Law of the Desert Born (Graphic Novel): A Graphic Novel

Law of the Desert Born (Graphic Novel): A Graphic Novel

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Overview

The first graphic novel adaptation of the work of master storyteller Louis L’Amour is a dynamic tale of the Old West that explores the borderlands of loyalty and betrayal with the emotional grittiness of a noir thriller.
 
New Mexico, 1887, a land in the midst of the worst drought anyone can remember. Family histories and loyalties run deep, but when rancher Tom Forrester has his access to the Pecos River cut off by the son of his old partner, he convinces his foreman, Shad Marone, to pay Jud Bowman back for the discourtesy. Yet what starts as a simple act of petty revenge quickly spirals into a cycle of violence that no one can control.
 
Now Marone is on the run, pursued by a sheriff’s posse across a rugged desert landscape. Leading the chase is Jesus Lopez, a half-Mexican, half-Apache with a personal stake in bringing Shad to justice. Newly released from jail, trusted by no one, Lopez swears he’s the only man who can track Marone down. That may be true. But who will live and who will die and what price will be paid in suffering are open questions. Fate and the Jornada del Muerto desert possess a harsh justice that is all their own.
 
With a propulsive script from Beau L’Amour and Kathy Nolan, adapted by Charles Santino and illustrated in bold black-and-white by Thomas Yeates, Law of the Desert Born captures the dust and blood of Louis L’Amour’s West—a world where the difference between a hero and a villain can be as wide as the gap between an act of kindness or brutality or as narrow as a misspoken word.

Praise for Law of the Desert Born
 
“This actually may be the story’s ideal form, since the author’s son Beau came to realize that the core of the tale was the tense relationship between [Marone] and Lopez. . . . The graphic novel version provides room to develop this theme. Yeates’s black-and-white depiction of the rugged landscape and the hard-bitten characters is superb. The result is stunning and richly textured.”Publishers Weekly

“[An] interesting tale of range rivalries turned bloody . . . Fans of L’Amour’s stories should enjoy this work, adults or teens.”Library Journal
 
“Readers are in for a real treat—with an amazing level of detail and ambience that breathes new life into Louis L’Amour’s already stunning story.”Cowboys & Indians
 
“A masterpiece both in story and art that complements the mood.”It’s All Comic to Me

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

09/15/2013
As modified from a rather sketchy short story with clear good/bad polarities, a defense killing becomes a revenge murder, with both sides breaching earlier traditions of give-and-take camaraderie among ranchers faced with unpredictable weather and other challenges of the 1880s cattle business. The result is a longer, murkier, and more interesting tale of range rivalries turned bloody. Plentiful backstory via flashbacks provides the history and earlier relationships of killer-on-the-run Shad Marone and the posse after him—especially the Mexican Apache half-breed Lopez, whose motives keep everyone guessing until the end. Yeates (currently Prince Valiant strip artist; Conan; Tarzan) supplies excellent genre-appropriate art. However, character clarity and atmosphere might have benefited from either sepia or two-color tones instead of gray scale. VERDICT The action favorites of pulp-Western megascribe L'Amour (1908–88) make ready fodder for comics. Here, the richer plot and characters from L'Amour's son Beau and collaborator Kathy Nolan add appeal and value in addition to the finely crafted visuals. Fans of L'Amour's stories should enjoy this work, adults or teens; plenty of gunplay and occasional strong language in both English and Spanish.—M.C.

Publishers Weekly

Revered western writer L’Amour finally gets the graphic novel treatment. At the opening of this engaging tale, a lone rider shoots down two men at a ranch house, then flees into the desert. Flashbacks reveal the killer’s motivations, as a posse follows him and civilized notions of right and wrong are left far behind. L’Amour dashed off the original yarn for a pulp magazine in the mid-1940s, and it has passed through several versions—an audio play, a screenplay, and comics. This actually may be the story’s ideal form, since the author’s son Beau came to realize that the core of the tale was the tense relationship between the murderer, Shad Marone, and Lopez, the Mexican-Apache tracker pursuing him; the graphic novel version provides room to develop this theme. Yeates’s black-and-white depiction of the rugged landscape and the hard-bitten characters is superb. The result is stunning and richly textured. (Sept.)

From the Publisher

This actually may be the story’s ideal form, since the author’s son Beau came to realize that the core of the tale was the tense relationship between [Marone] and Lopez. . . . The graphic novel version provides room to develop this theme. Yeates’s black-and-white depiction of the rugged landscape and the hard-bitten characters is superb. The result is stunning and richly textured.”Publishers Weekly

“[An] interesting tale of range rivalries turned bloody . . . Fans of L’Amour’s stories should enjoy this work, adults or teens.”Library Journal
 
“Readers are in for a real treat—with an amazing level of detail and ambience that breathes new life into Louis L’Amour’s already stunning story.”Cowboys & Indians
 
“A masterpiece both in story and art that complements the mood.”It’s All Comic to Me

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345538567
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/08/2013
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 689,087
File size: 69 MB
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Read an Excerpt

LAW OF THE DESERT BORN
 
SHAD MARONE CRAWLED out of the water swearing and slid into the mesquite. Suddenly, for the first time since the chase began, he was mad. He was mad clear through. “The hell with it!” He got to his feet, his eyes blazing. “I’ve run far enough! If they cross Black River, they’re askin’ for it!”
 
For three days he had been on the dodge, using every stratagem known to men of the desert, but they clung to him like leeches. That was what came of killing a sheriff’s brother, and the fact that he killed in self-defense wasn’t going to help a bit. Especially when the killer was Shad Marone.
 
That was what you could expect when you were the last man of the losing side in a cattle war. All his friends were gone now but Madge.
 
The best people of Puerto de Luna hadn’t been the toughest in this scrap, and they had lost. And Shad Marone, who had been one of the toughest, had lost with them. His guns hadn’t been enough to outweigh those of the other faction.
 
Of course, he admitted to himself, those on his side hadn’t been angels. He’d branded a few head of calves himself from time to time, and when cash was short, he had often run a few steers over the border. But hadn’t they all?
 
Truman and Dykes had been good men, but Dykes had been killed at the start, and Truman had fought like a gentleman, and that wasn’t any way to win in the Black River country.
 
Since then, there had been few peaceful days for Shad Marone.
 
After they’d elected Clyde Bowman sheriff, he knew they were out to get him. Bowman hated him, and Bowman had been one of the worst of them in the cattle war.
 
The trouble was, Shad was a gunfighter, and they all knew it. Bowman was fast with a gun and in a fight could hold his own. Also, he was smart enough to leave Shad Marone strictly alone. So they just waited, watched, and planned.
 
Shad had taken their dislike as a matter of course. It took tough men to settle a tough country, and if they started shooting, somebody got hurt. Well, he wasn’t getting hurt. There had been too much shooting to suit him.
 
He wanted to leave Puerto de Luna, but Madge was still living on the old place, and he didn’t want to leave her there alone. So he stayed on, knowing it couldn’t last.
 
Then Jud Bowman rode into town. Shad was thoughtful when he heard that. Jud was notoriously quarrelsome and was said to have twelve notches on his gun. Shad had a feeling that Jud hadn’t come to Puerto de Luna by accident.
 
Jud hadn’t been in town two days before the grapevine had the story that if Clyde and Lopez were afraid to run Marone out of town, he wasn’t.
 
Jud Bowman might have done it, too, if it hadn’t been for Tips. Tips Hogan had been tending bar in Puerto de Luna for a long time. He’d come over the trail as wagon boss for Shad’s old man, something everyone had forgotten but Shad and Tips himself.
 
Tips saw the gun in Bowman’s lap, and he gave Marone a warning. It was just a word, through unmoving lips, while he mopped the bar.
 
After a moment, Shad turned, his glass in his left hand, and he saw the way Bowman was sitting and how the tabletop would conceal a gun in his lap. Even then, when he knew they had set things up to kill him, he hadn’t wanted trouble. He decided to get out while the getting was good. Then he saw Slade near the door and Henderson across the room.
 
He was boxed. They weren’t gambling this time. Tips Hogan knew what was likely to happen, and he was working his way down the bar.
 
Marone took it easy. He knew it was coming, and it wasn’t a new thing. That was his biggest advantage, he thought. He had been in more fights than any of them. He didn’t want any more trouble, but if he got out of this, it would be right behind a six-gun. The back door was barred and the window closed.
 
Jud Bowman looked up suddenly. He had a great shock of blond, coarse hair, and under bushy brows his eyes glinted. “What’s this about you threatenin’ to kill me, Marone?”
 
So that was their excuse. He had not threatened Bowman, scarcely knew him, in fact, but this was the way to put him in the wrong, to give them the plea of self-defense.
 
He let his eyes turn to Bowman, saw the tensity in the man’s face. A denial, and there would be shooting. Jud’s right-hand fingertips rested on the table’s edge. He had only to drop a hand and fire.
 
“Huh?” Shad said stupidly, as though startled from a daydream. He took a step toward the table, his face puzzled. “Wha’d you say? I didn’t get it.”
 
They had planned it all very carefully. Marone would deny, Bowman would claim he’d been called a liar; there would be a killing. They were tense, all three of them set to draw.
 
“Huh?” Shad repeated blankly.
 
They were caught flat-footed. After all, you couldn’t shoot a man in cold blood. You couldn’t shoot a man who was half-asleep. Most of the men in the saloon were against Marone, but they would never stand for murder.
 
They were poised for action, and nothing happened. Shad blinked at them. “Sorry,” he said, “I must’ve been dreamin’. I didn’t hear you.”
 
Bowman glanced around uncertainly, wetting his lips with his tongue. “I said I heard you threatened to kill me,” he repeated. It sounded lame, and he knew it, but Shad’s response had been unexpected. What happened then was even more unexpected.
 
Marone’s left hand shot out, and before anyone could move, the table was spun from in front of Bowman. Everyone saw the naked gun lying in his lap.
 
Every man in the saloon knew that Jud Bowman, for all his reputation, had been afraid to shoot it out with an even break. It would have been murder.
 
Taken by surprise, Bowman blinked foolishly. Then his wits came back. Blood rushed to his face. He grabbed the gun. “Why, you…!”
 
Then Shad Marone shot him. Shad shot him through the belly, and before the other two could act, he wheeled, not toward the door, but to the closed window. He battered it with his shoulder and went right on through. Outside, he hit the ground on his hands but came up in a lunging run. Then he was in the saddle and on his way.
 
There were men in the saloon who would tell the truth—two at least, although neither had much use for him. But Marone knew that with Clyde Bowman as sheriff he would never be brought to trial. He would be killed “evading arrest.”
 
For three days, he fled, and during that time, they were never more than an hour behind him. Then, at Forked Tree, they closed in. He got away, but they clipped his horse. The roan stayed on his feet, giving all he had, as horses always had given for Shad Marone, and then died on the riverbank, still trying with his last breath.
 
Marone took time to cache his saddle and bridle, then started on afoot. He made the river, and they thought that would stop him, for he couldn’t swim a stroke. But he found a drift log, and with his guns riding high, he shoved off. Using the current and his own kicking, he got to the other bank, considerably downstream.
 
The thing that bothered him was the way they clung to his trail. Bowman wasn’t the man to follow as little trail as he left. Yet the man hung to him like an Apache.
 
Apache!
 
Why hadn’t he thought of that? It would be Lopez following that trail, not Bowman. Bowman was a bulldog, but Lopez was wily as a fox and bloodthirsty as a weasel.
 
Shad got to his feet and shook the water from him like a dog. He was a big, rawboned, sun-browned man. His shirt was half torn away, and a bandolier of cartridges was slung across his shoulder and chest. His six-gun was on his hip, his rifle in his hand.
 
He poured the water out of his boots. Well, he was through playing now. If they wanted a trail, he’d see that they got one.
 
Lopez was the one who worried him. He could shake the others, but Lopez was one of the men who had built this country. He was ugly, he killed freely and often, he was absolutely ruthless, but he had nerve. You had to hand it to him. The man wasn’t honest, and he was too quick to kill, but it had taken men like him to tame this wild, lonely land. It was a land that didn’t tame easy.
 
Well, what they’d get now would be death for them all. Even Lopez. This was something he’d been saving.
 

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