The rotating reading of genres is never ending. If I read a western, it is generally about the U.S. Army on the frontier. I will deviate to read about ranchers or gunfighters if by favorites like Gordon D. Shirreffs or T. V. Olsen. On the other hand I will read a western by an unknown author (to me) if about the U.S. Army.
Louis L’Amour’s Kilrone is a novel by a writer I know and about my preferred area. I have been hard on L’Amour in the past on his novel The Walking Drum. Still, I totally get why L’Amour was so popular. He generally delivered. Kilrone was first published in 1966. The edition I read is fairly recent with cover art by Greg Manchess who I like.
Former Army officer Barnes Kilrone arrives to an army outpost in northern Nevada. The time is not specified but the Battle of the Little Big Horn is mentioned as happened a year or two earlier. Kilrone reports to the executive officer, Frank Paddock, an old friend, that the commanding officer Col. Webb and a detachment he commanded were ambushed and wiped out by Bannock Indians. Paddock has gone to seed from alcohol. He also worries that his French born wife, Denise, has a thing for Kilrone.
Paddock has to act. Another detachment under a competent Captain Mellett is on patrol to rendezvous with Col. Webb. Paddock decides to ride out with most of the remaining cavalry troopers to rescue Mellett and inflict a defeat on the Bannocks. Kilrone is convinced the Bannocks are going to attack the fort to plunder the stores of food and weapons.
There is another wrinkle in the story with a civilian Dave Sproul selling rifles to the Indians. The rest of the novel switches between Paddock, Mellett, and Kilron organizing defense of the army post.
The Bannocks attack the post and there is a desperate defense lead by Kilrone. Paddock regains his mojo as he dries out from the alcohol.
Kilrone is 193 pages of medium sized type so it can be knocked off in a couple nights. The narrative flowed. L’Amour has some good action scenes. An interesting item from a plot examination is everyone is competent. You don’t know if Paddock is going to totally screw things up but in the end he is a good officer when not hitting the bottle. Kilrone is a L’Amour super competent man of the frontier.
My favorite U.S. Army fort under siege novel remains Gordon D. Shirreffs’ Rio Bravo (not the John Wayne movie). I recommend all to track that one down.