BRIONNE by Louis L’Amour
I needed an evening of relaxed reading, settling in with an old friend whose story I’d already heard, so I picked up Louis L’Amour’s Brionne. L’Amour was a staple when I was growing up, and I still return to him again and again as I go along. Fair Blows the Wind remains my favorite novel by the author because it’s such a combination of Old World swordplay, coming of age, and early Americana. But that’s beside the point.
In James Brionne, L’Amour creates one of his best fighting men, a man who’d served in the Union Army during the Civil War, a man who had the ear of President Grant – and a man who had lost his wife to tragic circumstances. The first few pages of the book draw the reader in and sets him on a journey to see good triumph over evil.
The book is much as I remember it, written with a lot of introspection and bouncing around from character to character, with less action and tension than I would have liked. L’Amour also instills a romantic lyricism in his word choice, though. James Brionne is an educated man, a thinker, and that shows on the pages.
There’s no real tension about where the reader is going to get during the read because the endgame is almost transparent. Still, L’Amour manages to throw a couple curves in there that will leave you unsettled about a few things as you turn the pages.
I wish there had been a little more to the story, and even the ending just seems to coast to a halt rather than escalating. The pieces just fall together without any real stress or narrative tension.
The plot is pretty thin even for a L’Amour novel, but the tale pulled me through again, and even though I knew how the book ended, and would have known anyway because it’s so clear, I enjoyed roving through the Old West and stepping through my own past.