L'Amour, Louis: Last of the Breed
(researched by Andrew Basham)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description

1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)

Louis L'Amour. Last of the Breed. New York, NY: Bantam Books Inc., July 1986

2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?

The first edition is published in blue cloth with a dust jacket in 1986. The first paperback edition was published in 1987 by Bantam Books Inc. A simultaneous first edition was published in Canada.

3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available

4 Pagination

[8]1-3[4]5-358[6] 186 leaves. 15 total unnumbered pages. Page numbers are 2cm from the bottom of the page, centered.

5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?


6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?

There are two endpaper maps. Both illustrations are by Alan McKnight. The front illustration is a map of Central Siberia with a smaller inset map of Asia focusing on the Soviet Union. The back illustration is a map of Eastern Siberia. The maps are black and white. 1 inch=100 miles

7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available

8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)

The book is 23cm X 16cm. Type size is 85R and the borders are 2cm from the top and bottom and 2.8cm from the sides. There are 41 lines of text per page. The spine has the author's name, the title and the publisher's logo and name in gold lettering. The book is in excellent condition with minimal wear on the endpapers. Each new chapter begins with a line, a chapter number ("CHAPTER roman numeral"), another line and a 2cm space before the text begins. The first letter of the first word of text is 3X larger and bold. Across the top of the backs of the leaves is the author's name with a line beneath it. Across the top of the fronts of the leaves is the title with a line beneath it.

9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available

10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)

The paper is un-watermarked and of a slightly yellow hue, but is nevertheless good quality and thick. The endpapers are thicker and of better quality than the rest of the leaves. The paper is in very good condition and shows no yellowing over time.

11 Description of binding(s)

The binding is in excellent condition and the corners show almost no wear. The cloth is a dotted line grain with a dark bluish hue and only extends 4cm onto the front and back cover which is covered in a medium blue paper. The spine is stamped in gold lettering.

12 Transcription of title page


13 JPEG image of title page, if available

14 Manuscript Holdings

No Information Available.

15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)

The front of the dust jacket is medium blue with the author's name across the top, a painting of a silhouetted man on a snowy landscape, and the title across the bottom. The painting is by Franco Accornero, 1986. The back of the dust jacket is a close-up photograph of the author standing in the snow. The photograph is by Nancy Ellison, 1986. The inner flaps contain a short summary of the Author's achievements and recent works and a longer summary of this work.

Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History

1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A

1986 Book Club Edition 1987 Paperback 1987 Hardback 1988 Paperback No information on dust jackets or paperback covers

2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available

3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available

4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?

Initial printing was 350,000 copies

5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A

Literary Express: 1998 Large Print Edition: Long Preston. Thorndike-Magna, 1986

6 Last date in print?

Literary Express Edition: 1998

7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)

No Information Available.

8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)

No Information Available.

9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)

No Advertising Found.

10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available

11 Other promotion

None Found.

12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A

No Film Adaptations No Books on Tape No Live Performances

13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A

German: Den sidste. Kobenhaven: Asschenfeldt, 1989. Italian: La lunga fuga. Milano: A. Mondadori, 1990. French: L'envol de l'aigle. Paris: Presses de la CafÈ, 1987. Portugese: Oultimo de raca. Rio de Janeiro: Globo, 1986.

14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A


15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A


Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author

1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)

Known primarily for hist work as a Western writer, Louis L'Amour was also responsible for several novels with exotic settings. One of the most recognized is his twelfth-century historical sketch, The Walking Drum, but the only bestseller of the bunch is Last of the Breed written in 1986. In the novel, L'Amour places a Native American Air Force test pilot behind the Iron Curtain within the Soviet Union. The setting is reflective of the Cold War tension that persisted through the 1980's. L'Amour, having been drafted* (Correction of "enlisted" in Erica Knight's entry on The Lonesome Gods. http://www.randomhouse.com/features/lamour/) by the Army in 1942, spent two years in France and Germany. His experiences in the transportation corps and as a first lieutenant with the tank destroyers gave him the background knowledge to create the protagonist, Joe Mack. The novel gave L'Amour the chance to take his Western genre and move the concepts to a new arena. He applies much of his Native American (specifically Sioux) understanding to the story which is full of tracking, trapping and bow-hunting. Mack's emotional and psychological thoughts about the world are also correspondent to real Sioux thought. In 1983, L'Amour was awarded the highest civilian honor bestowed by congress in the form of the Congressional Gold Medal. A year later Ronald Reagan gave him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Last of the Breed was written two years after and was one of his final works. It's status as a bestseller is a testament to L'Amour's staying power. He published over 100 books between 1953 and his death in 1988. They have been translated into twenty languages and more than forty-five of his novels have been adapted for film. Last of the Breed never made it to the big or small screen. Louis L'Amour. Robert L. Gale. Revised 1992. UVA library call number: PS 3523. A446 Z67 http://www.randomhouse.com/features/louislamour/ http://veinotte.com/lamour.htm

Assignment 4: Reception History

1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

Playing on contemporary fears and insecurities, the microcosm of the conflict between The United States and The Soviet Union in Last of the Breed served as a boost for L'Amour's readers, "reinforcing the notion that Americans can survive almost anything in style" (Newsweek vol. 108 July 14, 1986: p.68). Initial reviews were mixed with regard to L'Amour's change in genre. Some saw this as a completely new breed of tale, others believed it was simply an old story with a new setting, but regardless of the criticism, it was well received by the public and written at precisely the right political time. The climate in 1986 was such that readers were yearning for "ready-made myths about Americans single-handedly dispatching our creepy foreign enemies" (The New York Times Book Review July 6, 1986 p.14). The novel's popularity was so widespread that it made number one on the bestseller list two weeks before its official publication date. Published just as the powerful Soviet Union began its decline, Last of the Breed provided it's readers with a passionate commentary on the United States' growing world dominance. Readers had been waiting for a new L'Amour novel and the change of pace this story offers is exactly what they never knew they wanted. The predominantly Western writer composed this "contemporary story of conflict between the superpowers partly in response to those who dismiss him as the modern-day Zane Grey. 'I don't like being pigeonholed,' he says. 'I don't like people saying they've got anyone or anything figured out completely' (Newsweek vol. 108 July 14, 1986: p.68). Despite the apparent change in genre, many considered this tale of pursuit in the Siberian wilderness as simply a new setting for the same old L'Amour tale. "The references to Gorbachev and even Soviet Jewry notwithstanding, this latest novel is tojours L'Amour" (Newsweek vol. 108 July 14, 1986: p.68). Nevertheless, his comprehensive research about the Soviet Union, it's politics and it's culture led one reviewer to write: "L'Amour has not simply traded Remingtons for rockets: his knowledge of the frozen North is well researched, his KGB men have enough dimension to throw a long shadow, and along the trek he even mentions straight shooters like Ivan Karamazov and Balzac's Pere Goriot" (Time vol. 128 August 4, 1986: p. 65). Known for his thoroughness, this novel maintained the author's recognition for credibility and the authentic details. From Joe Mack's reindeer moccasins to wearing elk hooves on his feet to throw off pursuers, L'Amour provided readers with a realistic story about an unknown and (at the time) very relevant part of the world. His strong protagonist was well liked and one of the main reasons for the novel's initial success was the fact that it had no surprises. The U.S. wins in the end. Newsweek vol. 108 July 14, 1986: p.68 The New York Times Book Review July 6, 1986 p.14 Time vol. 128 August 4, 1986: p. 65

2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

Very little has been written since the initial reviews of the novel, but despite overall positive reactions, critical responses from the 1990's are much more focused on the political incorrectness and verbosity of L'Amour's writing. Although Last of the Breed seemed in touch with the political climate of the 1980's, it "seems remarkably out of touch with cultural attitudes of" the time (Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 206: Twentieth-century American Western Writers, First Series: p. 200-214). Joe Mack expresses admiration for General George Armstrong Custer, and DoLB reviewer Mitchel Roth sees that recognition as both insensitive and unrealistic. Roth also points out that there appears to be an underlying conservative argument about the Darwinian notion of survival of the fittest, and that the book "manifests L'Amour's barely concealed disdain for the liberal agenda and can be viewed as his parable on the state of the American character in the late twentieth century (Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 206: Twentieth-century American Western Writers, First Series: p. 200-214). Despite his criticism, Roth believes "this tale of wilderness survival captures the reader's attention from the outset and never wavers." Biographer Robert Gale also finds the novel captivating due to its realistic depiction of Siberia as "hauntingly beautiful, as well as unforgiving" (Louis L'Amour, p. 72). Gale echoes the initial views of reviewers with his praise of the author's realism and credibility, but finds fault with L'Amour's preaching style: "?he could not break himself of the habit of lecturing his audience, even though his podium was not placed in nineteenth-century America?but in the twentieth-century Soviet Union" (Louis L'Amour p. 72). Gale concludes his review of the novel with the statement that "Last of the Breed should be criticized for having too many pages and too little variety" (Louis L'Amour p. 72). Regardless of their criticism, both reviewers thought the novel was both exciting for the reader and relevant to the time in which it was written. Roth, Mitchel. Ed. Richard Cracroft. Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 206: Twentieth-century American Western Writers, First Series: p. 200-214 Gale, Robert. Louis L'Amour. Twayne Publishers, 1992: NY, NY

Assignment 5: Critical Analysis

1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)

As the number one American Western fiction writer of all time, Louis L'Amour's new releases were always greatly anticipated by both his loyal fans yearning for a new addition to his repertoire and literary critics hoping for a stagnant plot or protagonist upon which to lay their stinging criticism. Last of the Breed, his 1986 thriller set in Soviet Siberia, was distinctly different for L'Amour in many ways, but the novel's similarities to it's Western predecessors can be partially credited for the book's bestseller status. Like other authors known for their recurring themes, L'amour used the tried and true concept of the good guy beating the bad guy and the underdog winning in the end. In this case, he simply moved the storyline behind The Iron Curtain and played on the American public's Cold War fears and biases. L'Amour's use of contemporary issues in his work had been well tested by other best-selling authors, and he made use of his factual knowledge of the Soviet Union to add necessary realism to his tale. He also capitalized on name recognition by publishing other bestsellers in 1983, 1984 and 1985 and re-releasing over thirty novels in the same period. Last of the Breed is a well-written and exciting novel of survival and intrigue, but without the extensive promotion of L'Amour's name and his popularity at the time of the novel's release, the political and social relevance of his setting, usage of a previously successful novel pattern, and realism and factual knowledge of the environment, the tale of Sioux Air Force pilot Joe Mack could have easily frozen to death in the barren landscapes of the literary tundra. In the early 1980's there was a resurgence of interest in L'Amour's past work due largely to publicity surrounding his 30th anniversary writing for Bantam Books. Last of the Breed was one of four L'Amour fiction bestsellers in the 1980's and Bantam's celebration of his writing, including a reprint of his first novel, Hondo, obviously fostered an environment conducive to selling his novels, no matter their quality. More than 30 films based on L'Amour novels had been released by the 1980's. With actors from John Wayne to Anthony Quinn playing lead roles, a diverse cross section of American society was attracted to his works through film adaptations. L'Amour also received the Congressional Gold Medal for his life achievements in 1983, simply adding to the author's notoriety. Enormous fanfare surrounding the L'Amour name generated enough national interest to make the author's works a household staple again, as everything he wrote was bought en masse by those yearning for the simplicity of life on the old range. Even though Last of the Breed was not a Western, L'Amour's name was synonymous with an easygoing style that helped Americans remember a time without world conflict. It was a surprise to many when they bought the novel based on name recognition and discovered themselves reading about contemporary political issues and finding their hero deep within the folds of The Iron Curtain. Even though the Cold War was coming to a close in the 1980's, Americans maintained an interest in anything discussing the conflict between their country and the mysterious Soviet Union. Joe Mack's struggle to escape from his communist pursuers was a brilliant microcosm of the political battle between the two superpowers, and L'Amour, knowing his patriotic readership, gave the Air Force hero generations of real American gusto and pride passed to him by his Sioux and Cheyenne forefathers. Mack is as American as a protagonist can be and his arch enemy is the Siberian Yakut Indian, Alekhin, who is so formidable that he can track Mack across the Arctic Circle. L'Amour's choice of setting may not be as complex as those of John LeCarre in The Russia House or Tom Clancy in Red Storm Rising, but the basic subject matter, the struggle for democracy over communism, is what carried the novel to the bestseller list. Mention of the Soviet-Afghanistan war, the Soviet downing of a South Korean jetliner and various references to Mikhail Gorbachev give the book added credibility and reinforce the timeliness of the storyline. Comparisons can also be made between Last of the Breed and the 1985 feature film Rocky IV starring Sylvester Stallone. In the blockbuster hit, Rocky travels to the Soviet Union to battle the evil and seemingly unbeatable Russian boxer Drago as a representative of the United States and to seek revenge for his friend's death at Drago's hands. Rocky is virtually alone against the entire communist nation as he trains for the biggest fight of his life while running through waist high snow and crossing gushing streams in the Siberian north. Just as Mack traverses the frozen landscape in order to defeat his enemies and escape from the country, Rocky must battle the elements to give him the necessary strength to defend the United States against it Soviet enemy. Both the book and the film are a testament to the selling power of media interpretation of the conflict between the superpowers, and although Sylvester Stallone is no Native American, he is a worthy representative of the United States, hailing from the most American of cities: New York. The other similarity between Rocky IV and Last of the Breed is the plot line where both protagonists are the underdog in a battle against a worthy and seemingly unbeatable foe. Many popular novels and films follow the same pattern and L'Amour's writing is known for just such a motif. According to Dictionary of Literary Biography writer Mitchel Roth, the novel also "employs one of L'Amour's greatest themes, the Darwinian notion that the strong will survive and the weak will not." L'Amour was known for his Western tales where the lone cowboy would battle a corrupt ranch owner and his evil henchman in a seemingly lopsided conflict, only to prevail in the end because of his ability to reference pertinent information about his own skills and his enemies' weaknesses and to apply them to the situation at hand. Mack triumphs in the same fashion as he constantly out-thinks his pursuers and remains one step ahead of them, using his superior intellect and physical strength to foil their persistent attempts to capture him. Readers never tired of L'Amour's character blueprint and their longing for the true American hero, down on his luck, but with the inner strength to defeat the villain kept his novels written in the 1980's on the bestseller list. Last of the Breed was a departure from his prototypical Old West plot because of its present-day time frame, and was also distinct from all his other works. However, Using the same stencil that he used to create his Western protagonists, L'Amour made another lasting hero of Joe Mack. Although he never had the staying power of the men of the Sackett clan, Mack nevertheless fit the specifications for the Western hero that L'Amour sold to his audience as the epitome of justice, morality and strength. Mack is, like L'Amour's previous characters, "broad-shouldered, thin-hipped, military in bearing, taciturn but capable of poetic utterance, and possessed of a philosopher's appreciation of scenes, beasts and women. He is always a fighter-and a wild one if aroused- but rarely throws the first punch or shoots the first bullet. He fights with fists as often as with firearms, can take enormous punishment, and retaliates with swift precision" (Gale, 99). Mack fits the hero mold to a tee and once L'Amour had created the man, he had to choose an environment where Mack would feel comfortable using all the wilderness skills that his Native American forefathers had taught him. In order to utilize his best selling novel pattern, L'Amour needed a setting that would appeal to his loyal audience because of its similarity to the Old West. In Siberia, L'Amour found an environment that was similar enough to give his characters the same free-range atmosphere in which to play out their sometimes deadly games of wilderness survival. Although the characters in Last of the Breed never fall asleep under the stars to the sounds of a lowing herd of Texas longhorns, they still smell the crisp fresh air of an uncluttered and unpopulated world. If L'Amour had placed Joe Mack in a John LeCarresque European spy setting, he would have found himself completely out of his element, and readers would be without their blessed expansive horizons and natural simplicity. L'Amour is known for his nature watercolors that emphasize the fact that under a vast and often tumultuous sky, man conducts affairs puny in comparison. Colonel Zamatev's persistent manhunt for the escaped American Air Force pilot across the barren landscape is just such a picture. Novel critics often poke holes in the realism of a best seller, faulting it for too much embellishment or unrealistic plot lines. L'Amour's works avoided that scrutiny because of his comprehensive research on his subjects. Last of the Breed takes place in country so remote and unreachable that most of his audience would never be aware of small errors in his description of the environment from the landscape to the weather patterns of the changing seasons. However, L'Amour was unwilling to sacrifice the quality of his work just to boost it to best seller status. His painstaking examination of the Soviet Union and specifically Siberia is a credit to all best selling authors, like James Michener in his works of historical fiction, who study their subject matter thoroughly in order to add a necessary authenticity to their works. Last of the Breed also contains smaller accurate details about living in the wilds, like "When Mack's boots wear out he uses reindeer hide to make moccasins the Native American way; when his pursuers come uncomfortable close, the major tries to throw them off the trail by tying elk hooves to his feet" (Leerhsen, 68). L'Amour's personal experiences in the West and his youthful journeys around the world including a trip to China in the 1930's where he learned of the Russian north, gave him the background knowledge to tell Mack's tale, and along with his book research, it propelled his book to the top of the bestseller list. Although L'Amour used many of the conventions that had given him such success as a Western writer, the fact that Last of the Breed is not a Western has everything to do with its loss of recognition after its initial success. As L'Amour aged, his fans impatiently waited for his next novel in hopes that he would keep producing the Westerns that they so craved. Mack's tale was met with overwhelming recognition as an exciting action-adventure story, but it followed in the footsteps of two other non-traditional L'Amour novels: The Lonesome Gods (1983) and The Walking Drum (1984). After the successful release of the prototypical L'Amour Western, Jubal Sackett in 1985, his audience pined for yet another of his notorious Old West tales, and although Last of the Breed faired better than his 1983 and 1984 works, the success can most likely be accredited to the failure of The Haunted Mesa (1987). L'Amour's fans continued to dwell on the popularity of his 1986 novel instead of recognizing his disappointing attempt at supernaturalism. In 1988, however, they got what they really wanted when L'Amour published The Sackett Companion, a guide to the entire Western family, which drew attention away from Last of the Breed and back to his renowned writings of the American West. Last of the Breed remains one of L'Amour's best selling books, but its name is primarily mentioned in discussions of his writings as a curiosity because of his reputation and its dissimilarity to his other works. After more than thirty years of writing at a pace of almost three novels a year, Louis L'Amour knew how to sell books by the 1980's. Last of the Breed was the last of L'Amour's bestsellers, but certainly not the least well-known of his novels. Playing on Americans' interest in the Cold War and communism in the Soviet Union, L'Amour made a calculated move designed to expand his readership. His non-Western tales were extremely popular at the time, and this novel included enough of his traditional subject matter to appeal to old and new readers alike. He used a character definition for Joe Mack that had previously been successful for him and other best selling authors, and that defined the protagonist as the epitome of goodness and virtue. Last of the Breed's plot line is straightforward and easy to understand, while maintaining a complex sense of fact and reality, and, known for just such a style, L'Amour (and Bantam) knew the novel would sell as well or better than his other recent works. Publicity surrounding his anniversary writing for Bantam books and his name alone would have given Last of the Breed the boost it needed to make it to the bestseller list, but the care with which L'Amour wrote the novel and the applicability it had to the times at hand were also deciding factors in making the book such a complete success with both his die hard fans and first time readers. Last of the Breed is the embodiment of L'Amour's complete writing package, and its bestseller status stems from character development, an appealing and comprehensive setting, and a deep understanding of what keeps readers happy and interested in a novel. Gale, Robert. Louis L'Amour. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1992. UVA library call number: PS 3523. A446 Z67 Leerhsen, Charles. "A Rare Breed of Writer." Newsweek 14 July 1986: 68. Roth, Mitchel. Dictionary of Literary Biography, vol. 206: Twentieth-century American Western Writers, First Series. Ed. Richard Cracroft. New York: Gale Group, 1999. 200-214.

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