L’Amour, L. (1983). Hondo. New York: Bantam Books.9780553230871
Laconic U.S. Calvary scout Hondo Lane is a heroic knight of the Arizona desert. With his ornery friend of a dog Sam, Hondo comes upon an isolated ranch en route to the post to report a likely Apache raid on white settlers. At this ranch, he meets the lone, proud Angie Lowe and her young son, Johnny. The normally detached “part-Indian” Hondo finds himself loving the Lowes. He asks, “Where is Mr. Lowe?” “Why would anyone abandon such a family?” and “Why do Angie and Johnny remain here when Apache attacks are inevitable?” Leaving the ranch, Hondo journeys through some dangerous conditions towards the post in order to make his report. He ponders who he has just left vulnerable to the volatile and formidable Apache chief Vittoro and his braves.
Hondo employs many elements of the Western genre. First and foremost, the setting is definitely the American West. The story takes place in the Arizona desert in the 1870s. Hondo Lane is a traditional hero of the West; he is the strong, silent type and is the noble knight serving his lord(s) (military officers) and country. He is much more accustomed to being on his own but he immediately takes to protecting the damsel in distress (Angie), her son, and her manor (the ranch) from attackers (Apache Indians). One of the most engaging qualities of Hondo Lane is that he and the reader wonder whether or not he will completely ride off into the sunset or return for the lady of the manor. Angie Lowe appears as a touchstone of civilization as well as Hondo’s match. She is strong, proud, and recognizes the moral fiber in Hondo. Also, Hondo comprises an adventurous, danger element through the Apache warriors. Both the fear and promise of these angry neighbors keeps the characters as well as readers on their toes.
At first, I found Hondo to be rather cliché. This, of course, is based more on film than literature. However, I would say Hondo is the standard and that clichés followed the Hondo formula.
I was happily surprised by Hondo. To my family’s chagrin, I am not much of a Western movie fan and I did not expect to like anything in this genre. At a complete loss, I took Saricks’s suggestion and finally selected Hondo. I was none too fond of the more visceral descriptions of raids and I felt somewhat nauseous in reading about scalping. Still, this added to the urgency, danger, and excitement of the novel. I truly admired Hondo because he was not much for lying and he often put others before himself. He portrayed terrific work ethic and dedication to his job. As a librarian, I like seeing someone who knows his resources as well as his instincts. Additionally, I liked Angie because she took pride in her ranch and did the best she could by it. Angie determined whether one’s character was good based solely on that one person. She was not prone to making generalizations when it came to either men or Apaches. Vittoro is admirable as well in that he stays true to his people and his word. L’Amour made the bad guys despicable, too.
I would recommend this book to a mostly male audience seeking adventure in a past era. This may appeal to historical fiction fans. I think it may be fun to compare the book and the movie in a subsequent book discussion.
Two Out of Five Pearls.