The Key-Lock Man

Key-LockManSuggested by Brad Nelson • A hanging party rules the badlands and a lone rider races for his life. Falsely accused of back-shooting a man as he stood sipping whiskey in a saloon, Matt Keelock takes on a posse of angry men with no more backup than his smoking Colt and a sure-footed horse.
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4 Responses to The Key-Lock Man

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I’ve got an uncle who has devoured nearly everything Louis L’Amour has written. But this is my first foray into his writing.

    My brother had a paperback of this sitting around so I thought I’d take a shot. I’d been meaning to sample one of his books. I have no idea if this book is one of the better ones or not. I don’t have a representative sample.

    But I hope it’s not one of the better ones because I’ve heard good things about L’Amour’s books. This one is a little mediocre. It starts out strong: Matt Keylock is on the run, accused of shooting another man in the back. Matt claims it was a fair fight.

    A posse is after him, but just who is chasing whom? Clearly Matt has MacGyver-like skills out on the range. The hunted becomes the hunter, of sorts, but because Matt isn’t a cold-blooded murderer. He’s content to just lead the posse on a wild goose chase and eventually loses that. He easily could have killed them all.

    This first part of the book is very engaging. Unfortunately Matt loses most of his MacGyver-like skills and for some reason sticks around the area even though he knows a new posse has reformed and is after him with murderous intent. But he’s got an eye on some wild horses. Oh, and he got hitched to the woman who formerly was with the man who is in charge of hunting him down.

    Why he sticks around is not made clear. Why his Batman-like skills of living in the desert suddenly become mediocre is not explained. Why this huge expanse of desert is like Grand Central Station is unknown. Every time he turns around there seems to be someone near, no matter how remote he is.

    Why this highly skilled and seasoned cowboy shows himself to the posse and (spoiler alert) lets himself be gunned down is also not explained. There are so many things that don’t make a heck of a lot of sense. The book feels a bit like a product of the Louis L’Amour mill. It starts out very well. He mixes in some interesting facts about horses and how men live out on the range. But then the book becomes very pedestrian as it turns into a series of horse rides from here to there to get supplies, to stay ahead of the posse, to find some horses, maybe to find some gold, but there isn’t much character development or plot interest to speak of.

    So I may try one more before making up my mind. Still, this is an easy and quick read at 208 pages. I enjoyed it well enough. But if the next book doesn’t improve then I suspect that it just is what it is.

  2. Anniel says:

    Brad, I had a brother-in-law who read everything Lamour ever wrote, so I inherited a couple of his books that were at least a little better than the one you read. “Hondo” was good and I think a movie was made of it. When you want a hair raising adventure with a larger-than-life Jack Reacher type “The Last of the Breed” is a lot of fun.

    There was one other story Lamour wrote about a boy and his little sister whose parents were killed by Indians and what they do to survive. I read it in my Zane Grey days but can’t remember the name of it. If I could find it I would re-read it just to see if I would like it as much as I did back then.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Thanks for the recommendations, Annie. The name “Hondo” also came up on a lot of best-of lists. Right now I’m reading his “Silver Canyon.” So far so good.

  3. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Last night I finished my second Louis L’Amour book: Silver Canyon.

    I thought this was demonstrably better than The Key-Lock Man. In both books, L’Amour seems to have a fetish for the hero getting the hell beat out of him and then crawling off to recuperate and plan revenge.

    I was expecting these books (from what I had heard) to include more nitty-gritty detail on life in the Old West. I thought The Key-Lock Man had a little more of this. But neither book would I equate in this regard with a historical novel. You get a bit, but not much.

    These are easy reads. The writing is not particularly complicated. The characters not overly complex. And that’s a good news/bad news thing. If you’re looking for a light popcorn read, this book fits the bill. If you’re looking for more complex (even realistic) characters and interesting plots, you won’t find it in this book.

    I may read one of his books on the Sacketts and see if they get any richer. Again, I can heartily recommend these books as a fun and light read. But if you’re looking for more detail and complexity, this may not be for you.

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