L’Amour, Louis. Mojave Crossing. New York: Bantam, 1964. 155 pp.
Reviewed by Cameron Cushing.
Readers who are interested in a quick, action-packed read will enjoy Louis Lamour’s Mojave Crossing. In this book L’Amour portrays hardship and the corrupted minds of the Old West. The novel tells a story about a rough mountain man who faces death nearly around every corner, and it explores how he is able to stay standing. Its central theme is peoples’ greed for money: Mojave Crossing greatly depicts what individuals will do just to get their hands on some gold, even though these characters are only fictional. The book is a must-read for all those who are interested in this theme and like to be carried back to a time past, which L’Amour skillfully evokes in the novel.
Mojave Crossing tells the story of a character named Tell Sackett who is a drover, somebody who is hired to drive cattle to a certain place to either sell or put them in a different pasture. Tell Sacket is your typical rough cowboy who lacks a shave and a shower–but knows how to handle himself in bad situations. His biggest advantage is that he has very powerful hands, and people can tell just by looking at his hands how powerful they are. The problem that Tell faces in the book is that he agrees to take a very pretty lady named Dorinda to Los Angeles on his way to Arizona. Of course, Dorinda has a bad past and there are dangerous people who are following her; Tell does not know this. To add a little more to it, Tell is carrying quite a bit of gold with him. Tell is traveling through the desert to reach Arizona where he plans on settling down and buying some land to run a ranch of his own. As the story goes on, Tell struggles to get Dorinda to her destination, and he also tries to get to his own. The reader is given a typical western full of fighting and hardnosed men.
Louis L’Amour has always been able to keep me entertained throughout all of his books, and it’s similar for Mojave Desert which kept me glued page for page. However, every so often, L’Amour loses me. I don’t know if it is due to his word usage or simply my losing track of who is speaking. For instance, when Tell decides to go see the ocean, I felt that I must have missed why he decided to do so in my earlier reading. Indeed, after rereading the first few pages, I realized that things made more sense. Aside from this small problem, the strength of L’Amour’s work is that it allows me, as a reader, to get very entertaining pictures in my mind. I feel like I am watching a movie while reading L’Amour. The very first paragraph of the book, for example, gives readers a good impression of what Sackett looked like:
There I was, a big raw-boned mountain boy, rougher than a cob and standing six feet three inches in my socks, with hands and shoulders fit to wrassle mustang broncs or ornery steers, but no hand with womenfolks. (L’Amour 1).
You never hear somebody say “standing six feet three inches in my socks” today. “In my socks” is a phrase I never hear. I think L’Amour does a good job grasping how people in the West talked back then. The above quote really made Sacket sound like a rough, tough, and bull-nosed, cowboy. Because of that, readers can almost feel as though they are watching a western.
If you are looking for an action- packed quick read, L’Amour is your author. I highly suggest giving Louis L’Amour a chance and just letting his word usage and your imagination lead the way in this action-packed novel.