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Review of Louis L’Amour’s The Walking Drum June 29, 2017

Posted by heidi skarie in Book Review.
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51oy3dgHDYLIf you’re looking for a good book to read this summer, pick up The Walking Drum by Louis L’Amour.  A friend recommended this book and I’m glad he did because it was an exciting and educational read.

L’Amour published his first novel in 1953 and every one of his over 120 books are still in print.  There are 300 million copies of his books worldwide.  He is one of the bestselling authors of modern times.  Forty-five of his novels have been made into films.

He is best known for capturing the spirit of the American West.  This novel, written in his later years, is a departure from those books. It takes place in the 12th century, starting out in France, crossing medieval Europe and the Russian steppes, and finally ending in Constantinople.

Young Mathurin Kerbouchard of Brittany is thrust into a violent, dangerous world when he returns from a fishing expedition and finds his mother murdered and his home burned to the ground.  He barely escapes with his life only to be captured and forced to be a galley slave.

In L’Amour’s usual style, Kerbouchard goes from one adventure to another as he sets off on a quest to find his father (who is reported to be killed at sea or sold into slavery) and revenge his mother. Kerbouchard is bold to a fault, trained by the Druids to have an amazing memory, and a seeker of knowledge who can speak and write many languages (an unusual talent for the times).  He is skilled with a sword, but also relies on his wit as he works toward achieving his nearly impossible goals.

The book is broad in scoop and covers several years as Kerbouchard grows into manhood.  He faces life with courage and honor, making friends and enemies along the way.  He is a unique character whom the reader will remember long after they finish the book.  We see the 12th century world through Kerbouchard’s active, intelligent mind.  He travels from the dark, dirty cities in France where the Christian church forbids new ideas and books are rare, to the Moslem cities of Spain where books are plentiful and scholars are valued.

The book reads quickly, especially the first half, which is filled with one hair-raising adventure after another.  But it slows down in places where Kerbouchard, a brilliant scholar interested in different ideas and places, tells us the history of the city he’s traveled to and shares his philosophy of life with other scholars.

In his Author’s Notes section, L’ Amour said he was fascinated by this period of history.  He feels that our schools ignore two thirds of world.  “Of China, India and the Muslim world almost nothing is said, yet their contribution to our civilization was enormous, and they are now powers with which we must deal both today and tomorrow, and which it would be well for us to understand.  

“One of the best means of introduction to any history is the historical novel.” p. 462

L’Amour planned to write two more books about Kerbouchard’s adventures; regrettably, he died before he completed them.

I was partly intrigued by the book because I also researched this area of the world for my book Annoure and the Dragon Ships.  My historical saga is set almost 400 hundred years earlier and takes the reader from Saxon England, to Viking Norway, to the Russian steppes.  It was interesting to see how the world had changed over those four centuries.

If you’re in the mood for a fascinating, exciting adventure filled with treachery, violence, passion, love and friendship, check out The Walking Drum by best-selling author Louis L’Amour.


Movie Welcome and Illegal Immigrants February 28, 2013

Posted by heidi skarie in Movie reveiew.
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Welcome-Have you seem the foreign film Welcome directed by Philippe Lioret?  At one point in the movie we see the image of a mat with the word “Welcome” at a neighbor’s front door, but the irony is that the French are anything but welcome to the illegal immigrants in their country.


This powerful movie is a parallel story about Simon (Vincent Lindon) a Frenchman who is going through a divorce and Bilal (Firat Ayverdi) an illegal immigrant.   Seventeen-year-old Bilal is a Kurdish man who has walked for three months from Mosul, Iraq to France.  Bilal comes to where Simon works at a public pool and asks him to teach him to swim.  Simon works with him and comes to care about him like a son.


There is irony in this as well because Simon’s wife Marion (Audrey Dana) is leaving him partly because of his apparent indifference to the plight of the men who have illegally immigrated to France.  Marion helps run an outdoor soup kitchen for illegal aliens who are struggling to survive. The immigrants want to get jobs so they can send money home to their families.  We see them being turned away from grocery stores, from the pool (where they want to take a shower) and being arrested.


The story is set in Calais, the port in northern France closest to Britain. The cliffs of Dover are visible from Calais.  As the story unfolds we find out Bilal wants to learn to swim so he can swim across the English Channel to the girl he loves. The youth spent three months traveling all the way from Iraq to France by foot and now has to get to England.  He tries to get across the English Channel by getting aboard a ferry but after he gets caught by the police, he decides to learn to swim so he can swim across.


Simon’s heart opens (as does the viewer’s) to Bilal who loves a woman so much he walked 4000 km across several countries to get to her, and now is willing to swim across the English Channel.  We also sympathize with Simon who says to his wife, “I couldn’t even walk across the road to get you back.”  Simon still loves Marion and doesn’t know how to heal their marriage.  Marion watches him help Bilal and realizes that Simon has begun to awaken to the plight of the illegal immigrants.  She even worries for Simon who could be arrested and even incarcerated for helping Bilal.


I don’t want to give away the story, but rather focus on the topic of illegal immigrants.  Where I live in Minneapolis we have illegal aliens from Mexico.  When men get arrested, they get sent back even though the may be leaving a wife and children behind in Minnesota.  It seems cruel to send them back.  Yet our country is in a recession/depression and there aren’t enough jobs for our own people.  Moreover, how can we afford to educate these children who don’t even speak English?  How do we afford to pay for these people’s healthcare?  Yet our country is based on immigration.  We all immigrated here.  Even the Native Americans immigrated here at one time.


Our country is the land of freedom and opportunity.  At least that was what it was called when I was a child.  We have benefitted from hard working immigrants.  How do you feel about illegal immigrants?  What is our responsibility to people from war-torn countries?


Here is a trailer of the movie.