Review: Some Louis L’Amour Audiobooks

Until recently I was completely unacquainted with Louis L’Amour. Two things have changed that: the first, I picked up a CD collection of his mystery stories for 50 cents in a thrift store; the second, my Grandmother-in-law gave me a CD collection of his Western stories, that she didn’t want anymore.

I listened to the mystery set about a year ago. there are 5 CDs, each with a novel (I think they really count as short stories). Each story lasts about an hour. What I really remember is the speed at which the stories were read. They’re dramatizations, so each character has a different actor, but each person reads quickly, and it seems like the whole thing is very tightly trimmed, so there’s just about no gap between people talking.

I think that this can be a drawback with audiobooks on physical media – you have to make it fit, and you don’t want to use more discs(/tapes[/records]) than you have to. Still, it was a bit more effort to listen to and catch all the important details, than the downloaded audiobooks that I’m used to, where time matters less, so the readers can talk at more of a normal pace.

Despite this, I managed to guess two of the whodunnits before I settled into more of a just-taking-it-in rhythm.

I tried to find a link for this collection (I  Hate To Tell His Widow/Collect From A Corpse/Stay Out Of My Nightmare/Street Of Lost Corpses/The Hills Of Homicide). I did come across an Amazon link, which lists it as an audio cassette, but has the picture of the CD set. I enjoyed it, not quite to “oh-I-must-listen-to-everything-he’s-ever-done” depths. Adhered too closely to the formula for that. Detective solves the crime and gets the girl. Not bad for 50 cents, though.

The Western collection was better. Two dramatisations were narrated by Willie Nelson, the other five stories were completely read by him. Disc One had a full dramatisation of “Riding For The Brand”, with Kris Kristofferson and Johnny Cash (people I’ve heard of! The latter I’ve heard of more for his music than for his acting, though he seemed fine in this).

Funnily enough, I had to pay closer attention to this collection, too, but for completely different reasons. The reading was definitely not rushed. Mr Nelson’s accent I haven’t had to contend with for such a length in a row, and the drawl doesn’t entirely lend itself to absolutely clear enunciation (now I have the vocal coach scenes from Singin’ In The Rain in my head, and I am amused). Secondly, and more of an issue, is that I haven’t read much in the way of Westerns, so I’m not familiar with all the jargon.

Put it this way: I had to go looking some words up.

Well, not many, most I could figure out from context. There was one story, “The Nester And The Piute”, where I ended up having to look up both Nester and Piute. (In case you were in the same boat as I: you’re welcome.)

Funny story: the way the CDs were ripped, the CD names ended up showing the wrong way round: Disc Four, Disc Three, Disc Two, and Riding For The Brand. So I got all the straight readings first, and the two dramatisations right at the very end.

I enjoyed these, too. Perhaps less familiarity with the genre helped with not finding the stories particularly formulaic, though you’d think I would have done given the next two sentences. There was a fair amount of “stranger shows up and helps folks in trouble. Injuns, while not always necessarily being the bad guys, don’t seem to be depicted with any sort of nuance.

See what I mean? Nuance can be tricky to fit into a short story. And I don’t think I’m familiar enough with either the genre, or actual historical attitudes and expectations, even cultures, to really be able to comment one way or the other that the attitudes and depictions are unfair. Still, those parts I was least comfortable with.

Other than that, these visits to the frontier were pretty interesting, and I enjoyed the stories at face value.

I got this version, in the wooden box, which isn’t terribly happy about staying together without a rubber band. Looking for the collection on Amazon, I also found this one.

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