Birthday: March 22, 1908
Short Story Writers
Died At Age: 80
Sun Sign: Aries
Also Known As: Louis Dearborn L'Amour, Tex Burns, Jim Mayo
Born Country: United States
Born in: Jamestown, North Dakota, United States
Famous as: Novelist
Spouse/Ex-: Katherine Elizabeth Adams (m. 1956)
father: Louis Charles LaMoore
mother: Emily Dearborn LaMoore
Died on: June 10, 1988
place of death: Los Angeles, California, United States
Cause of Death: Lung Cancer
U.S. State: North Dakota
Louis L’Amour, also known as “Tex Burns,” or “Jim Mayo,” was an American novelist and short-story writer, who primarily wrote Western novels, based on his experiences of frontier life. He was also known for his historical fiction, science-fiction, and non-fiction works. He experimented with poetry, too. In his illustrious career, he had written 100 novels and more than 250 short stories. Several of his books have been made into films. His most notable works include the novel ‘Hondo,’ the ‘Sackett’ series, and the ‘Hopalong Cassidy’ series. He had also earned a ‘Bantam’ contract and had won multiple awards. His works have been translated into 10 languages. He lives on through his creations, even after his death.
Childhood & Early Life
Louis L’Amour was born Louis Dearborn LaMoore, on March 22, 1908, in Jamestown, North Dakota, United States. He was the seventh child of Dr. Louis Charles LaMoore and his wife, Emily.
Louis was of French descent through his father and of Irish ancestry through his mother. Dr. LaMoore was a veterinarian who had settled in Dakota Territory in 1882. He also sold farm machinery and managed harvesting crews. He held major positions in the local governments, too.
Louis grew up in Jamestown and stayed there till the age of 15. It was a serene farming community at the junction of Pipestem Creek and James River.
He would often visit the ‘Alfred Dickey Free Library,’ where Edna, his eldest sister, worked as a librarian. There, he would study various subjects in depth. He learned a lot about animals from his father. His mother, who had received teachers’ training, also taught him at times.
By the early 1920s, Louis and his adopted brother John were the only ones of the siblings left in the family. Edna had left to begin her career as a schoolteacher. Another sister, Emmy Lou, had died in the Spanish influenza of 1918. Louis’s eldest brother, Parker, was gearing up to be a newspaperman and political aid. Another brother, Yale, was in charge of a grocery store. Twins Clara and Clarice had died in infancy.
He quit school and then became a world traveler after his parents left Jamestown because of a failing economy in 1923. Following this, Louis did a lot of odd jobs. They traveled from Texas to the Pecos Valley of New Mexico, and then to Arizona, California, and Nevada. They also traveled to the Pacific Northwest.
Louis visited England, China, Japan, Borneo, Arabia, the Dutch East Indies, Egypt, and Panama, and then settled in Choctaw, Oklahoma, in the early 1930s. There, he adopted the pseudonym “Louis L’Amour” and began his career as a writer.
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He initially began writing poetry and articles related to boxing. He also wrote and edited sections of the ‘WPA Guide Book to Oklahoma.’ However, his short stories failed to impress people initially. Finally, L’Amour wrote the story ‘Death Westbound’ in ‘10 Story Book,’ a magazine that showcased good writing but also featured titillating pictures of naked women.
Several years later, L’Amour wrote his first story for pay. It was titled ‘Anything for a Pal’ and was published in ‘True Gang Life.’ By 1938, his stories were featured in pulp magazines regularly.
After World War II broke out, he joined the army as a tank officer of the transportation corps (1942). He was part of the unit that was supposed to destroy enemy transportation in Germany and France. He received an honorable discharge in 1946 and then moved to Los Angeles to write.
From 1946 to 1950, he wrote many short stories, especially detective and adventure fiction for various magazines. He wrote Western stories for ‘Standard Publications,' assuming the pseudonym "Jim Mayo." He also wrote for ‘Collier's, ‘Argosy,’ and the ‘Saturday Evening Post.’
L’Amour wrote four novels of the ‘Hopalong Cassidy’ series, as “Tex Burns.” Clarence Mulford had written 28 ‘Hopalong’ books earlier and had chosen L’Amour to be his successor.
L’Amour's first novel (under his own name), ‘Westward the Tide,’ was released in 1951. John Wayne bought the screen rights of his short story ‘The Gift of Cochise’ (1952). James Edward Grant then wrote a screenplay based on the story, renaming the main character, “Ches Lane,” to “Hondo Lane.”
L’Amour retained the rights to publish a novel based on the screenplay. Thus, in 1953, he published the novel ‘Hondo.’ It became immensely popular and sold 1.5 million copies.
More than 45 of his creations were made into movies or TV features. Such works include ‘Stranger on Horseback’ (1955), ‘The Burning Hills’ (1956), and ‘Shalako’ (1968). The film version of ‘Shalako’ starred Brigitte Bardot and Sean Connery.
L’Amour earned a ‘Bantam’ contract in 1955. It stated he was to write two books per year for the publisher. It was then extended to three books per year, a contract he stuck to, till his death.
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In the 1960s, he wrote a novel series about the fictional ‘Sackett family.’ He started with five books about ‘William Tell Sackett’ and his relatives. However, later, the story branched to other families and captured the history of four centuries.
L’Amour also ventured into historical fiction with ‘The Walking Drum.’ He then experimented with the thriller genre in ‘Last of the Breed’ and the science-fiction genre in ‘The Haunted Mesa.’ His works were translated into more than 10 languages by the 1970s.
Later, L’Amour and Jenny Frost from ‘Bantam’ created a radio-drama series based on L’Amour’s works. L’Amour's son, Beau, worked as a supervising producer for the project.
The team created 65 audio-drama productions from 1986 to 2004. They began with transcriptions and later involved screenwriters, playwrights, and theater students. The process involved adding actor’s voices and audio effects to create wholesome programs.
In the 1960s, L’Amour had an ambitious project. He wanted to build a town resembling a 19th-century Western frontier settlement. It was to be named “Shalako,” which was also the name of the protagonist in one of his novels.
He also intended to let the proposed town be used as a location for Hollywood Westerns. However, he could not complete the project, as he failed to gather funds for it.
Awards & Achievements
In 1969, he was awarded the ‘Golden Spur Award’ by the ‘Western Writers of America,’ for his novel ‘Down the Long Hills.’ Both ‘Hondo’ and ‘Flint’ were considered to be among the top 25 Western novels of all time by the ‘Western Writers of America.’
In May 1972, he received an “Honorary PhD” from ‘Jamestown College,’ for his literary works. The same year, he received North Dakota's ‘Theodore Roosevelt Roughrider Award.’
His 1979 novel ‘Bendigo Shafter’ won the ‘U.S. National Book Award’ in the “Western” category.
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In 1981, the ‘Western Writers of America’ awarded him the ‘Golden Saddleman Award.’ In 1982, he became the first novelist to be awarded the ‘Congressional Gold Medal.’ In 1984, he received the ‘Presidential Medal of Freedom’ from President Ronald Reagan.
He received the title of “Honorary Colonel” from the State of North Dakota. He also earned two bronze stars for his contribution during World War II.
Family & Personal Life
He got married to Katherine Elizabeth Adams on February 19, 1956. Back then, she was a budding actor who had appeared in a few theater and TV projects.
Katherine quit her career to travel with L’Amour and later became his personal assistant. They had a son, Beau Dearborn, in 1961. Their daughter, Angelique Gabrielle, was born in 1964.
In spite of being a non-smoker all his life, L’Amour died of lung cancer on June 10, 1988, in Los Angeles. It is believed that the cancer may have been caused by exposure to dust particles during his stint as a coal miner.
He was interred in the ‘Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery,’ located near the ‘Great Mausoleum’ in the ‘Mausoleum Slope,’ in Glendale, California.
In 1989, his autobiography, titled ‘Education of a Wandering Man,’ was published posthumously.
The 1990s saw many of his books being published posthumously. Some such books were a collection of short stories named ‘Lonigan’ and ‘The Sackett Companion.’ The latter detailed the research behind the ‘Sackett’ series.
A bi-monthly publication featuring budding Western writers was named the ‘Louis L’Amour Western Magazine.’
Two major short-story collections, ‘Monument Rock’ (1998) and ‘Beyond the Great Snow Mountains’ (1999), were also published later.
His wife served as the president of ‘Louis L’Amour Enterprises,’ with their children’s help. Beau was in charge of the audiovisual division of the business, including the radio shows and film rights. They also established a book club named the ‘Louis L’Amour Collection.’
L’Amour appeared as the character ‘Lew’ in Paul Malmont’s 2006 novel ‘The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril.’
In 1983, L’Amour had bought Maggie Rock, along with parts of a vast Colorado ranch surrounding it. He also had a personal library with over 10,000 books.