A well-written Western marred by deception and a dubious relationship.
A notorious gunman of the Old West called Hondo Lane takes it on himself to watch out for a woman and her young son, while the woman’s husband is dead or missing.
Morality is iffy. Characters protect each other to the point of risking their lives, and Hondo goes out of his way to care for the woman and her son and property. Neglectful behavior and waste of money are highly frowned upon. However, two lies, one of commission and one of omission, are quite central to the plot and are justified by the characters making them without adverse consequences. Also, emotional if not physical adultery occurs.
It is a given that the main character has killed multiple times, in defense, self-defense or duels. Indians and military men fight. A homestead which has been attacked is seen. Homesteaders are evacuated for fear of further Indian attacks. Men get into a bar fight. A man is tortured with tight cords and hot coals, and contemplates other things which could be done to him, such as being staked out on a hill of fire-ants. Animals are hunted for food.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Soldiers and frontiersmen drink alcoholic beverages.
(Spoilers are involved in this section.) Hondo and the woman are very aware of each other as physically attractive, while to their knowledge her husband may still be alive. Both of them know that it is wrong, or at least inappropriate, for anything to come of said attraction, but at one point, he kisses her. After her husband is known to be dead, they find themselves in a situation where they are pretending he is her husband--under the circumstances this appears somewhat morally grey, as he is not intimate with her, she began the ruse to save his life after his torture, and he continued it to prevent her being forced into an unwanted second marriage.
At the end of the book they exchange what amount to tribal marriage vows, with the intention of heading with her son to his property in California. It is uncertain whether or not they will also have a US legal marriage or a Christian sacramental marriage, and it may be debated whether a simple exchange of vows recognized by some culture in the world with intent towards commitment can be seen as making the characters "married."
Crude or Profane Language or Content
While it is appropriate to the period and place, some people may find the use of the word "Indian" for North American pre-European tribes to be offensive. Also, h--- enters a train of thought.
Hondo is an entertaining "Western" read of L'Amour's usual formula - a tough but kindhearted man, a lovely and competent woman, keen awareness of the landscape around them, and oncoming danger. I particularly liked that he presented his Indian characters here as three-dimensional people - not as flawless innocents close to nature and inherently superior to the white man, and not as stereotyped savages; but as a different culture than the European Americans, with good and bad men and actions among them, a sense of honor, and legitimate grievances.
That said, there are definite caveats to this book, most glaringly the relationship between the main characters, and the author-excused lies. If you like cowboy stories, L'Amour is supposed to be a classic writer of the genre, and this is an interesting book. But its morality leaves a good deal to be desired.