Book: Catlow

Author: Louis L’Amour

Cover Illustrator: Frank McCarthy

Publisher: Bantam, republished 1991

ISBN-13: 978-0553247671

ISBN-10: 0553247670

Related websites: (author), (publisher)

Language level: 3

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level: Ages 16 and up

Rating: *** 3 stars (FAIR)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

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L’Amour, Louis.  Catlow (published in 1963 and republished in 2009 by Bantam Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House Inc., New York City, NY).  It is 1872, and Ben Cowan and Abijah (Bijah) Catlow have been friends since childhood. By the time they were fifteen years old, they had saved each other’s life no less than three times.  When they grew to manhood, Ben became a deputy sheriff and then a U. S. Marshall.  Bijah, with a wild streak, became a top cowhand, but one disastrous confrontation with a band of greedy ranchers turned him into a cattle rustler and an outlaw.  After Catlow crosses the line with a charge of murder, it is up to Cowan to bring him in alive.

However, Bijah escapes to Mexico where he hijacks a mule train carrying Mexican gold with the hope of making it back across the border, and Ben follows.  After saving the life of a Mexican army captain during an Apache attack, Cowan is allowed to go after Catlow.  Can Abijah pull it off and go scott free?  Or will Ben catch up with him in time to arrest him?  And with the ruggedness of the Sonoran Desert, attacks by the Seri Indians, an ambush by greedy bandits, and, of course, the pursuing Mexican army on their tail, will they even survive the ordeal?

For those who like Western stories, Catlow has a very engaging plot.  Unfortunately, it is liberally sprinkled with the “d” and “h” words.  There are also references to drinking whiskey, wine, beer, and tequila, and to smoking cigarettes and cigars.  L’Amour readers seem somewhat divided on this one.  One said, “This was wonderful. The south of the border aspect added a great deal of interest.”  However, others wrote that it “did not flow as easily as other L’Amour writing,” that it was “a bit stale [and] lacked the intrigue and excitement normally found in his books,” and that “the story was disjointed—more a series of short vignettes encased in a longish short story format, not really a novel at all.”  To each his own, but except for the bad language, I enjoyed it.

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2 Responses to Catlow

  1. From a friend:
    I noticed you have been reviewing L’amour books. I have collected them for years and have a couple of suggestions. I have read them all at least twice and some 4-5 times. Not an expert, but have an idea about which deserve emphasis. Tucker is about a boy growing into manhood and was early on one of my favorites. It seems that it would fit your young adult audience as it discusses some of the same issues kids face. Bendigo Shafter has less fighting and more pioneering in it. Is on the list for top 3. It has a lot of good history and presented from the viewpoint of people. The Lonesome Gods presents a young boy growing to manhood after his father is killed and also has a lot of California history from the perspective of people who lived then (fictionalized). If this helps, I can send a few others. The last one you reviewed would be a long way down my list.

  2. 37cupcakes says:

    Neat, I’ve been wanting to know more about these books.

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