A long, satisfying, and atmospheric Western epic, full of intriguing details about culture and landscape, and with some excellent action set pieces, perfect for reading on a long plane trip. It made my flight from Paris to LA relatively painless.

There’s tons of complicated backstory, which I will not attempt to summarize. Suffice it to say that after quite a bit of desert adventuring and angst, a young boy, Johnannes Verne, ends up in Los Angeles, then a small but rapidly growing town, under the care of a savvy businesswoman named Miss Nesselrode. (She is a great character.) But Verne is menaced by his own grandfather, who wants him dead for aforesaid complicated reasons, including but not limited to an over-developed sense of honor. Cue gunfights, brutal treks through the desert, and clever financial machinating!

This is as much an old-fashioned sweeping epic and soap opera, in the best sense of the word, as it is an action story. There’s tons of characters and nearly all of them are interesting, from the Cahuilla Indians who offhandedly look after Verne when he’s a little kid, to a cattle rustler named Peg Leg Pete who plays no real role in the plot but seems to be there because he’s so much fun, to the surprisingly awesome Tia Elena, Verne’s apparently meek aunt. Unusually for L’Amour, there is a beautifully set up mystery with a great conclusion. The love story, unfortunately, falls flat, since Verne really doesn’t know Meghan at all, and she’s one of the least-developed characters. Luckily it’s not much dwelled on.

Spoilers leave footprints of unusual size )

The Lonesome Gods

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