In the field of Western fiction, three authors stand unmatched: L’Amour, Grey, and Brand. Now three of their best short novels are collected in a single volume. Zane Grey’s From Missouri has been restored from the author’s own manuscript and is appearing in paperback in its corrected form. Max Brand’s Over the Northern Border is a classic tale of stage coach robbery and relentless pursuit, also corrected and restored from the author’s original manuscript. Louis L’Amour’s Riders of the Dawn debuted in Giant Western magazine in 1951 and appears here in that original version, as L’Amour himself first intended it. Enjoy these three classic tales and experience the Western the way it was meant to be.
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About the Author
Louis L'Amour, a #1 New York Times bestselling author in both hardcover and mass market, wrote 120 novels and dozens of short stories during his lifetime! L'Amour released his first novel, Hondo, in 1953 and consistently produced 3 novels a year until his death in 1988. Since his death, over 80 million additional copies of his work have been sold. There are more than 300 million copies of his books in print. He was the first American author ever to be awarded a Special National Gold Medal by the United States Congress for lifetime achievement. He also received the Medal of Freedom from President Ronald Reagan.
Date of Birth:March 22, 1908
Date of Death:June 10, 1988
Place of Birth:Jamestown, North Dakota
Read an Excerpt
The Lawless West
By Louis L'Amour Zena Grey Max Brand
Dorchester PublishingCopyright © 2006 Golden West Literary Agency
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWith jingling spurs a tall cowboy stalked out of the post office to confront his three comrades crossing the wide street from the saloon opposite.
"Look heah," he said, shoving a letter under their noses. "Which one of you longhorns has wrote her again?"
From a gay careless trio his listeners suddenly grew blank, then intensely curious. They stared at the handwriting on the letter.
"Tex, I'm a son-of-a-gun if it ain't from Missouri!" ejaculated Andy Smith, his lean red face bursting into a smile.
"It shore is," declared Nevada.
"From Missouri!" echoed Panhandle Ames.
"Wal?" queried Tex, almost with a snort.
The three cowboys jerked up to look from Tex to one another, and then back at Tex.
"It's from her," went on Tex, his voice hushing on the pronoun. "You-all know thet handwritin'. Now how aboot this deal? We swore none of us would write ag'in to this heah schoolmarm. Some one of you has double-crossed the outfit."
Loud and unified protestations of innocence emanated from his comrades. But it was evident Tex did not trust them, and that they did not trust him or each other.
"Say, boys," said Panhandle suddenly. "I see Beady inthere lookin' darn' sharp at us. Let's get off in the woods somehow."
"Back to the bar," replied Nevada. "I reckon us'll all need stimulants."
"Beady!" ejaculated Tex, as they turned across the street. "He could be to blame as much as any of us."
"Shore. It'd be more like Beady," replied Nevada. "But, Tex, your mind ain't workin'. Our lady friend from Missouri has wrote before without gettin' any letter from us."
"How do we know thet?" demanded Tex suspiciously. "Shore the boss's typewriter is a puzzle, but it could hide tracks. Savvy, pards?"
"Gee, Tex, you need a drink," returned Panhandle peevishly.
They entered the saloon and strode to the bar, where from all appearances Tex was not the only one to seek artificial stimulus strength. Then they repaired to a corner, where they took seats and stared at the letter Tex threw down before them.
"From Missouri, all right," said Panhandle wearily, studying the postmark. "Kansas City, Missouri."
"It's her writin'," added Nevada in awe. "Shore I'd know thet out of a million letters."
"Ain't you goin' to read it to us?" queried Andy Smith.
"Mister Frank Owens," replied Tex, reading from the address on the letter. "Springer's Ranch. Beacon, Arizona ... Boys, this heah Frank Owens is all of us."
"Huh! Mebbe he's a darn' sight more," added Andy.
"Looks like a low-down trick we're to blame for," resumed Tex, seriously shaking his hawk-like head. "Heah he reads in a Kansas City paper aboot a schoolteacher wantin' a job out in dry Arizonie. And he ups an' writes her an' gets her a-rarin' to come. Then, when she writes an' tells us she's not over forty, then us quits like yellow coyotes. An' we four anyhow shook hands on never writin' her again. Wal, somebody did, an' I reckon you-all think me as big a liar as I think you. But thet ain't the point. Heah's another letter to Mister Owens an' I'll bet my saddle it means trouble. Shore, I'm plumb afraid to read it."
"Say, give it to me," demanded Andy. "I ain't afraid of any woman."
Tex snatched the letter out of Andy's hand.
"Cowboy, you're too poor educated to read letters from ladies," observed Tex. "Gimme a knife, somebody ... Say, it's all perfumed."
Tex impressively spread out the letter and read laboriously:
Kansas City, Mo. June 15
Dear Mr. Owens:
Your last letter has explained away much that was vague and perplexing in your other letters.
It has inspired me with hope and anticipation. I shall not take time now to express my thanks, but hasten to get ready to go West. I shall leave tomorrow and arrive at Beacon on June 19 at 4:30 p.m. You see I have studied the timetable.
Yours very truly, Jane Stacey
Profound silence followed Tex's perusal of the letter. The cowboys were struck dumb. But suddenly Nevada exploded.
"My Gawd, fellers, today's the Nineteenth!"
"Wal, Springer needs a schoolmarm at the ranch," finally spoke up the practical Andy. "There's half a dozen kids growin' up without any schoolin', not to talk about other ranches. I heard the boss say this hisself."
"Who the hell did it?" demanded Tex in a rage with himself and his accomplices.
"What's the sense in hollerin' aboot thet now?" returned Nevada. "It's done. She's comin'. She'll be on the Limited. Reckon us're got five hours. It ain't enough. What'll we do?"
"I can get awful drunk in thet time," contributed Panhandle nonchalantly.
"Ahuh! An' leave it all to us," retorted Tex scornfully. "But we got to stand pat on this heah deal. Don't you know this is Saturday an' thet Springer will be in town?"
"Aw, Lord! We're all goin' to get fired," declared Panhandle. "Serves us right for listenin' to you, Tex. Us can all gamble this trick hatched in your head."
"Not my haid more'n yours or anybody," returned Tex hotly.
"Say, you locoed cowpunchers," interposed Nevada. "What'll we do?"
"Shore is bad," sighed Andy. "What'll we do?"
"We'll have to tell Springer."
"But, Tex, the boss'd never believe us about not followin' the letters up. He'd fire the whole outfit."
"But he'll have to be told somethin'," returned Panhandle stoutly.
"Shore he will," went on Tex. "I've an idea. It's too late now to turn this poor schoolmarm back. An' somebody'll have to meet her. Somebody's got to borrow a buckboard an' drive her out to the ranch."
"Excuse me!" replied Andy. And Panhandle and Nevada echoed him. "I'll ride over on my hoss, an' see you-all meet the lady," Andy added.
Tex had lost his scowl, but he did not look as if he favorably regarded Andy's idea. "Hang it all!" he burst out hotly. "Can't some of you gents look at it from her side of the fence? Nice fix for any woman, I say. Somebody ought to get it good for this mess. If I ever find out ..."
"Go on with your grand idea," interposed Nevada.
"You-all come with me. I'll get a buckboard. I'll meet the lady an' do the talkin'. I'll let her down easy. An' if I cain't head her back, we'll fetch her out to the ranch an' then leave it up to Springer. Only we won't tell her or him or anybody who's the real Frank Owens."
"Tex, that ain't so plumb bad," declared Andy admiringly.
"What I want to know is who's goin' go do the talkin' to the boss?" queried Panhandle. "It mightn't be so hard to explain now. But after drivin' up to the ranch with a woman! You-all know Springer's shy. Young an' rich, like he is, an' a bachelor ... he's been fussed over so he's plumb afraid of girls. An' here you're fetchin' a middle-aged schoolmarm who's romantic an' mushy! My Gawd, I say send her home on the next train."
"Pan, you're wise on hosses an' cattle, but you don't know human nature, an' you're daid wrong about the boss," rejoined Tex. "We're in a bad fix, I'll admit. But I lean more to fetchin' the lady up than sendin' her back. Somebody down Beacon way would get wise. Mebbe the schoolmarm might talk. She'd shore have cause. An' suppose Springer hears about it ... that some of us or all of us played a low-down trick on a woman. He'd be madder at that than if we fetched her up. Likely he'll try to make amends. The boss may be shy on girls but he's the squarest man in Arizona. My idea is we'll deny any of us is Frank Owens, an' we'll meet Miss ... Miss ... what was that there name? ... Miss Jane Stacey and fetch her up to the ranch, an' let her do the talkin' to Springer."
During the next several hours, while Tex searched the town for a buckboard and team he could borrow, the other cowboys wandered from the saloon to the post office and back again, and then to the store, the restaurant, and all around. The town had gradually filled up with Saturday visitors.
"Boys, there's the boss," suddenly broke out Andy, pointing, and he ducked into the nearest doorway, which happened to be that of another saloon. It was half full of cowboys, ranchers, Mexicans, tobacco smoke, and noise.
Andy's companions had rushed pell-mell after him, and not until they all got inside did they realize that this saloon was a rendezvous for cowboys decidedly not on friendly terms with Springer's outfit. Nevada was the only one of the trio who took the situation nonchalantly.
"Wal, we're in, an' what the hell do we care for Beady Jones an' his outfit," he remarked, quite loud enough to be heard by others besides his friends.
Naturally they lined up at the bar, and this was not a good thing for young men who had an important engagement and who must preserve sobriety. After several rounds of drinks had appeared, they began to whisper and snicker over the possibility of Tex meeting the boss.
"If only it doesn't come off until Tex gets our forty-year-old schoolmarm from Missouri with him in the buckboard!" exclaimed Panhandle in huge glee.
"Shore. Tex, the handsome galoot, is most to blame for this mess," added Nevada. "Thet cowboy won't be above makin' love to Jane, if he thinks we're not around. But, fellows, we want to be there."
"Wouldn't miss seein' the boss meet Tex for a million," said Andy.
Presently a tall striking-looking cowboy, with dark face and small bright eyes like black beads, detached himself from a group of noisy companions, and confronted the trio, more particularly Nevada.
"Howdy, men," he greeted them, "what you-all doin' in here?"
He was coolly impertinent, and his action and query noticeably stilled the room. Andy and Pan-handle leaned back against the bar. They had been in such situations before and knew who would do the talking for them.
"Howdy, Jones," replied Nevada coolly and carefully. "We happened to bust in here by accident. Reckon we're usually more particular what kind of company we mix with."
"Ahuh! Springer's outfit is shore a stuck-up one," sneered Beady Jones in a quite loud tone. "So stuck up they won't even ride around drift fences."
Nevada slightly changed his position.
"Beady, I've had a couple of drinks an' ain't very clearheaded," drawled Nevada. "Would you mind talkin' so I can understand you?"
"Bah! You savvy all right," declared Jones sarcastically. "I'm tellin' you straight what I've been layin' to tell your yaller-headed Texas pard."
"Now you're speakin' English, Beady. Tex an' me are pards, shore. An' I'll take it kind of you to get this talk out of your system. You seem to be chock full."
"You bet I'm full an' I'm a-goin' to bust!" shouted Jones, whose temper evidently could not abide the slow cool speech with which he had been answered.
"Wal, before you bust, explain what you mean by Springer's outfit not ridin' around drift fences."
"Easy. You just cut through wire fences," retorted Jones.
"Beady, I hate to call you a low-down liar, but that's what you are."
"You're another!" yelled Jones. "I seen your Texas Jack cut our drift fence."
Nevada struck out with remarkable swiftness and force. He knocked Jones over upon a card table, with which he crashed to the floor. Jones was so stunned that he did not recover before some of his comrades rushed to him, and helped him up. Then, black in the face and cursing savagely, he jerked for his gun. He got it out, but, before he could level it, two of his friends seized him, and wrestled with him, talking in earnest alarm. But Jones fought them.
"Ya damn' fool!" finally yelled one of them. "He's not packin' a gun. It'd be murder."
That brought Jones to his senses, although certainly not to calmness.
"Mister Nevada ... next time you hit town you'd better come heeled," he hissed between his teeth.
"Shore. An' thet'll be bad for you, Beady," replied Nevada curtly.
Panhandle and Andy drew Nevada out to the street, where they burst into mingled excitement and anger. Their swift strides gravitated toward the saloon across from the post office.
When they emerged sometime later, they were arm in arm, and far from steady on their feet. They paraded up the one main street of Beacon, not in the least conspicuous on a Saturday afternoon. As they were neither hilarious nor dangerous, nobody paid any attention to them. Springer, their boss, met them, gazed at them casually, and passed without sign of recognition. If he had studied the boys closely, he might have received an impression that they were hugging a secret, as well as each other.
In due time the trio presented themselves at the railroad station. Tex was there, nervously striding up and down the platform, now and then looking at his watch. The afternoon train was nearly due. At the hitching rail below the platform stood a new buckboard and a rather spirited team of horses.
The boys, coming across the wide square, encountered this evidence of Tex's extremity, and struck a posture before it.
"Livery stable outfit, by gosh," said Andy.
"Son-of-a-gun if it ain't," added Panhandle with a huge grin.
"Thish here Tex spendin' his money royal," agreed Nevada.
Then Tex espied them. He stared. Suddenly he jumped straight up. After striding to the edge of the platform, with face as red as a beet, he began to curse them.
"Whash mashes, ole pard?" asked Andy, who appeared a little less stable than his comrades.
Tex's reply was another volley of expressive profanity. And he ended with: "... you-all yellow quitters to get drunk an' leave me in the lurch. But you gotta get away from heah. I shore won't have you aboot when thet train comes."
"Tex, your boss is in town lookin' for you," said Nevada.
"I don't care a damn," replied Tex with fire in his eye.
"Wait till he shees you," gurgled Andy.
"Tex, he jest ambled past us like we wasn't gennelmen," added Panhandle. "Never sheen us a-tall."
"No wonder, you drunken cowpunchers," declared Tex in disgust. "Now I tell you to clear out of heah."
"But, pard, we just want to shee you meet our Jane from Missouri," replied Andy.
"If you-all ain't a lot of four-flushes, I'll eat my chaps!" burst out Tex hotly.
Just then a shrill whistle announced the train.
"You can sneak off now," he went on, "an' leave me to face the music. I always knew I was the only gentleman in Springer's outfit."
The three cowboys did not act upon Tex's sarcastic suggestion, but they hung back, looking at once excited and sheepish and hugely delighted.
The long gray dusty train pulled into the station, and stopped. There was only one passenger for Springer-a woman-and she alighted from the coach near where the cowboys stood waiting. She was not tall and she was much too slight for the heavy valise the porter handed to her.
Tex strode grandly toward her.
"Miss ... Miss Stacey, ma'am?" he asked, removing his sombrero.
"Yes," she replied. "Are you Mister Owens?"
Evidently the voice was not what Tex had ex- pected and it disconcerted him.
"No, ma'am, I ... I'm not Mister Owens," he said. "Please let me take your bag.... I'm Tex Dillon, one of Springer's cowboys. An' I've come to meet you ... an' fetch you out to the ranch."
"Thank you, but I ... I expected to be met by Mister Owens," she replied.
"Ma'am, there's been a mistake ... I've got to tell you ... there ain't any Mister Owens," blurted out Tex manfully.
"Oh!" she said with a little start.
"You see, it was this way," went on the confused cowboy. "One of Springer's cowboys ... not me ... wrote them letters to you, signin' his name Owens. There ain't no such named cowboy in this county. Your last letter ... an' here it is ... fell into my hands ... all by accident, ma'am, it sure was. I took my three friends heah ... I took them into my confidence. An' we all came down to meet you."
She moved her head and evidently looked at the strange trio of cowboys Tex had pointed out as his friends. They came forward then, but not eagerly, and they still held to each other. Their condition, not to consider their immense excitement, could not have been lost even upon a tenderfoot from Missouri.
Excerpted from The Lawless West by Louis L'Amour Zena Grey Max Brand Copyright © 2006 by Golden West Literary Agency. Excerpted by permission.
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