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Off the Mangrove Coast    by Louis L'Amour order for
Off the Mangrove Coast
by Louis L'Amour
Order:  USA  Can
Bantam, 2001 (2000)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This collection of nine short stories by famed Western writer Louis L'Amour recounts adventures around the world - from California in the heyday of Hollywood to post-war Paris, and head-hunting Borneo. I have enjoyed all of the author's Westerns, especially his Sackett series. What makes this set of stories most interesting is that (according to the Afterword by the author's son and biographer Beau L'Amour) they are based on the author's own experiences, as he 'walked the land my characters walk'.

In fact one wonders if the storyteller, called 'The Scholar' by his shipmates in the title tale, is in fact based on L'Amour himself, especially when he says that 'there is a time for adventure when the body is young and the mind alert and all the world seems there for one's hands to use, to hold, to take.' The collection is quite a hodgepodge, with prizefighting, mysteries, sunken treasure off the Borneo coast and headhunters in its interior, and even outlaws after another hidden hoard in the Wild West.

This is not the best of L'Amour's writing but he's always worth reading for the sense of wonder that he conveys - 'these lands where long ago the Arab seamen came, and where the Polynesians may have passed, and where old civilizations slumber in the jungles ... where the lazy sea creeps under the mangroves, working its liquid fingers into the abysmal darkness where no man goes or wants to go. What is any man but the total of what he has seen? The sum of what he has done?' This author has accumulated an impressive sum of things seen and done. If you like travel adventures, add L'Amour's latest to your summer reading pile.

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