L'Amour, Louis: The Lonesome Gods
(researched by Erica Knight)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description

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

Bantam Books, Incorporated. New York. April 1983.

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

Red trade cloth.

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

4 Pagination

232 leaves, [10], pp. 1-450, [4]

5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?


6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?

Map of southern California by Willi
am and Alan McKnight.

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?)

Large, easily readable font for a plain but clear presentation of the text.

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?)

Paper has yellowed a bit. One section of the paper is loose from the binding.

11 Description of binding(s)

Red trade cloth with rein
forced darker red binding on the spine. Spine has THE LONESOME GODS/LOUIS L'AMOUR in gold font. Gold signature of Louis L'Amour in the lower right hand corner of the front binding. Binding is glued.

12 Transcription of title page


13 JPEG image of title page, if available

14 Manuscript Holdings

not available

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

Bantam Rooster registered trademark above /BANTAM BOOKS/ on the title page.

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

1983: Book Club ed. February 1984: Mass Market Paper. 1984: Bantam rack-size ed. [2] leaves of plates. 1984: Deluxe edition. [2] leaves of plates. December 1992: Reissue paperback. Cover art is of a desert valley, the top two-thirds reddish orange with white capital letters reading vertically: "LOUIS/L'AMOUR/THE/LONESOME/GODS" Bottom of the cover has a man holding a rifle with two women to his side and a horse-drawn wagon beneath them. The binding and back cover depict a man and woman looking out on a desert canyon at sunset. Two-page map of Southern California follows the de
dication page.

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?

Six printings. 100,000 copies in print after second printing. (Publisher's Weekly, Vol.224 No.6, August 5, 1983. p.106.) 155,000 copies in print after three trips to press. (Publisher's Weekly, Vol.223 No.14, April 8, 1983. p.66) 190,000 copies in print after five trips to press. (Publisher's Weekly, Vol.223 No.17, April 29, 1983. p.66) 5,000 copy sixth printing for 205,000 copies in print. (Publisher's Weekly, Vol.224 No.4, July 22, 1983. p.146)

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

*Macmillan Library Reference. June 1984: Library binding, Large type. *Macmillan Library Reference. July 1984: Trade Paper binding, Large type. *Corgi (London). 1983: British National Bibliography edition. *G.K. Hall (Boston, MA). 1983: Large print ed.

6 Last date in print?

December 1992.

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

Information pending from publisher.

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

Information pending from publisher.

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

Occupies nearly 75% of the page, underneath the conclusion of an article in the Los Angeles Times Book Review. Written vertically: "A MIGHTY NOVEL/of/AMERICA'S FRONTIER/by/AMERICA'S STORYTELLER!" Has a picture
of L'Amour dressed in cowboy hat and western gear to the left of the text. To the right of the text is a picture of the hardcover edition of the book. Text includes quotes from 60-Minutes commentator Morley Safer and People magazine and gives a brief des
cription of the book. Ad is placed two pages after the book review.

10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available

11 Other promotion

Book Tour.

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


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

"Chi mo chung shen" T'ai-pei shih: Huang kuan ch'u pan she, min kuo 72. 1983: Chinese translation.

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)

The world's best-selling western novelist, Louis L'Amour, was born March 28, 1908 in Jamestown, North Dakota to a family native to the lifestyle of a pioneer. A tenth-generation American, L'Amour's great-grandfat
her was scalped by the Sioux and his grandfather fought in the Civil War against the Indians. He left school at the age of 15 to travel around the west and work alongside cattlemen and homesteaders who told him about the area's local history, which helpe
d him to establish a great resource for his writing. L'Amour supported himself by working as a longshoreman, lumberjack, miner, elephant handler, fruit picker, hay baler, and cattle skinner. His various jobs also took him abroad as a seaman on an East A
frican schooner and to China and Tibet. Upon returning back to the United States, L'Amour became a professional boxer and started his hand at writing. His first book, Smoke From This Altar, was a volume of poetry published in 1939 by Lusk Publishing Com
pany in Oklahoma City when he was 31. He enlisted in the army during World War II and became a first lieutenant. It was during this time that he developed his story-telling ability as he entertained his fellow soldiers with tales of the Old West and his
life's adventures. He was encouraged to begin writing down some of these tales, which he later submitted to magazines as popular fiction under the pseudonym of Tex Burns, since his last name did not appeal to editors as a valid western writer. L'Amour'
s first western novel, Hopalong Cassidy and the Riders of High Rock, was published by Doubleday in 1951 after the success of numerous short stories being published in pulp magazines and mass-circulation periodicals such as the Saturday Evening Post.
L'Amour's career as a western writer continued with increasing success as he wrote books for the publishing houses of Gold Medal, Avalon Books, Ace Books, Appleton-Century-Crofts, and Bantam Books. In 1953, his most popular book, Hondo, was made into a
top box-office movie staring John Wayne. More media adaptations of his works were made as he produced three western novels a year for Bantam under a contract beginning in 1965. His childhood interest about the settlement of the American West further enc
ouraged him to extensively research every novel that he wrote. L'Amour read nineteenth-century newspapers and magazines, diaries of pioneers, old maps and geological surveys, and old court records. He also interviewed frontiersman and their descendants
while visiting the sites he used as settings for his tales. This wealth of information involved in each novel help him to create accurate descriptions of the Old West, full of factual details which has remained a trademark of his work. The last years of L'Amour's life were spent with his wife, Katherine Adams, and their two children Beau and Angelique in Little Holmby, a suburb of Los Angeles. He had outlines for fifty more novels at his death on June 10, 1988 to lung cancer. Nearly
two hundred million copies of his books were in print when he died, making him the American fiction writer with the most million-copy bestsellers. (See supplementary materials for a list of all his works.)

Assignment 4: Reception History

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

The earliest reviews of The Lonesome Gods forecasted a promising reception, praising the work as another masterpiece by the veteran bestseller L'Amour at his 30th anniversary as a novelist. Booklist raved two mon
ths before its publication that the book "should amply prove why [L'Amour] is one of the five best-selling writers in the world." Publisher's Weekly also gave a warm, early review for this "fine tale of survival against great odds" because it was "credib
le and entertaining." Although The Lonesome Gods seemed to be yet another success in L'Amour's trademark style of western adventures, many were disappointed once it was released due to his attempt to expand upon the volume and moral discourse of the nov
el. The New York Times Book Review found the main flaw of the book in its length, criticizing L'Amour "in his attempt to write a large-scale historical novel." More than twice the normal size of a typical L'Amour novel, Lonesome Gods was disliked for contai
ning "several homiletic discourses and some peripheral themes in the plot," (NY Times) which slowed down the narrative drive of the book. Published simultaneously with the anniversary reprint of his first book Hondo, Lonesome Gods suffered the fate of be
ing compared to this superior and initial best-seller. Washington Post Book World believed someone "infected L'Amour with two symptoms of bestselleritis: heavy symbolism and length." Another fault of the book was identified to be its multitude of chara
cters, intertwined into the plot in ways which merely confounded the reader and made the connections between them seem overtly contrived. While initially lauded for its "nonstop action, convincing characters, and effective plot twists" (Booklist) the adv
ance reviews were off the mark as a majority of critics blamed L'Amour for a book where "fast pace, action and simplicity [were] sacrificed" (Wall St. Journal). It was well agreed that some of the dialogue between characters became a bit preachy, which m
ade the moral message too heavy-handed for traditional L'Amour novels. The gamble L'Amour took to extend the length of this novel damaged his traditionally plausible character development, but was still of some value as the New Yorker commented that "his
characters, though undeveloped, have character". Some critics suspected that the long book might be a pilot for another series of L'Amour novels akin to the Sackett tradition, or even be adapted to television. Washington Post Book World went so far as
to predict that "The Lonesome Gods is a book that yells ?miniseries!' to you at the top of its lungs." Critics aside, avid fans of L'Amour saw value in his fresh change to writing about the West, enjoying the long, leisurely pace due to its descriptions of the desert country, historical facts and natural lore. As one fan-club member remarked: "it is not
packed with gunslinger action or Indian raids, but it is an engaging character study set against a fascinating era in American history." For a reader prepared to take a slow and reflective journey through the life of young boy in early Californian histor
y, The Lonesome Gods is seen as a good novel that stands apart from L'Amour's characteristically fast-paced adventures.
Advanced Rev. of LONESOME GODS, by Louis L'Amour. Booklist 15 Feb. 1983: 745. Forecast Rev. of LONESOME GODS, by Louis L'Amour. Publisher's Weekly 18 Feb. 1983: 115. Rev. of LONESOME GODS, by Louis L'Amour. New Yorker 16 May 1983 Avila, Sister. Rev. of LONESOME GODS by Louis L'Amour. Book World 17 April 1983: 6. Burke, Jeffrey. "After 83 Success, L'Amour Takes a Gamble." Rev. of LONESOME GODS and HONDO, by Louis L'Amour. The Wall St. Journal 3 May 1983: 32. Champlin, Charles. "L'Amour: a love of the lore where the ground rules." Rev. of LONESOME GODS AND HONDO, by Louis L'Amour. The Los Angeles Times Book Review 20 Mar. 1983: 3,10. Fenley, Gowan. "Reviews of Louis L'Amour novels: LONESOME GODS." Online posting. Louis L'Amour homepage http://www.louis-lamour-fan.com. 17 Apr. 1998. Sucharitkul, Somtow. "The Fastest Pen in the West." Rev. of LONESOME GODS and HONDO, by Louis L'Amour. Washington Post Book World 17 Apr. 1983: 6-7 Watkins, Mel. Rev. of LONESOME GODS, by Louis L'Amour. New York Times Book Review 24 Apr. 1983.

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

No reviews could be found after February 1984, and the novel has only been subsequently mentioned in exahaustive lists of all L'Amour's publications.
CONSULTED SOURCES: InfoTrak Search Bank Reader's Guide Book Review Digest Index Book Review Index: A Mater Cumulation: 1985-1992 Gale Database of Publications and Broadcast Media

Assignment 5: Critical Analysis

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

Louis L'Amour novels occupy the shelves of personal libraries all over the country and the world, due to L'Amour's established reputation as a writer of captivating, historical Western fiction. This literary fam
e greatly contributed to the success of the best-seller Lonesome Gods in 1983, thirty years after L'Amour's first publication, in spite of the book's unorthodox length and overtly didactic narrative about the experiences of an orphaned boy in the West.
The brief debut in the best-seller spotlight that Lonesome Gods occupied in the spring and summer of 1983 was largely made possible by a number of factors independent of the novel's content or stylistic merit. L'Amour's break from his traditional mold of
Western fiction, however, still contained important elements that satisfied his faithful readers rather than creating a complete disappointment. Bantam books celebrated L'Amour's thirtieth anniversary of publication with a hardcover reprint of his first book, Hondo, at the same time of Lonesome God's release. Hondo represents the quintessential L'Amour novel, where a strong young man faces the r
elentless obstacles of living in the West while holding fast to courage and hope for a better future for himself and his family. L'Amour himself explained the reason behind his remarkable popularity in the new introduction to Hondo, saying "I sing of arm
s and men...of those who survived their own personal, lonely Alamos...the men who built the nation. I do not need to go to Thermopylae or the Plains of Marathon for heroism. I find it here on the frontier" (L.A. Times Book Review.) Fans already had 83 w
ell-loved novels from which to base their expectations for the next L'Amour publication and Lonesome Gods was naturally compared against this precedence of work. Avid readers were not the only ones to be exposed to L'Amour's stories either, for between 1
953 and 1971 thirty of his novels were turned into movies starring well-known actors such as John Wayne, Sean Connery and Anthony Quinn. The extensive publicity given to L'Amour's volumes of writings in print and film adaptations made him a household nam
e within the genre of the American West. The next novel by the accomplished storyteller of the West was therefore understandably well received based on the precedence of fame initially established by and then celebrated in the new edition of Hondo. The year 1983 had several other best-selling authors at the top of the charts who, like L'Amour, consistently produced a book or two every year with a record of incredible success. Lonesome Gods was popular alongside of two books by Stephen King, and on
es by James Michener, Jackie Collins, Danielle Steel and John Le Carre. Writing en mass by these best-selling authors gave merely their names incredible significance, which could propel a book into popularity as long as it was characteristic of the autho
r's celebrated style. With 130 million copies of L'Amour's novels in print worldwide, the release of Lonesome Gods was positively forecasted as "vintage L'Amour..no doubt about this one" (Booklist). Released in April to debut at number four on the bests
eller list of Publisher's Weekly, the summer of 1983 saw the novel maintain stardom up until early September for a total of twenty weeks. Lonesome Gods undoubtedly was also helped by the fact that L'Amour received the Congressional Gold Medal in honor of
his life's work that same year. The 1980s as a whole was a time when L'Amour's work in both the past and present was celebrated, resulting in the reprinted editions of more than thirty novels within three years of the publication of Lonesome Gods. This
flourish of material being produced under L'Amour's name increased the amount of publicity received by his newest release for a public that would devour anything that they could get their hands on. The notoriety achieved by Lonesome Gods was brief, as it was not the subject of reviews after 1983 and is rarely mentioned in articles concerning L'Amour's writings as a whole. Most often mentioned are the famous novels of Jubal Sackett, Last of the Br
eed, How the West Was Won, Hondo and the Sackett family series. Lonesome Gods, on the other hand, disappeared into relative obscurity after 1983. One factor for the book's loss of attention is likely to be the release of Ride the River in the summer of
1983, when it was no longer celebrated as L'Amour's most recent book. The close proximity in publication of his books made it hard for initial best-sellers to remain popular for long, since they had to be pushed out of the spotlight to make room for the
next Western adventure. Only exceptional works could stand out against the string of books that continued to be published, and the unusual style and substance of Lonesome Gods likely had more of a negative impact on the longevity of the book's success.
"Let fans and newcomers take heed: the latest L'Amour is far from typical" remarked reviewer Jeffrey Burke of the Wall St. Journal. Long praised for his ability to weave a storytelling masterpiece with authenticity and wonderful detail, L'Amour's first
official bestseller was a surprise for an audience used to the formulaic Western that had brought him great acclaim. Yet the wide range in audience of which L'Amour had captured the attention in thirty years of writing was much more open to digesting a l
onger and more reflective tale of a boy's life journey in California than critics originally expected. A significant difference in L'Amour's new approach was the use of the first-person narrative, which has the reader listening to the words of a young an
d inexperienced seven year-old, left alone in the desert to die. The voice of young Johannes Verne in Lonesome Gods prevented L'Amour from being able to descriptively elevate the book's hero in a way that made the reader respect and admire him. The foll
owing description of Hondo Lane in Hondo could not have been expressed directly from the mouth of Verne, less he appear arrogant and unusually self-aware: "His toughness was ingrained and deep, without cruelty, yet quick, hard and dangerous. Whatever wel
ls of gentleness might lie within him were guarded and deep." Yet it was this characterized description that traditionally grabbed readers of L'Amour's novels in his portrayals of Western heroes combating the hardships of the land and lawlessness of soci
ety. The new perspective of directly knowing the hero's thoughts was likely a positive and refreshing approach to understanding the problems of the West for well-read fans, although it simultaneously extended the length of the narrative in this diary-lik
e tale. Criticism concerning the length of Lonesome Gods was primarily directed at the exhaustive character development and didactic dialogue which detracted from the essence of the plot and slowed down L'Amour's ability to write a fast-paced adventure. Johanne
s Verne's father tries to offer a wealth of advice to his son to ensure that he will survive alone, which creates several dialogues between the two that also seem to be aimed directly at the reader. While poignant and relevant to the narrative, L'Amour c
omes close to over emphasizing the lessons Verne learns from his father and adoptive Indian family, involving more Indian lore about spirits and life than seems relevant. These critical assessments of Lonesome Gods only prove to be a good explanation for
the disappearance of the book's popularity upon the release of a new L'Amour western, and why it was then relegated to being known as just one book in a long list of L'Amour's collection of writings. The differences in Lonesome Gods from other typical L
'Amour novels, however, cannot adequately account for the good reception it had among the public. The several qualities which created a basis for the book's popularity are those characteristic of traditional L'Amour novels which readers and critics alike
have lauded. Lonesome Gods was published for an indiscriminatory audience that ranged from truck drivers to the President of the United States. L'Amour considered himself "just a storyteller, a guy with a seat by the campfire" (homepage); a comparison that adequatel
y explains why people from all walks of life enjoy reading his stories since they are as accessible as an open campfire discussion around which people can sit around and listen. His western tales can be taken for face value, with little thought or interp
retation needed to understand the characters and enjoy the adventure. Lonesome Gods is written in this same manner, by providing a narrative devoid of confusing plot twists or underlying meaning in the coming-of-age story of Johannes Verne. The given po
pularity of L'Amour's works is the basis for Steve Berner's comment that, "It is in fact, pointless to discuss either the merits or weaknesses of L'Amour's writings, both of which abound, since it will have little or no effect on either the author or his public, which covers all ages, sexes, and intellectual areas." Aside from narrative clarity, Lonesome Gods also provides readers with an ability to share with the characters in a sense of the past, by learning about early-day Los Angeles and the land of southern California in which Johannes Verne must survive. L'Amo
ur's strength has often been cited as being "a careful and skillful combination of real details with a fictional story" (Michael Marsden) that not only entertains, but instructs. Lonesome Gods, for example, provides riveting insight into the ways that se
ttlers traveled through the dessert without being caught by Indians, the daily practices of the Cahuilla Indians, and of society in pre-civil war California. Rather than a dull, historical account of Western American history, L'Amour's extensive and deta
iled information is subtly interwoven into the plot text to teach with the progression of the novel. This narrative technique is a lesson that is "more energetic and painless way than, say, James Michener, to whom the comparison is more apt than many mig
ht think" (Steve Berner). Another successful similarity between Lonesome Gods and L'Amour's other books is the theme of cultures in conflict. Johannes' mother is the daughter of a Spanish nobleman who defiantly married Zachary Verne, a Protestant Anglo. Johannes therefore is th
e mix-breed product of an unholy union from the perspective of his Spanish grandfather, who is hunted by his grandfather's men in order to keep the family's Spanish lineage pure. The Anglo/Californio clash contrasts with the harmonious relationship Joha
nnes has with the Cahuilla Indians, who accept him as part of their family and raise him. This theme concerning the mixing of different cultures, and the problems and successes that result, is a key element in the history of the United States and is espe
cially pertinent to twentieth century America as a result of the large amounts of immigration that has occurred. Lonesome Gods, while a story more than a century removed from the audience, could therefore identify with the lives of readers in the 1980s a
nd remains relevant today. The grandiose myths of the American West have always captivated a large audience of readers, which Louis L'Amour has used to his advantage through his imagination and accurate, historical fact to create fiction that has greatly shaped the way Americans v
iew this time period in their nation's history. Lonesome Gods is part of this collection of fictional stories, having had brief popularity for half of 1983 and contributing to L'Amour's "gallop through publishing history" (Charles Champlin). Despite it
s unusual approach to the typical Western adventure, Lonesome Gods struck the chord of an American public that thoroughly enjoys the tale of a hero's struggle against the obstacles of the frontier, at the fortuitous time of L'Amour's greatest fame.

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