A Man Named L’Amour
Louis L’Amour, one of the bestselling writers of Westerns in history, started out writing for the WPA guide to Oklahoma under the direction of noir novelist Jim Thompson. Born Louis LaMoore in North Dakota, he regaled other WPA staff with tales from travels to Africa and Asia. He helped organize a Southwest Writers’ Conference in May 1937 and often visited the Thompsons’ house for dinner. Over time, Thompson tired of LaMoore’s tall tales. In L’Amour’s memoir An Education of a Wandering Man, he wrote,
At the time I settled down in Oklahoma to become a writer or else, the short story was the thing. There were many magazines publishing short stories… However, they paid very little, and the number of people who could write quality stories… far exceeded the market… I had to make a living from my writing, and that meant work and lots of it.
Somehow he left out mention of his time working on the WPA. But L’Amour did note that the Writers’ Project “sent out people to interview old-timers and gather what material they could… The interviews vary in quality, but some are excellent and most contain information important to history.”
Tomorrow night in L’Amour’s beloved West, the Colorado Springs Arts Center will show Soul of a People: Writing America’s Story.