Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Walking Drum

Growing up I never had access to a lot of books. My mom, very much the home maker and craft worker hated me reading, seeing it as a waste of my time.

My dad, on the other hand, absolutely loved and adored the cowboy book genre and encouraged me to read as many of them as I could. The wild west was his life. He could spin me stories of Hondo, Sundance, the Sacketts, A Man Called Noon, Zorro - the list seemed endless. One of his favourite authors was the genuine article, a chap called Louis L'Amour. I read all the books we had on our bookshelf voraciously.

At school, my English teacher despaired - all I ever wrote about in my essays were cowboys drinking coffee, rustling horses and stand-offs at noon. He made fun of me and begged me to borrow books from libraries and read other things - not cowboy related. So I did. I bought my dad a copy of this book - The Walking Drum - written by Louis L'Amour with all my savings money and instantly fell in love with the historical novel and the historical background he set his writing against.

The novel is set against the backdrop of the 12th Century. At the center of The Walking Drum is Kerbouchard, one of L'Amour's greatest heroes. Warrior, lover, scholar, Kerbouchard is a daring seeker of knowledge and fortune bound on a journey of enormous challenge, danger and revenge. Across the Europe, the Russian steppes and through the Byzantine wonder of Constantinople, gateway to Asia, Kerbouchard is thrust into the heart of the treacheries, passions, violence and dazzling wonders of a magnificent time. From castle to slave gallery, from sword-racked battlefields to a princess's secret chamber, and ultimately, to the impregnable fortress of the Valley of Assassins, this is a book I have read maybe five or six times, if that few.

In fact, I still have a copy of it and I am re-reading it, yet again.

I always think back at my English teacher's despair and have to smile. I think that what if my reading habits had not started with the high adventure of the cowboy genre, would I have been keen to become a writer myself? Anything could happen out there. The stories were endless. And these first stepping stones formed the basis of the rest of my reading habit. I haven't read a cowboy book in years, I will admit, but I am still a great fan of Mr. L'Amour's books.

Happy reading!

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