Posthumous publishing isn’t uncommon when it comes to writers who were as prolific as Louis L’Amour. Sometimes, the volume of unpublished work is big enough that what comes after their deaths ends up being as intriguing as when they were alive.
Beau L’Amour, son of the iconic Western writer, knows this well. The title of his father’s new book, Louis L’Amour’s Lost Treasures, Volume 1, explains what the author’s son has undertaken since Louis died in 1988.
“When he passed away, we had all this stuff – my dad was a dynamo at creating the new thing, but he was not very attentive to organizing all the old things,” he said.
The organizing took on a life of its own.
“Louis L’Amour’s Lost Treasures is the story behind the stories,” Beau said. “It is like Louis’ professional biography, except that instead of a play-by-play account, the pieces of his work are in the stories that they pertain to.”
Beau will sign copies of Lost Treasures tonight at Sorrel Sky Gallery.
Along with the new book, which is the first of a two-volume series, there are also new postscripts included in four of Louis’ books, Bendigo Shafter, How the West was Won, Callaghen and Down the Long Hills this year. Beau plans to publish at least half a dozen, maybe more, next year.
“What these (postscripts) are is everything I know that’s interesting about my dad’s novels,” Beau said. “Bendigo Shafter is very much about how he started it and ran into certain problems and put it aside for a while and then restarted it. It’s the story of how his focus on it ebbed and flowed over about 10 or 12 years.”
Lost Treasures is not only full of stories that were not published, it also includes previously unfinished chapters of a Western horror novel Louis was writing. Though Louis was best known as a Western writer, Beau said he didn’t limit himself to that genre.
Putting the pieces of his father’s life and work together helped Beau learn more about his father.
There were some surprises, including “the fact that he was so bad off in the eight or nine months before he sold the story ‘The Gift of Cochise’ that became ‘Hondo,’ and then the fact that within just a really short period of time – like that summer – his entire career turned around,” Beau said. “He went from going to the park so that he wouldn’t be caught not eating breakfast to having deals with three publishers. His life turned around as hard as you could ever imagine.
“I knew all of those things happened in sort of separate chunks, but I had never gotten them in order, and I had never pinned them right down to the calendar,” he said. “And I had never seen how dramatic the shift was.”
Louis took that dramatic shift in lifestyle completely in stride, Beau said.
“No. He was ready for it (laughing). He was so ready for it, it was unbelievable. By that point, it was do or die,” he said. “Up until he went to work for the Writers Project of the WPA in Oklahoma, he had been a prize fighter and a miner and a merchant seaman. Even though he had educated himself relatively well, he was a completely blue-collar guy, but with no trade affiliation, no union, no standing in any business, no real skills. He had to make it.”
For Beau, who has also been working on a biography about Louis for a long time, the project has been a way to stay close to the father he misses.
“I’m connected with his life every day,” he said. “In some ways, it’s a little bit like he’s here.”