico, worked mines in Arizona, California, and Nevada; and saw mills and lumber camps of the Pacific Northwest. Those places and people that Louis met would become models of the characters in his novels.
Louis was a mine assessment worker, professional boxer, and merchant seaman while traveling around the United States and other countries. Sometimes it was with his family. Foreign nations he visited were: England, Japan, China, Borneo, Dutch East Indies, Arabia, Egypt, and Panama, finally ending up with his parents in Choctaw, Oklahoma in the early 1930s. It was there he changed the spelling of his last name from LaMoore to the original French name of L'Amour and began establishing himself as a writer. His personal travels and adventures provided plenty of tales to tell. He began with short stories and some poetry, as well as articles on boxing. His first accepted story was entitled Death Westbound published in a magazine. His next story was Anything for a Pal that was published in True Gang Life. It wasn't until 1938 that his stories started to produce some sort of income. In 1940 he wrote a Western novel entitled The Town No Guns Could Tame.
From 1940 until 1943, L'Amour started the East of Gorontalo series with nine episodes, centered around a mercenary sea captain, Jim Mayo.
Until the beginning of World War II, at least for the United States, L'Amour was traveling the world as a merchant seaman. After the US entered the war, he served in the US Army as a Lieutenant with the 3622nd Quartermaster Truck Company and shipped off to Europe. Within two years he submitted several stories for Standard Magazine. After the war he continued to write stories for magazines after his discharge in 1946, beginning with Law of the Desert Born in the Dime Western Magazine.
When Hopalong Cassidy films and the television series [William Boyd] began its popularity, L'Amour was invited to write Hopalong Cassidy novels, based upon the original novels by Clarence E. Mulford.
In the 1950s, L'Amour wrote Western novels that began to sell: Westward The Tide (1951) and the short story The Gift of Cochise (1952). John Wayne and Robert Fellows purchased the screen rights from L'Amour for $4,000. James Edward Grant was hired to write a screenplay based upon the story and changed the main character's name from Ches Lane to Hondo Lane. From that altered screenplay, L'Amour wrote Hondo that was published in 1953. During the rest of the 1950s, L'Amour continued to publish a number of novels – both under his name as well as pseudonyms, like Jim Mayo. He also rewrote and expanded his earlier stories. Publishers in the 1950s and 1960s refused to publish more than one or two books a year by the same author; but Louis arranged for a contract of three published books a year. The novels became popular in the 1960s and soon surpassed his previous sales, as a resurgent interest in Western novels and films began.
By the 1970s, L'Amour had written 100 novels, 250+ short stories (as of 2010) and sold more than 320 million copies translated into 10+ languages. All of is works is still in print and now are available in audio books.
During the 1960s, L'Amour had the dream to build a working 19th century Western town with buildings with false fronts on either side of an unpaved dirt main street with boardwalks, watering troughs, and hitching poss. The intended name for the town was Shalako, but not enough funding was available to build the town that could have been used for Hollywood filming complete with barber shop, hotel, dry goods store, saloons, church and a one-room schoolhouse.
L'Amour novel sales has surpassed any other Western fiction writer.
In May of 1972, L'Amour was awarded an Honorary PhD by Jamestown College for his literary and social contributions – pretty good for a guy who had to be taken out of school because of an economic depression.
In 1979, L'Amour won the US National Book Award for Western literature.
In 1982, Louis L'Amour won the Congressional National Gold Medal and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan.
|Louis & Katherine L'Amour|
Louis was married to Katherine Elizabeth Adams and they had two children, Beau L'Amour and Angelique L'Amour. His son became a writer, director and producer, vice-president of Louis L'Amour Enterprises where he worked as a literary editor, art director, and marketing director.
His son carries on the tradition and the name of L'Amour as a personification of the Old West producing his own material.