My usual reply when someone asks me to name my favorite Western novel is generally, "Anything by Louis L'Amour." I realize that is a pretty broad answer considering the volume of work he published, but I never met a Louis L'Amour novel or story that I didn't like.
There's a lot of good ones and it's near 'bout impossible to pick just one. My favorites of his characters are Tell Sackett, Milo Talon and Lance Kilkenny. I really like The Sackett Brand because it embodies the attitude that I have toward family and I love all of the Kilkenny novels. The idea of a lone gunfighter who saves the day and rides off into the sunset is iconic for anyone one who loves the Western genre.
However, if I'm going to have to pick just one, then I'd say my favorite Western novel is Flint by Louis L'Amour. This is a novel that has everything.
The man who assumes the name of Jim Flint is an orphan who came from nothing due to the kindness of a stranger and had everything in life, only to abandon it all. He finds love in an unexpected place and decides he wants to live again.
As a youngster, this story had a huge impact on me because Flint was the kind of man that I wanted to be. A man capable of taking care of himself, yet wanting more out of life than living it alone. He was a somewhat flawed man who overcame his hurdles by helping other people. It is a story of hope.
Yet with all Louis L'Amour stories, Flint if full of great quotes that illustrate the author's perspective on life.
"He had come to New Mexico wanting no trouble. He had wanted no trouble at Horse Springs, wanted none on North Plain, but long ago he had discovered that one has to make a stand. If a man has to run, there is nothing to do but keep running. And if a man must die, he could at least die proud of his manhood. It was better to live one day as a lion than a dozen years as a sheep."
That quote is by far one of my favorites in all of literature and one of the best of L'Amour's lines, and he has a lot of great ones.
Flint is a novel that I highly recommend. I've lost count of the number of times that I've reread it. As a matter of fact, I think I'm going to crack it open again.
Matthew is the editor and webmaster of The Western Online, a magazine dedicated to everything Western and can be contacted via his personal website or on Twitter @mattpizzolato.