Louis L’Amour’s long-lost first novel, faithfully completed by his son, takes readers on a voyage into danger and violence on the high seas.
Fate is a ship.
As the shadows of World War II gather, the SS Lichenfield is westbound across the Pacific carrying eighty thousand barrels of highly explosive naphtha. The cargo alone makes the journey perilous, with the entire crew aware that one careless moment could lead to disaster.
But yet another sort of peril haunts the Lichenfield. Even beyond their day-to-day existence, the lives of the crew are mysteriously intertwined. Though each has his own history, dreams and jealousies, longing and rage, all are connected by a deadly web of chance and circumstance.
Some are desperately fleeing the past; others chase an unknown destiny. A few are driven by the desire for adventure, while their shipmates cling to the Lichenfield as their only true home. In their hearts, these men, as well as the women and children they have left behind, carry the seeds of salvation or destruction. And all of them—kind or cruel, strong or broken—are bound to the fate of the vessel that carries them toward an ever-darkening horizon.
Inspired by Louis L’Amour’s own experiences as a merchant seaman, No Traveller Returns is a revelatory work by a world-renowned author—and a brilliant illustration of a writer discovering his literary voice.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Wow am I developing such a deep appreciation for stories written by Louis L’Amour!
Maritime is my most favorite subgenre, so this was completely satiating for me. I listened via audiobook, narrated by Scott Brick, which I’d highly recommend.
This story was Louis L’Amour’s first novel length work which tells about the backstory of a missing ship. His work, starting circa 1938, incorporates a self-projected protagonist in a high crimes situation. His personal life was quite interesting as well, with travels and occupations that enhanced his writing, but were not solely sought out for purposes of writing the experiences which I think is distinctive. The work was carefully pieced together by his son, Beau, who was able to publish the story as a finished copy.
The prologue and epilogue were quite fascinating in themselves, particularly noting that the writing embodies a time brought to life using the referenced jargon of sailors, railway men, cowboys, soldiers, and miners, a version of English not taught in any classroom.
As far as content was concerned, it incorporated observations about the successes of civilization with an almost prophetic, philosophic, Orwellian tone. There was talk about machines and powerful statements about the projection of human behavior. The love interest and daily life of struggles and victories depicted in the story were strengthened by this.
And coming to the point where I no longer feel the need to fact check an author’s claims in a story but looking up things just to increase my knowledge is where I glean the most comfort and joy in reading a book. And I have certainly found that to be so in his writing. I had no idea that the Indy 500 existed during this time.
MY FAVORITE LINES:
“But most of all our mistakes lay in trying to live what at best was no more than a dream. We were two fortunate people. We had an idyllic moment and then proved ourselves all to human by trying to make a lifetime of it.”
“What was it Hamlet said? That undiscovered country, from who’s born no traveler returns. He was speaking of death. But is not every goodbye, every leave taking a little death? Can a man ever return quite the same as he left? We say goodbye. We leave familiar, well-loved people in places, and the days, weeks, and months pass, perhaps years, when we take the road back and finally stand where we stood before, all is strange. Our very bodies have changed, the dust of many roads, the brine of ancient seas, the air we have breathed, the food we have eaten, the wounds we have received. All these things change us. We have come back, groping in the past for something that is no longer there. A gap that nothing can fill. Old places are better left behind. Old loves better keep as memories. And as the ship steams onward into the days and nights, all that I have known and all that I have loved, I am leaving behind me…”
“She was lying there in a faded neglige reading a magazine. A box of crackers stood open on the table close by. And there were two cups, still mottled with the grounds of coffee. She sat up. A large woman with rust-colored and a heavy, sullen face. Collin looked at her a moment, looked at the stuffy, untidy room of which she was the living expression.”
Check it out on Amazon