America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 33-35.


L’Amour, Louis.  Bendigo Shafter.  New York: Dutton, 1978.

Literary critics have generally disregarded Louis L’Amour as an author of very formulaic novels in a sub-literary genre.  Certainly, his prodigious output might suggest a more workmanlike than reflective approach to writing fiction.  For over three decades, L’Amour produced at least three novels each year, becoming a fixture on his publisher’s list of new titles and a dependable revenue producer.  Yet, late in his career, L’Amour’s distinctive achievement was acknowledged when Bendigo Shafter was not only a surprise finalist for the National Book Award but actually won the award.

An eighteen-year-old native New Yorker who likes to read Plutarch and Thoreau, Bendigo Shafter is headed to California with a heterogeneous group of pioneers when an early blizzard closes the mountain passes and forces them to seek an alternative destination at least for the season.  They decide to hunker down in Wyoming…

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