Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Only Good Writer

Failure Magazine touts itself as "the online publication full of humankind's boldest missteps." Nothing to make you feel better about yourself than to read about how badly the other guy screwed up, eh? Anyway, Failure's Julia M. Klein names author Louis L'Amour as one of these missteppers in the mag's arts & entertainment section, evidently justifying the honor because one-third of his sales have happened after his death.

I think we should figure out just where Louis L'Amour screwed up so that we don't make the same mistake. Of course the only good writer is a dead writer, but while he was alive, Louis was mainly a working writer. That rules out him being an unemployed deadbeat. Bummer. He was a self-educated dude, and the lack of a pedigree does make him seem a bit scruffy. We all know how stupid people who don't attend college are. His attitude, geez, what can I say. He thought of himself as just another guy telling stories around the campfire. Does that not shriek loser?

Louis L'Amour's existence is easily classified as a total waste. First, ignore the fact that he published 130 books, and countless articles, short stories and myriad other works. Editors must have felt bad for the poor slob. Don't ask people to name a classic Western author, because they'll probably say Louis L'Amour. I'm sure it's out of sheer pity. Some cowboy movies were made based on his books -- thirty of them? -- which obviously underlines what a big ZERO he was. Maybe. Somehow. Give me a minute here.

All right, I can't think of a reason off the top of my head. But Louis L'Amour had to know how utterly worthless a human being he was because he missed out on all that lovely cash. After all, cash IS cash. I bet you that when he died of cancer at age 80, he thought, "Gee, I wish I'd held out for some bigger advance checks."

This pathetic man lived his life doing what he loved, and he left behind an embarrassingly large body of work in print, and Hollywood loved him, but he didn't make billions, so he sucked. If you aren't in this gig for the Almighty Buck pile, babe, you're nobody and nothing. Everybody knows that.

But thank you, Failure magazine, for reminding us not to follow the same sorry sadass career dirt road as Louis L'Amour. Instead we'll devote ourselves to becoming more like the brilliant chick who wrote this valuable cautionary tale.

Uh, what was her name again?


  1. Anonymous11:21 PM

    Oh, them's fightin' words.

    Louis L'Amour was my literary best friend for years after Laura Ingalls Wilder and I came to the end of her books. He was a brilliant, deceptively simple storyteller, and his books should be on every writer's "must read at least once" list.

  2. i'm not into westerns, but even I know Louis L'Amour was a writing phenom.

    If you go this failure chick's requirements, wouldn't Shakespeare be a failure?

  3. Oh dear me...I loved a lot of his books. OH NO! There was even some romance in them as well. Perish the thought.

    I think every writer should read his work "Haunted Mesa" talk about a multi-level, complicated paranormal plot? It is probably one of my favorite books of all time.

    A story is a story is a story. Whether told orally or verbally by college educated or non college educated individuals.

    And if you dismiss L'Amour wouldn't you have to dismiss Zane Gray too? Hmmm...wonder what they think of "Rider's of the Purple Sage."

  4. Not only do I hate westerns, but I'm not American and even I've heard of Louis L'Amour!

  5. Keziah, it's hard to hate Louis L'Amour. He's one of my husband's favorites and we even named our dog "Sackett". His books covered a wide range of subjects and aren't all westerns. His books are some that both my husband and I read and both enjoyed. Although we haven't purchased any published posthumouosly.

  6. Almost by definition, great work outlives the author. So slagging off a dead pulpmeister for missing royalties is like winging that almost half the population is earning less than the average wage.

    Besides, I bet his grandchildren didn't have to worry about money while they were at college.

  7. L'Amour is great. He's especially great on audio.

    Also, L'Amour was a storyteller first. The West just happened to be his choice of setting.

    Western, with elements of romance. That's his formula, if you can call it that. Of course his way was paved by Owen Wister in the same manner that every mystery writer's way was paved by Edgar Allan Poe.

  8. It was grand that someone came to the defense of L'Amour. He has iconic stature in the Western genre and has given his readerships countless hours of entertainment.

  9. I love Louis L'Amour. I don't read him so much now because I have read everything he ever wrote. I'll be adding "Failure Magazine" to my boycott list. Speaking of failure, why don't they add themselves.

  10. *ggg* Well said. :) People are funny. It would never have occurred to me to consider Louis L'Amour a failure. Blink. Blink. Blink.

  11. Hmmm, it's interesting that she'd make that kind of comparison..ie a chunk of his sales didn't happen until after he died and therefore that makes him a failure.

    Aren't there several authors who weren't famous during their time ie...best sellers, and it wasn't until after they died that the brilliance of their work was discovered?

    It's the timelessness of one's work(that continues to sell even after one's death) that is a wonderful tribute to an author's true success in my mind.

  12. Anonymous5:10 PM

    Plus, of course, given the fact that he was rich from his books, so it's not as if he was penniless or in want. I met his son, Beau, once at a dinner party. I suspect growing up in Beverly Hills didn't hurt them much.

    Poor, poor failures. I hope I never fail that much! (well, I might as well hope for things that will never come to pass.)

    This is like saying, "Poor Danielle Steel, poor Stephen King, poor Dean Koontz, poor Nora Roberts...their estates will probably bring in a ton of money after their deaths..."

  13. Well said. My grandfather read the covers off Louis L'Amour.


    And to think they'd sound all gloom and doom about one of the brightest genre writer careers in history. Blows my mind.

  15. Anonymous11:13 PM

    I'm not into westerns, but I've heard about Louis L'Amour's writing ability.

  16. Anonymous11:56 PM

    Louis L'Amour's books kept me company while my husband was on two separate NATO peacemaking tours of duty. For me, his books always had an underlying sense of hope and reading them got me through many a long, lonely night when I needed such stories of hope and triumph over life's circumstances.

  17. Anonymous9:39 AM

    Hey girlie, why so cranky? You're usually the very soul of reason but you must have read the Failure piece in a hurry. I couldn't find a single place where Julia M. Klein suggested that Louis L’Amour was a failure.

    The editor or editors must have decided the writer qualified for a profile only because he got 200 rejections before his first story was published and because critics, as the story notes, didn't like him.

    I'm serious, go reread the piece. It's interesting, professional work, not fawning and not insulting. You can't blame Klein for calling L'Amour a failure since she never does. It's likely someone else wrote the somewhat snarky headline (FOR LOUIS L'AMOUR DEATH WAS A GREAT CAREER MOVE), which may have been an editor's desperate attempt to make the profile seem like a good fit for Failure despite L'Amour's amazing success.

    So rant all you want about any editor lame enough to equate L'Amour with failure but please don't trash Klein. Like you, me and Louis, she's just another working writer. Not the book kind, but don't journalists deserve any respect?

    Nevermind, that's a rhetorical question. We all know journalists suck. :-)

  18. I hereby make it my life's goal to fail like Louis L'Amour.


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