Beau L’Amour on his adventures as the son of Louis L’Amour

 

Louis L'AmourPlease start by telling us a little about yourself.

 I jokingly call myself the World’s Greatest Literary Janitor, when it comes to the career of Louis L’Amour my job has basically been to organize what he left behind in order to extend his career twenty years or so.  That meant going through virtually every piece of paper that he left behind searching for clues with which I could recreate various aspects of his life for Bantam Books, our web sites and, occasionally, the movie industry.

 On the personal side I’m just guy who lives in a little house in Los Angeles, creates fun projects to do with his friends, likes traveling, reading, and messing around with old cars.  This is beginning to sound like one of those dating site profiles HondoI’ll move on.

 Your father is famous for living a lot of the life he wrote about, was this true by the time you were able to remember him or did he live a more sedate desk bound life after his books started coming out.

Yondering Louis never lived the life of a cowboy, though he was a miner and worker on a number of farms.   Much of this was done in a period, the 1920s, that had a greater resemblance to the frontier west than our world of today and some of the people who had lived in that earlier time were still alive.  However, it was a time that had it’s own fascinating aspects … I always wished Louis had written more about his own time.

 Once he settled down in Los Angeles right after World War Two most of that lifestyle was in the past.  By the time I came along Louis was fairly tied to his desk by the responsibility of supporting a family.  Writing, in those days, didn’t pay particularly well.  To live a relatively middle class lifestyle and prepare for problems that the future … protracted unemployment was always a risk … Dad had to write three to four books a year.  It was quite a load of work.

I have to ask, as a writer myself, how did your dad manage all these books without a computer? I am profoundly impressed. I do so much editing and revising and it would be so much harder with a typewriter. I feel like a pure wimp, but I find writers who produced as much work as your dad did especially impressive because they didn’t have computers. . .don’t even ask about James Fenimore Cooper and Jane Austen without even a typewriter. Did he tear out pages and throw them away and start over and scribble on the pages a lot? Did he write his books longhand first then transcribe it to a typewriter? Did he talk his books and have a secretary?  

Louis learned to write by trying to sell to the pulp magazines.  The pay was usually between $25 to $250 a story … and many, many, stories didn’t sell.  He set a goal of writing a story a week in those days so there wasn’t much time for rewriting or even over thinking them.  I’m sure that in the early days, long before I was born, he threw out a great many pages.  Later, however, he perfected a manner of “stream of consciousness” writing that allowed him to produce an incredible number of stories but at the cost of losing some of his ability to rewrite.  Perhaps a more accurate way of saying that would be that ‘he lost some of his will to rewrite’ … he was not so inclined to think about what he was writing, he made it more of a reaction than an intellectual process.  That delivered a boiling energy to his work but left some of it sort of rough around the edges.  Take a look at some of the writing in Yondering, stories that were highly polished in order to be sold in literary magazines, then compare them to many of the pulp westerns, where speed of production was of the essence.  There is a difference.

 Crossfire TrailDad wrote a minimum of five pages a day, using two fingers, on a typewriter.  He wrote six to ten hours a day, six to seven days a week for most of his adult life.  At his best he could do sixty words a minute for a pretty extended amount of time.  Most of the trick though, was just sticking to it and never doubting that what he was doing was right, the right scene, the right dialogue, whatever.The Sacketts

Did your dad travel to research his books? I’m wondering if you had adventures as a child that stemmed from having Louis L’Amour as a father.

 Sometimes.  Mostly he was already aware of the locations he wanted to use from his own, earlier, travels,  But we did research on many of our trips and, later on, I did research for him on my own.  My sister and I saw a lot of dirt roads when we were kids.

Have you met the actors and actresses who have performed in movie’s based on his books, like Tom Selleck and Sam Elliot?

 I have had the privilege of working with both of those guys but meeting people or working with them and knowing them are two different things.  I’ve tended to leave the celebrity types to themselves as much as possible.  Some are really nice people.  Some are absolute jerks.  In my opinion, nothing about being a movie star is wonderful or interesting.  Quite a few live difficult lives and are often not really the kind of people that you’d want to hang around with once the novelty of their being famous wore off. 

 That said there is a great difference between stars, who tend to exist in a bubble of fear and alienation, and a great number of actors, some of whom are my closest friends.  It’s amazing how many actors, who often get a bad rap based upon a few of the worst examples, are alert, intelligent, people who are amazingly hard workers and able to both do so many different things and to train themselves in new disciplines at the drop of a hat.  I really count myself lucky.

And how involved are you with current work on the books.

 ConagherI had been involved with production of our dramatized audios from the start.  For years we have done a series of audio books in a style similar to old time radio dramas … I use that term loosely because most of our productions do not try to be nostalgic or the least bit “old The Haunted Mesatimey.”  Anyway, I was in charge of the scripting and casting of the vast majority of those shows, each needing a script that was an adaptation of the original story rather than a dogmatically faithful transcription.  Prose does not automatically make the best drama, just like including back and forth, script style dialogue in a novel or short story could be a mistake.  Prose is a visual art, more like painting than good drama … and drama is usually more auditory, even in the movies.  I also wrote and directed several of our audio dramas … in fact I’m at work editing the most recent, number seventy, I believe, even as I answer these questions. 

 For awhile I was doing six a year but now production has slowed considerably and we do only one every several years, however, the stories are much longer and the productions vastly more involved.  This production is an audio of one of my dad’s movies that I produced several years ago, The Diamond of Jeru.  It has been a wonderful opportunity to revisit that script and evolve it into something new and different.  In a way it is as much of an adaptation of that film as the film was of the novella.  I don’t know when it will be released, we only get about a week a month to work on these and we have to take the end of the year off as Christmas is our big sales time at louislamour.com.  We are two years in and only about half done. 

Back to the books.  Starting with Haunted Mesa I began to be involved with doing some of Louis’s research and then occasionally doing some minor editing.  After his death the work expanded to planning how to re-present the entire catalogue of his works, to art directing a new set of covers, rewriting all the jacket copy, and editing or rewriting many of the unpublished or unfinished short stories.  My friend for many years, Paul O’Dell and I run the louislamour.com website and have created hundreds of pages of material on Louis and his stories.  Our latest creation is Louis L’Amour’s Great Adventures, a website featuring all of Louis’s writing in the adventure genre and an examination of the world that the stories were written in.  It’s full of Paul’s amazing art and maps and photos from the time period … many straight from Louis’s own archives.  Also of note is louislamourslosttreasures.com, and ongoing project to catalogue many of Louis’s partially completed projects, false starts, and alternative versions of many of his published works.

I see that you’re a writer and involved in many ways in the film industry. How has being Louis L’Amour’s son helped? How as it hurt?

 Being Louis’s son has helped because I inherited a catalogue of material that was already famous … it would seem that might make it easier to sell than my original material.  Certainly studios and networks would rather talk about material written by my dad … at the same The Sackett Brandtime they don’t really want to make westerns, so the whole situation is sort of self limiting.  That said, I only occasionally work in film and don’t need to go there to earn a living so it’s not really a problem.  When I want to do drama, work with actors and script and such I can do an audio.  I love film but the business is very dysfunctional and time consuming … I’m glad I have publishing.  Really glad.

I am a huge fan of all the L’Amour books and I don’t think I’ve missed a single one.

My personal favorite is The Sackett Brand. Here’s a bit about it (for the Petticoats & Pistols readers) I found on http://www.louislamour.com/ .

 Forty gunslingers from the Lazy A have got Tell Sackett cornered under the Mogollon Rim. They’re fixing to hang him if they can capture him alive, fill him extra full of lead if they can’t.

It’s just about the best of the best in my opinion. I consider however, Jubal Sackett to be, again in my opinion, his epic story. I just loved that book. I have a question about it.

In Jubal Sackett. . .when Jubal went into that cave and saw those dead bodies and heard the words, “Find them. . .” I have ALWAYS been crazed to know what that meant. Find WHO?????

Jubal SackettAny ideas? Even guesses would be appreciated. Was it something Louis was going to go into in a later book? Is it in Jubal Sackett and I somehow missed it?

 It was a set up for the future but I don’t know where he was going with it.  If that drove you crazy you really love Louis L’Amour Treasures.  It’s hundreds of mysteries wrapped in riddles.  Take a look …

 Beau L’Amour

And go to http://www.louislamour.com/ to find specially bound editions of Louis L’Amour’s classic novels.

Guest Blogger
Updated: July 20, 2009 — 8:02 am

29 Comments

  1. Hello Beau,

    Thank you so much for stopping by today. It has been a joy learning about you and your father’s life. Both my husband and I love your father’s work. We currently own 24 of his books and are always looking to add to our collection. It has been a pleasure to meet you. Have a great day.

  2. Fascinating stuff, Beau! You really brought your father to life for us. How proud you must be of him!

    Thank you for taking the time to visit us here at Petticoats & Pistols. So many of us credit Louis for inspiring our love for westerns.

  3. Beau, Thank you for giving us more insight into your father. Anyone who writes westerns has read a Louis L’Amour book a time or two.

  4. That was great to learn more about Louis L’Amour.

  5. Sure glad I RSVP’d! My question? When discussing (above) The Diamond of Jeru audio production, please explain, “We only get about a week a month to work on these.” Is it because of your schedule or someone else’s that limits you to one week per month?

  6. Beau, thanks so much for taking time to jaw with us at P&P. It’s SAD that the film companies don’t want more westerns, because there are thoses of us who clamor to see every one that comes out and we yearn for more.

    Fascinating to get a glimpse into the creation of your website and the audio books. The website is fantastic.

    I did a blog on your dad when we first launched this site, and it has been one of the blogs with the most visits.

  7. This was a great post Beau, my dad was a big fan or your father’s books. He was always reading one of them. At that time I didn’t read a lot so I never read one of your father’s books. Now I wish I had! Thanks for sharing them with us today!

  8. Thanks so much for sharing these insights into your father and his way of working. Beau. He was and is one of the giants of western writing.
    What a treat to have you as our guest.

    (And Mary, if you’re the one who came up with the interview questions, great job!!!)

  9. Welcome, Beau. Thanks for spending time in Wildflower Junction today. The image of such a prolific writer typing with two fingers just amazes me.

    Haunted Mesa is one of my favorites although the Sackets, sigh. Can’t get enough of ’em.

  10. What a treat! Thank you, Beau and the ladies of P&P, for such a wonderful informative post. Now, I really want to read everything I haven’t already. Thanks for sharing your father with us. Phyliss

  11. I began my “grown up” reading in the early ’50s
    when my Dad shared his Western novels with me, so
    I’ve had a long history with your father. LOL!
    I enjoyed his writing then and I still do today!
    Thanks for keeping him current for us!

    Pat Cochran

  12. Hello. I’ve been running like a madwoman today and I’m just stopping in now.

    I had such a great time swapping emails with Beau. He’s really had an interesting life.

    He said he’d try and check in today but no promises.

    I thought he had such a down-to-earth attitude about his dad and the movie stars and all that goes into being the son of Louis L’Amour.

  13. I do with I knew what that meant in Jubal SAckett when Jubal hear that spooky voice say, “Find them.”

    Does anyone else remember that?

  14. Beau, it’s such a pleasure to have you with us in the Corral today. “The West” as we have experienced wouldn’t be the same without your father’s body of work. I’m fascinated by the production of audios. I’ll be looking for them immediately.

  15. Laney4,

    We only get a week a month because that is the most we can take off of our “real work.” When the holidays come around Paul has to work full time or fuller time so we don’t get much done from October to January. If we wroked full time on this stuff the budget would be through the roof!

  16. This was a very interesting blog interview. Thanks, Beau, for a new insight into a favorite author, your dad.

  17. What an interesting interview. I have always been a L’Amour fan and have a shelf full of his books. I work at a small county library an his books have always circulated well. Unfortunately, someone else really liked him. We closed for 2 weeks while some repair work was being done. When we reopened, most of his books were gone (85 I think). Whoever took them missed the large print copies. We never found out if it was a workman or if the door was left open and someone walked in and took them. We are very slowly replacing them with books donated by patrons. One person brought a box of old paperbacks in probably from when they first came out. Unfortunately they were not in good enough shape to put on the shelf. We put them in the sale and they didn’t last long.
    The western is a timeless genre and I sincerely doubt it will ever go out of favor. I am glad you are keeping your father’s work available and adding to the body of what is available. Thanks for the web sites, I’ll definitely be checking them out and will let our patrons know about them.

  18. Beau, thanks for stopping by.
    And thanks for being on Petticoats & Pistols.

  19. What a wonderful interview!
    My husband has read all the books and I’ve read several myself, so this is particularly interesting.

  20. I am 39. In h.s. in the mid ’80’s I read as many books by Mr. L’Amour as I could. Most of my book reports were on his books. I had not read (or re-read) any since – until last summer. I suppose I’ve read 15 or so since then (some of them re-reads). I found that the further back in history he went, the more interested I have become. Absolutely loved the first 4 (chronological) Sackett books. I’ve been searching for more of the same. I started “Fair Blows the Wind” last weekend. This is fairly rambling and for that I am sorry. But, I am, I assume, a fairly young Louis L’Amour fan who has connected somehow to Mr. L’Amour’s ideals a bit. I find myself really putting his ideas to what’s going on today and finding that some of those things can hold a person up a bit. Obviously I didn’t know him. But if his personal character was nothing like what I’ve read, please don’t ever tell us! Good guys are needed badly these days! Even good guys who are no longer with us… thank you, Mr. L’Amour!

  21. I have been reading your Dad’s books sunce 1970 I was in the U.S.A.F. my brother gave me a Sackett book i have been buying and reading them ever since I also enjoy the movies made from his books I am a big John Wayne guy and cowboys so I really liked Hondo I still to this day buy the books Thanks

  22. I have to thank my older brother for sharing his western pocket novels back in the mid 60’s with me. I have enjoyed and collected almost all of Louis L’Amours books over the yrs. This also includes his books of poetry.
    A lot of them are the first edtions paper backs. I am always eager to find a new edition be it paper back or hard copy. Once I start a book I find it hard to lay it down until the last pg. has been read. Your father put that something special in each novel that just made you want to read it. I have seen a lot of movies that are based on the books & enjoyed everyone of them. It is really sad that the westerns are a thing of the past as far as Hollywood is concerned their loss. I thank you for keeping your father’s work available and adding to the body of what is available.
    Forever a loyal fan.

  23. I’m glad you are continuing with Louis L’Amour stories. I read his Hopalong Cassidy books in the 1960’s and have read many of his books (saved them) and have read two of “The Collected Short Stories by Louis L’Amour”.

    Keep up the excellent work and be Proud of a man that wrote stoies and gave all readers an education on the process of colinization and life-styles of other characters.

    Thank you

  24. I just wanted to say how much I appreciate your fathers work. I started reading his books when I was about 12, and have never put them down. I have all of his westerns in my home, and have read most of them a dozen or more times over the years. I feel your father has helped shape my life with his writings. I have always tried to be an honest, dependable person…like Tell or Lando or Jubal or Kin Ring. I am very sorry that his writing has ceased, but I feel the world is a better place because of him.

  25. Thanks for all You have done to restore some of the work your Dad has done . We enjoy reading them over and over. I currently own almost all of the books and stories that he wrote, and keep watching for more.

  26. Wonderful material on Louis L’Amour. Love his work.As a youngster my father read Zane Grey aloud to us; And later my father-in-law lent me his Louis L’Amour books.I believe he purchased many of these from used book sales.Both of these men are gone now. Iam still buying Louis L’Amour books at flea markets, used book sales and auctions. I currently have 63 copies and give any duplicates I find to Veterans Hospitals.Good reading!Thanks so much.

  27. Thanks, Beau, for continuing Louis’ work. I have over 90 of his books, pick up those I don’t already have at “Paperback Alley”, in Ponca City, Oklahoma. I’ve read all of my Louis’ books at least half a dozen times. I am 75 years old and have lots of time to enjoy HIS books. His are the only fiction books I read. I had a stoke in 1980 or so and my short term memory isn’t all that great, so, when it’s been over a year since I’ve read one of Louis’ books,it’s a whole new world..and I enjoy every moment of it.
    :-}. My grandpa Tripp homesteaded in the “Last Land Run”, the Cherokee Strip, on September 16, 1893. That quarter section.a couple miles NE of my home, is still owned by my first cousin, who lives a mile east of me. So, I have a frontier background. Thanks again..

    As we say in Oklahoma, “Y’all take care, ya hear!”

    Dale H. (Sodbuste) Tripp – Nardin, Oklahoma

  28. ihave read all f louis books and collected all of the leater bound books and sadly lost them in the fire tha destroyed my home,i have a couple of favorites, last of the breed,and the sacket seres,
    when i read a lamour book i get so engrosed i see the people,for instance the sacket boys in their series, in crossfire trair.i reread them when i can. thanks

  29. I wish you and sam elliot could convense hollywood into more westerns especially lonley men I hope that wasnt sams last ride in ghostrider

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