Louis L'Amour's "Last of the Breed" takes place in the frigid wasteland of Siberia during the Cold War. Soviet agents sabotage Air Force Major Joseph "Joe Mack" Makatozi's plane over the Pacific ocean and take him to a secret prison camp where he will be interrogated and executed. However, Makatozi is part Sioux, part Cheyenne, part Scottish, and a total bad-ass. He escapes the prison and flees across Siberia on an impossible mission to return to America by crossing the Bering Straight. He makes friends and enemies among the natives as he struggles to survive in the unforgiving landscape and escape from the Soviet army.
This was a kick-ass novel. It was my first time reading anything by L'amour and nowI want more. His detail on surviving in the wilderness was impressive and his pacing was phenomenal. Not once did the action slow down, not even during slow parts where Makatozi philosophized about the conflict between the US and the USSR. There was always the threat of discovery and capture hanging in the background which drove the plot along at a steady pace. I appreciated these cerebral moments of the novel. There were many instances were the characters would talk of history, politics, and human nature in the shadow of nuclear war. They were refreshing and made the story more than literary junk food. Sure, there was action. Cars exploded and Russian soldiers got shot, impaled on traps, and buried under an avalanche. Makatozi even brought down a helicopter with a bow and arrow! The Cold War may be over, but this was still a great read.
What really impressed me was L'amour's background. According to the brief bio at the end of the novel, the man was a "lumberjack, elephant handler, skinner of dead cattle, assessment miner, and officer on tank destroyers during World War II." He was even shipwrecked on an island in the West Indies and stranded in the Mojave desert. Wow! Talk about writing from experience. Thankfully, I don't need such an "extensive" background in order to be published. But it helps.
The next novel will be another L'amour special called "The Haunted Mesa."