Saturday, July 26, 2008

37. Taggart

Thar's gold in them thar hills!

The title: Taggart
The author: Louis L'Amour
Publication: Bantam, 1982 (originally 1959)
Got it from: The highly scientific process of "it was in a box of books someone donated to the library."

Well, I finally read a western, and it wasn't even Longarm and the Haunted Whorehouse (tagline: These spooky strumpets don't stand a ghost of a chance!) No, I thought I'd go legit here and actually read a western by a good author. And Louis L'Amour is like the Nora Roberts of westerns. Or maybe Nora Roberts is the Louis L'Amour of romance? I'm so confused.

As I said, I've never read a western. I've certainly seen plenty of them. The older men at the library where I worked last year were addicted to them like crack. I'd go to the bookstore and say, "John, give me all the westerns you got for my library." Well, not exactly, but I love talking like a person from a western. I was doing it last week until D. pointed it out to me. "Gonna rustle me up some grits for supper, eh?" He was probably wishing I'd rustle up my own grits once in awhile.

So, I have confirmed old men like westerns. My great-grandmother's husband sure did. Not the one who gave me his DNA, the other one. The one who was always drunk and lying by the kitchen stove reading Zane Grey. Maybe I would drink if all I read were westerns, too. I would also drink if I had to spend the rest of my life in Aroostook like he did. (I can vouch for this. I lived there last year.) Consarn it, what was I talking about? Oh yes, this here Louis L'Amour book.

What it's about: not what the back cover says. Damn your oily hide, back cover, for telling me lies! I'll see you tomorrow at high noon! Anyway, this book is about a man named Taggart. Swante Taggart. Why is he called Swante? Damned if I know. He's a tough guy, as men who lived in Frontierland
all were back then. He's on the run in the harsh Arizona landscape, because some bad guys tried to steal his land and all he did was shoot them. Really, is that all? It's not like he took their wimmenfolk or anything.

Speaking on wimmenfolk, there are some in this book. And if L'Amour going to mention the phrase "whole lot of woman," in this book one more time, I was going to go Annie Oakley on his ass. Seriously, Louis, could you tone it down a little? First it was the wife of the prospector guy, the hot and hot-blooded Mexican woman. "She sure was a whole lot of woman for a man to handle!" Then the prospector's sister (she's "good" and the Mexican's "bad"): "That Miriam sure was a whole lot of woman!" Well, what else could they be? A little bit man? Slightly reptilian? Made partially of gummy? (Mmm...precious Venus.)

So yadda yadda, Taggart takes shelter with the prospector, his Latina babe and the sharp-shootin sister. And the
Evil Lawman™ catches up to them, but that's okay, because he can help them fight the Evil Apaches™. Oh man, can you ever tell this book was written in the 1950's. Because the racism against the Natives is about 1000x more powerful than the sexism. These guys pick off Indians like they were shooting squirrels for dinner.

And what did I think of the book? Despite it all, it actually wasn't as bad as I thought. It was mercifully short, so that's a bonus. The writing was kind of bad, but I can handle that. The story was predictable, but in this unstable world that's not a bad thing. Overall, it kind of reminded me of a grown-up version of those pioneer stories I read when I was growing up. C+.


Chris said...

This was quite funny; really enjoyed reading it. You might like my blog--I'm reading nothing but Louis L'Amour and writing about it. I'm not an old guy who loves westerns either. I kind of like them, but I don't let that get in the way of cracking a good joke. If you get a chance to look, I'd appreciate it! I'll be back to visit here.


(or click on my name)

Andrew Clarke said...

If you ever read fantasy, I'd love to hear what you think of "Outcasts Of Skagaray". In particular, what do you think of the way the female characters are presented? I'd be glad to know. You can preview the novel by reading the two sample chapters on If you read and enjoy it, please tell me what you think. Best wishes anyway. By the way, I've read some Louis Lamour, and they can be a good trivial read in my opinion; but I see what you mean about the way he deals with Native Americans as characters.

KJH said...

Thanks, guys. It's good to see some people still reading the old westerns. I'm not sure when I'll read a western again, but check back on this blog - you never know.

Anonymous said...

"Swante Taggart. Why is he called Swante? Damned if I know."

Maybe because it's a reverence for 2 persons: Swante Magnus Swenson (1816-96) and Swante Palm (1815-99), both once important in Texas. Louis L'Amour was a great bibliophile (believe it or not) — and Swante Palm donated (in 1897) his extensive library to the University of Texas.

Besides all that: I like Taggart. It's a book about high adventure and five strong persons. For L'Amour this strength in character was important. In "Bendigo Shafter", he presented with "Ruth Macken" a unique female western-person — a judge of peace. As always with L'Amour, this is historically based.

As a German I could complain more about the use of some pretty teutonic-sounding villain-names like "Max Bauer" (in "Warrior's path") or "Felix Horst" (in "Ride the River")...

Matt Recktenwald