Monday, November 21, 2022

The Burning Hills

Louis L'Amour's fourteenth novel was The Burning Hills. It was published in 1956, sandwiched between the end of the innocence novel To Tame a Land (1955) and a range war tale in Silver Canyon (1956). The book's premise is a popular one, the traditional man-on-the-run story or, more often than not, a fugitive attempting to outrun justice. L'Amour typically does the concept well, so The Burning Hills seemed like an easy choice to read and review.

Trace Jordan and his partner began working together in the Texas plains rounding up unbranded horses. After compiling a sizable  herd, the duo branded the horses and prepared to sell. When Jordan returned from a trip to town, he discovered the campsite destroyed, his partner dead, and the horses gone. Tracking the thieves back to town, Jordan finds a man riding one of his branded horses. A scuffle ensues and Jordan shoots and kills the man. 

In an effort to prove the horses belonged to him, Jordan becomes a wanted man and is forced on the run from a mob led by a skeptical lawman. In a fight with the posse, Jordan receives two bullets, but is able to escape into the desert where he can simply lie down and die. Thankfully, a beautiful Mexican woman named Maria finds him and nurses him back to health in an outlaw hideaway in the rocks. But, the posse catches up to Maria and begins to bully both her and her brothers on their rural sheep farm. 

The narrative is a bit twisty as Jordan heals while watching the posse impose their will on Maria's family and home. He can continue to run, and hopefully escape the law, or come to Maria's aid. Considering he's the reason for her misfortune, it's pretty easy to see where the story will end. 

I thought The Burning Hills was slightly below average. I found Jordan to be a pompous jerk and a womanizer (even when considering this was a different era when the book was written). I didn't particularly care for the “hero” and I found Maria to be brave but very foolish. The other disappointment was her fast-draw brother, who seemed to have a larger role to play, but then is featured off page. While the story was constantly advancing forward, I found the plot itself just fragmented without a real groove. 

I'm glad I read it, but it isn't one of L'Amour's best. With his robust bibliography, they can't all be Hondo and Flint

Buy a copy of this book HERE.

No comments:

Post a Comment