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Sunday, December 20, 2015

UNDER the SWEETWATER RIM by Louis L'Amour



First published in 1971

Louis L'Amour wrote well over one hundred novels with varying topics, including one science fiction novel. But, of course, he is most famous for his Westerns. Under the Sweetwater Rim is a Western, but it is a different kind of Western.

This novel is set in a lonely part of Wyoming during the Civil War. The war rarely intrudes out this far - usually if there is an issue it is with Indians that realized that the American national government is distracted and they can attack settlers moving out west. A wagon train setting out from Fort Laramie to the West Coast is attacked - but not by Indians. Instead, it is destroyed by a rogue group of Bushwhackers from the Kansas/Missouri/Arkansas led by a ruthless man who is known to be a superior frontiersman.

Louis L'Amour (1908-1988)
But, part of the wagon train survived. Right before the attack an officer from the fort who is supposed to be on leave pulled a single wagon out of the train and took. That wagon contained $60,000 in gold that was heading to an army base out west and the daughter of Fort Laramie's commander.

Now, the U.S. Cavalry is on the hunt for the missing wagon - but so are the Bushwhackers, causing the wagon train survivors try to cross the dreaded Sweetwater Pass to escape...


So, this plot sounds like a great one. It might even make a good movie so long as one thing happens. Take the star of the book, Ten Brian, down about 10 pegs. He is presented as a super-soldier throughout the book. Up until the end when it is revealed that he is just as vulnerable as everyone else, I found him to be a tedious presence that removed most of the tension from the book (why worry about the good guys - Tem Brian is there!)

The only character that was really developed was the commander of Fort Laramie, Major Devereaux. Tem Brian just has an amazing resume that is referred to a lot but no real development. His American Indian sidekick is just there - we have no real idea why they are together except for a shared history that is not expanded upon.

So, I give it 3 out of 5 stars. The basic premise was interesting but I had a hard time actually caring if the characters lived or died.

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