Hondo by Louis L'Amour
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I'd just finished a terrible western and needed to get the taste out of my mouth. Louis L'Amour to the rescue!
Hondo Lane is a man's man. He's a half-breed drifter. He's a loner who's never alone, because he is at one with the hardscrabble land of the old west.
Is an abandoned and soon-to-be-widowed woman and her young son just the sort of temptation to lure Hondo into a tied-to-the-homestead existence? And what of the restless Apache's in the area? Hondo is nominally attached to the white man's military scouting party, who is suddenly at odds with the indians once again. Can Hondo be the peacemaker or will he just end up another piece in the U.S.'s westward push?
All of these questions and more are answered, some satisfactorily and some are left intentionally vague, gray areas under the impossibly blue skies of the mid-1800s southwest.
Great descriptions, good action and colorful characters abound in Hondo, one of L'Amour's most famous works. There are times when you the reader feel as if you're right there in the middle of the parched landscape, hunkered down between two boulders expecting attack at any moment. At other times, the boredom and languor of such an isolated life takes ahold of you for better or worse.
Not everything between the covers of this book is well-written. Some of it is a bit pulpy. Some of it is a bit misogynistic. Most heinous of all, some of it is just dull. L'Amour could set a western scene with the best of them, but sometimes that didn't translate to good reading. Descriptions of the desert or prairie could go on too long.
Despite its failings, Hondo is a classic tough-guy western that will probably be enjoyed by anyone still reading this review.
Rating: This falls somewhere in the 3.5 to 4 range for me. Figured I'd give it the benefit of the fourth star since the reading experience was mostly enjoyable.
Side Note: My first guitar was made by Hondo, a guitar company named after the John Wayne movie based on this book. My guitar was as big and cantankerous as Wayne, but I was 15, in love with playing the guitar and the unwieldy thing was mine, so of course I loved it!
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