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Louis L’Amour: Smoke From This Altar

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Louis L’amour is best known as a voice of a very American genre, the Western. His novels and short stories helped define the genre for generations of readers. And while his reputation is well deserved it is not definitive.

L’amour was also an American writer who loved the craft of words, the practice of letters and the landscape his adventures encountered. American writing often has intersected with naturalism and if that were as far as Lamour’s non-adventure writing went no one would be shocked. 

However, his poetry collection Smoke From This Altar passes far beyond that. With urbane titles such as “To Cleone: In Budapest” and wry introspection in pieces like “A Wail From A Pulpeteer” it might well surprise you.

Now, bear my words carefully. L’amour’s poetry was not challenging Maya Angelou’s I Shall Not Be Moved which was published in the same year. L’amour as a poet was an amazing novelist. However, there are gems to be found in this collection and even the most basic are from a literary voice that should be recognized.

I will share a fragment from one poem, one of my favourites,

I shall remember when my fires are low,

The way you looked at me; the words you used;

The fragrance of your hurried breath, till lo,

Through all the pain of love our spirits fused.

I shall remember when my fires cease

Your heart against my own- for that was peace.

If you are a poetry snob you will be able to turn up your nose at this collection but I think you will be missing the point. It is plain but also sincere and born from experience not an attempt at abstract art and mirrors the broad plains and badlands his stories were set in.

Read it.


The door to Leto's quarters. You can see his face through the round ship's window.

Leto Armitage was born in America under a set of circumstances that prophesied that he would one day unite the lost tribes and return the Ever Summer. Somewhere around twelve, he realized he had been left unsupervised and binged too many Arthurian movies in his formative years and that he was just another kid who accidentally got an education while reading above his age level.

By the time he turned old enough to get a passport, he started finding excuses to travel determined to find out what culture, food and women there were to experience. After learning to grill in Oaxaca, do kinbaku in Japan, and being banned from several former Soviet block countries, he returned home to settle down and see what damage he could do locally.

After working jobs including being a short order cook, bodyguarding strippers and professionally doing reader’s advisory for erotica he realized the most reasonable path forward was to become a writer. Today he lives with cats, dogs, and humans who seem to like him despite actually knowing him. He prefers to sit on his back deck, listening to the birds and Barry the Bumblebear bee, while he writes cozy, uplit romance and raunchy erotica.


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