Louis L' Amour Biography

Louis L’Amour (born Louis Dearborn LaMoore) was an American author best known for novels and short stories. Although he is most famous for his western novels, he has also written poetry, science-fiction, historical fiction, and non-fiction books.

L’Amour was highly prolific. He wrote 100 novels and numerous short stories (over 250 by some estimates). His books have sold over 320 million copies and have been translated into 20 languages. He also wrote numerous screenplays and television scripts. Several of his books (at least 30) have been made into films.

Louis L’Amour’s life story is a colorful as the characters he writes about in his books. He was born in Jamestown, North Dakota, US on March 22, 1908.  His father was a veterinarian and his mother was a teacher.

His comfortable childhood ended in 1923 when, after a series of bank failures ruined the economy of the upper Midwest, the family had to move to look for work. This meant that Louis and his brother John had to leave school. Louis was 15 at the time.

During these difficult years, Louis worked all kinds of jobs. He worked in cattle farms, mines, sawmills, and lumber camps. He also spent time as a professional boxer and merchant seaman. His work as a merchant seaman enables him to travel around the world, visiting England, Japan, China, Borneo, the Dutch East Indies, Arabia, Egypt, and Panama.

In the early 1930s, during the great depression, he settled in Choctaw, Oklahoma, to start his writing career. In 1939, at the age of 31, he published a book of poetry and several short stories. His writing career was interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War. In 1942 (at the age of 35) he joined the US army transportation corps and spent time in France and Germany.

He continued with his writing career after the war in 1946. From 1946 to 1950, he wrote many short stories for various magazines under the pseudonym “Jim Mayo.” He also wrote four novels as “Tex Burns.”

The first novel he wrote under his real name was Westward the Tide (1951). In 1953, he wrote Hondo, which became a hit and sold 1.5 million copies. In 1954, Hondo was made into a highly successful film starring John Wayne. The rest, as they say, is history.

In 1983, L’Amour became the first novelist to be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. He was also awarded the Medal of Freedom in 1984.

L’Amour died from lung cancer at the age of 80 (on 10 June 1988).  His autobiography, Education of a Wandering Man (1989), was published shortly after. 

Further Reading

Check out the articles below for quotes by Louis L’Amour and other accomplished writers.

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  • Sources Cited for Louis L’Amour’s biography

Education of a Wandering Man (1989) Education of a Wandering Man [see on Amazon]

Louis L’Amour’s official Website Biography

Grand Forks Herald (2021) Desperation pushed Louis L’Amour out of Jamestown, into life of travel and adventure

The Famous People Louis L’Amour Biography