***Mistakes Can Kill You

A Dash for the Timber, Frederic Remington, Amon Carter Museum

A Dash for the Timber, Frederic Remington (wikimedia.org)

By Louis L’Amour narrated by Lance Axt– This collection of short fiction is a gallop into the past, not so much into the post-Civil War time period when they take place, but into the decades when stories about the West were part of Americans’ shared cultural currency. These stories feature tough men with consciences, feisty women in need of a gunslinger, prospectors and gamblers, cattlemen and cowboys, clever Indian trackers, and bad hombres trying to steal all they can. In other words, a double-barreled blast of adventure.

L’Amour could spin these tales as well as anyone, and, if they are simple in construct, their impact was long-lasting. They gave Americans of several generations the visceral conviction there was always something more out there to be had—money and women, religious salvation, land and fortunes. They were the dreams that fed people. No matter how dire the circumstances, there was always the possibility of starting fresh, somewhere in the West.

Such innocent dreams created a unique American culture, and here, in this collection, the reader gets a gallon of that intoxicating mix. If your heart hasn’t been irredeemably steeped in the bitter tea of 21st century cynicism, you might enjoy these tales about an era, in fiction at least, when wrongs could be righted. Axt’s narration is pretty good, too, and for these purposes, his name is perfect.