Showing posts with label Sacketts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sacketts. Show all posts

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Sacketts #05 - Ride the River

Paperback Warrior recently covered Louis L'Amour's quartet of books focusing on the early days of the fictional Sackett family. The first two of these books, Sackett's Land and To the Far Blue Mountains, focused on Barnabas Sackett and his journey from Europe to America circa 1599-1620.  The Warrior's Path featured Barnabas' sons Kin-Ring and Yance in the 1630s. The last of the four books took readers to America's far west with Barnabas' wayward son Jubal during the 1630s. Prior to L'Amour's passing in 1988, the author had hoped to tell more of these early origin stories, possibly bridging the gap between the 1600s and more dominant 1800s, where most of the Sackett series takes place.

Chronologically, the next installment in the Sackett series is Ride the River, originally published in 1983. While L'Amour's hopes of telling more of the Sacketts' origins never came to fruition, this novel is one of the only bridges in the series. The main character is Echo Sackett, a 16-year old young woman who becomes the aunt to three of L'Amour's most popular Sackett characters – Tell, Orrin and Tyrel. Echo is a fourth-generation Sackett living on the family's Tennessee home in 1840. After receiving a written notice of an inheritance, the book follows Echo's journey into Philadelphia and a subsequent frenzied trip back home.

L'Amour's novel is fairly basic in plotting and presentation. It’s a classic fish out of water story – the farm girl experiencing the hustle and bustle of city life. After a recent discovery of gold, a will proclaims that Barnabas has left the small fortune to his next of kin. This will is read and delivered to Echo by a shady attorney and his bully henchmen. On the precipice of being robbed of her inheritance, an aging attorney named Finian Chantry comes to Echo's aid. After assessing the situation and providing legal support, Echo gains the family funds and sets off for home. But, knowing that the wrongdoers and criminal cohorts will follow Echo, Finian sends his nephew Dorian to accompany Echo on the return trip.

Many readers may recognize the Chantry name. Like the Talons and Sacketts, Chantry was another family that L'Amour often covered with the first Chantry novel being Fair Blows the Wind taking place circa 1590. Combining an aging Chantry with a young Sackett was clever, including the small piece of action dedicated to Chantry's impressive fencing skills in a dockside skirmish. There are also a few other Sackett characters that make brief cameos throughout the narrative.

The end result makes Ride the River an adventurous road trip that combines country roads and urban streets with a coming of age story-line. While the quality falls well below L'Amour's stellar western storytelling, I found it to be a serviceable read that offered a unique female viewpoint.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Sacketts #04 - Jubal Sackett

Deemed "America's Favorite Frontier Writer", Louis L'Amour's chronicle of the fictional Sackett family was a bestselling series. Beginning in 1960, the 17-book series is still held in high regard with fans of the western genre. While the novels focus on frontier life in the 1800s, the author began envisioning the Sackett family's early origins in England and America. Starting with 1974's "Sackett's Land", L'Amour wrote four novels that showcases the family's humble beginnings in the late 1500s through 1620. The fourth and final of these portfolio installments was "Jubal Sackett", published in 1985.

Both "Sackett's Land" and its successor, "To the Far Blue Mountains", feature Barnabas Sackett's expedition from England to eastern America. In "The Warrior's Path", Barnabas' sons Kin-Ring and Yance are the chief protagonists with much of the action taking place in America and the Caribbean Islands. While Barnabas' son Jubal is mentioned in these books, it is explained to readers that he was a loner and distanced himself from his family. Jubal was obsessed with exploring the far west and walking "where no white-man had ever wandered". It's only fitting that L'Amour dedicated a full-length novel to this fascinating character.

As the book opens, Jubal Sackett is hunting in an area that would later be called Tennessee. After a brief attack by an Indian, Jubal generously welcomes the brave to dine with him. The man introduces himself as Keokotah, a Kickapoo native. After learning Jubal's name, Keokotah informs him that his father Barnabas was killed in battle. The two become friends and decide to journey into the “Far Seeing Lands” west of the Mississippi River. On the journey, the two educate each other on hunting, rituals and their family history. L'Amour centers these exchanges as a focal point for much of the paperback’s first-half.

Later, the two journeymen meet a tribe of Natchee that ask Jubal for a favor. Their tribe's high priestess, Itchakomi, has left the fold and is desired by one of their chief warriors, an arrogant man named Kapata. The Natchee feel that if Jubal is headed further west, he will find Itchakomi and can ask her to return home to marry Kapata. Jubal eventually meets Itchakomi and the two fall in love. The author's second-half portrays Jubal's defense of Itchakomi from Kapata but also warring factions from Spain.

In a lot of ways, this novel's second-half resembles “To the Far Blue Mountains” in the way that Jubal and his allies build and defend a fort. As the waves of attacks descend on Jubal's home, it's reminiscent of the British pirates and warlike tribes that Barnabas fought that will seem a little familiar to the reader.

At 350+ pages, there's an epic feel to the novel as readers experience many seasons with Jubal, including hunting, expanding his circle of friends and allies, and contending with nature's harsh oppression in high altitudes. With exciting hand-to-hand skirmishes with Indians, blade duels with the Spanish and fierce combat with savage animals, “Jubal Sackett” is the quintessential wilderness tale. I highly recommend all four of these early Sackett adventures, but place this one just a little higher than “The Warrior's Path” in terms of epic escapism. In the book's closing notes, L'Amour explained to readers that more early Sackett adventures were to follow, including the family's participation in America's Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Sadly, L'Amour passed away in 1988 and was unable to continue his storytelling. What remains is a powerful testament to America's early exploration and strong independence.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Sacketts #03 - The Warrior's Path

Famed frontier storyteller Louis L'Amour had a successful series of westerns starring various members of the Sackett family. While positioning most of these novels in the 1800s, L'Amour's later installments presented the family's early history. Beginning in 1974, L'Amour released “Sackett's Land”, chronologically the first Sackett story. Set between 1599-1620, the book introduces readers to Barnabas Sackett and his early exploration into America. Continuing Barnabas' story, “To the Far Blue Mountains” was released in 1976 and slowly transforms the series emphasis from Barnabas to his sons. In 1980, “The Warrior's Path” was released with the primary focus on Barnabas' sons Kin-Ring and Yance circa 1630.

The opening chapters find Kin-Ring and Yance in northeastern America. The two have been summoned by a small village to track the whereabouts of two young women. Fearing the girls were kidnapped by Indians, Kin-Ring pairs up with longtime allies, the Catawba tribe, to search for the missing girls. Surprisingly, Kin-Ring discovers that Indians weren't behind the girls' disappearance.

After a skirmish with Joseph Pittingel, the Sacketts learn that he is behind a robust slave-trading enterprise that focuses on kidnapping young white women and then selling them in the Caribbean islands. This portion of the narrative provides an opportunity for L'Amour to revisit the swashbuckling adventure aspect that made the prior books so much fun. After traveling to Jamaica, Kin-Ring embarks on a quest to not only retrieve the girls but to find the buyers. While using swords, knives and black powder, Kin-Ring bravely attempts to stop the slave-trading business at its source.

It is unfair to compare this novel to “Sackett's Land” or “To the Far Blue Mountains”. Lightning struck twice for L'Amour as both of those are some of the best literary works you'll find – of any genre. But, that winning formula doesn't quite carry over to “The Warrior's Path”. Kin-Ring is written with the same basic attributes as Barnabas...but something is just missing. I didn't quite grasp a firm connection with the character. Despite the book's sprawling locations, it didn't have the epic feel that the prior books conveyed so well. Nevertheless, this is an entertaining adventure novel and would probably be held in higher regard if not for the prior novels. I'm looking forward to reading the fourth and final novel of the Sacketts' early history, “Jubal Sackett”, in hopes that the author finally places the frontier action west of the Mississippi River. As a fan of wilderness survival tales, I'm hoping that book excels and makes up for my lukewarm reception to “The Warrior's Path”.

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Friday, April 3, 2020

Sacketts #02 - To the Far Blue Mountains

After 80+ western novels of range-wars and quick-draw gunslingers, iconic author Louis L'Amour decided to branch out and try a different type of frontier storytelling. Beginning in 1974, L'Amour authored “Sackett's Land”,  the first of four novels that presented the origins of his critically-acclaimed 'Sacketts' family. The entire series encompasses 17 total works with 13 set in the mid to late 1800s. Using a time period of 1599-1620, L'Amour describes pioneer life in early America. “To the Far Blue Mountains”, published in 1976, is a direct continuation of the remarkable story told in “Sackett's Land,” a novel that set the bar at a nearly insurmountable height. Could this subsequent episode deliver the same stellar result?

In the novel's opening act, we once again find main character Barnabas Sackett in England. After defeating the Earl and his men in the prior novel, Barnabas is eager to set sail for America. However, the Queen still wants Barnabas in chains hoping that he will confess to discovering the Crown Jewels (an early mix-up in the first novel). In a crescendo of galloping horses, Barnabas avoids the law and eventually makes his way to Ireland before catching a ship to America.

In a wild chain of events, Barnabas is shanghaied at sea and taken back to a cold, brutal English prison called Newgate. Facing severe punishment and torture on the rack, Barnabas eventually escapes only to struggle reaching America. As the book's first half comes to a satisfying close, I could sense that the author's swashbuckling adventure writing had reached its finale.

The novel's second half is a portrait of survival in a hostile new land. Settling somewhere in what would eventually be central Virginia, Barnabas and his friends begin farming and trading goods with neighboring Indians. But the peace and serenity doesn't last long when Barnabas, and his family, are marked for death by numerous tribes. L'Amour's storytelling is at its absolute peak as wave after wave of Indians assault Barnabas. Will he ever make it to the “Far Blue Mountains”?

In a lot of ways, this book comes full circle. Not only does it continue the early adventures of Barnabas in both England and the New World, but it extends into his old age. The author utilizes this time period to begin branching off the family through Barnabas' sons Kin-Ring, Jubal, Yance and Brian. This isn't a surprise considering the next two installments focus on the mid-1600s, with the fourth and final chapter of this early saga simply titled “Jubal Sackett”.

As an exceptional storyteller, it's hard to imagine L'Amour improving beyond “Sackett's Land”. Yet, “To the Far Blue Mountains” is the gold standard. I've read this novel multiple times and still get goosebumps during the final pages. Adventure and western authors would be hard pressed to deliver another literary work this sweeping, compelling and satisfying. This epic presentation, from shore to shore, is a grand spectacle and an absolutely riveting experience for the reader. It simply doesn't get any better than this.  


- The first Chantry character appears briefly in this book. His story would continue in 1978's “Fair Blows the Wind”. Later 'Chantry' books state that the Chantry and Sackett family fought side by side during the Revolutionary War.

- In the Bantam paperback edition of “Jubal Sackett”, L'Amour writes that his plans at the time were to explore the Sackett family history during America's Revolutionary and Civil War. Unfortunately, those novels never came to fruition as L'Amour would die afterwards in 1988.

- L'Amour would continue more adventure stories with his novel “The Walking Drum” (1984) set in 12th century Europe.

- There's some loose supernatural elements within “To the Far Blue Mountains”. In one scene Barnabas sees what he thinks is another city (or world) in the shoreline mist. L'Amour would experiment more with these elements in his science-fiction novel “Haunted Mesa” (1987).

Buy a copy of this book HERE

Friday, March 6, 2020

Sacketts #01 - Sackett's Land

Louis L'Amour remains the most popular and mainstream western author with sales exceeding 300 million books. With over 100 original novels, most of which are still in print, the writer's prolific presentations of America's wild frontier have influenced or impacted countless authors, screenwriters and even U.S. Presidents. While most of his literary work was stand-alone westerns, L'Amour also created five specific series titles – 'Talon', 'Chantry', 'Kilkenny', 'Hopalong Cassidy' and the wildly successful 'Sacketts'.

The 'Sackett' series began in 1960, ten years into L'Amour's literary career of authoring full-length novels. Starting with “The Daybreakers”, the series ran for 17 total installments, finishing in 1985 with “Jubal Sackett”. L'Amour died in 1988, and I would imagine if he had lived longer he would have continued with more contributions to the series. While “The Daybreakers” was the first novel to feature members of the Sackett family (circa 1870), the series publishing order isn't parallel to the time periods L'Amour would explore. In fact, the family's origins weren't fully explained until 1974's “Sackett's Land”, which is the beginning of a four-book adventure series chronicling the family's history from 1599-1620. The remainder of the Sackett novels take place in the mid to late 1800s. Paperback Warrior typically indexes based on the chronology of the story, so essentially “Sackett's Land” is represented as the first novel.

The book begins in Cambridgeshire, England in 1599. Protagonist Barnabas Sackett is living a meager life in a marshy residence called The Fens. While never starving or destitute, Barnabas works in the quarries and lives off the acreage he inherited from his father Ivo, a career fighting man. While crossing an area called Devil's Dyke, Barnabas finds a large sum of old coins in the mud. With aspirations to buy an adjoining piece of property, Barnabas heads into town to appraise his riches. But his joy is short-lived when he becomes embroiled in a dispute with the Earl's nephew, Rupert.

Realizing that he can't remain in England, Barnabas decides that America, the New World, might be a fresh start. With his riches, he buys supplies that will allow him to trade and hunt for furs in America. Hoping to capitalize on the lucrative fur-trading business, he arranges to sail with a Captain who respected his father. After an early connection with the Captain's beautiful daughter Abigail, Rupert and thugs mug Barnabas and place him on a ship of pirates heading to the New World. It's here where he leans heavily on his survival skills, outwitting the pirates while enslaved. But, his joy is short-lived when he finally arrives in the mysterious New World. Contending with pirates, Native Americans, wildlife and the harsh weather, Barnabas realizes that his dreams of a new start may bring about his bitter end.

With “Sackett's Land”, L'Amour's writing prowess is clearly influenced by Robert Louis Stevenson and Johann David Wyss. This is an adventure story, complete with swords, muskets and cannonballs. While it is an alternate approach for L'Amour, it was evident that after 80+ novels of 1800s gunslingers, the author wanted to explore different eras of storytelling. The novel's epic presentation, with historical context, was a dynamic and welcome change. L'Amour emphasizes the numerous adversities many of our forefathers experienced as they entered a vast, mysterious land in North America. It was also clear that Barnabas' story would continue, with lots of foreshadowing inserted by the author. The book's next titles focus on the main character's dreams of going “to the far blue mountains”, a goal that Barnabas sets after viewing the far off peaks and ridges.

Overall, “Sackett's Land' is one of my favorite novels of any author. I've read it a couple of times and have encouraged many young people to explore the book as well. While American schools continue to heap Shakespeare plays on students, I wish they would incorporate this novel into their required reading curriculum. It is these novels that have become the new “classic literary tale”.

Note - If you enjoy this novel, "Fair Blows the Wind" (1978) is a similar tale focusing on the first Chantry member to arrive in America circa 1600s.

Buy a copy of this novel HERE