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“This book may drive you crazy,” says Beau L’Amour, son of the late Louis L’Amour, in his insightful introduction to a collection of his father’s never-previously published work.

While Louis L’Amour may have passed on three decades ago, his work lives on, thanks to dedicated readers and his son Beau who serves as his literary executor.

I once commented to the late J.R. (John) Milton, former editor of the South Dakota Review and my thesis adviser, that some — if not a significant portion — of L’Amour’s work was indeed literary. Milton, whose abiding love for John Steinbeck was equal to mine, grudgingly agreed. I don’t know if it was because Milton once taught at Jamestown College in Jamestown, N.D., L’Amour’s hometown, or some other reason, but when we were alone and out of earshot of purist academics, we both held an abiding respect for L’Amour. After all, Steinbeck was once not considered literary by many either until he received the Nobel Prize.

The latest L’Amour book shows the depth and breadth of his writing. It also shows a writer at work. We see his work in its rawest state, as L’Amour wanted it to be seen before running the gauntlet of editors and marketing departments. We also see at work a writer with an acute perception of the human condition.

In Jeremy Loccard, for example, L’Amour writes, “Loccard did not reply. To protest would do no good. The man had his mind made up and what he had decided pleased him and left no room for further consideration of the subject. A neat pigeonhole was often a substitute for thought and a means of isolating ideas that might otherwise become disturbing.”

L’Amour’s characters are not just heroic — they are also savvy. And it’s that savviness that helps them extricate themselves from seemingly impossible situations.

L’Amour even delves into reincarnation in “Samsara” as Pied Bull says to the narrator, “You remembered,” he replied, “just as you remembered this place. You have been here before.”

“Louis L’Amour’s Lost Treasures: Volume I” could indeed be frustrating if read for its sheer entertainment value — and it is highly entertaining. If one reads the book for its potential — for the stories and novels L’Amour could have completed but never did — then we begin to see how great of an artist he really was, and how great his potential was as well, despite his enormous success.

Michael Tidemann writes from Estherville, Iowa. His author page is amazon.com/author/michaeltidemann.