LAST OF THE BREED by Louis L'Amour
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Wilderness melodrama as an American Indian faces not only the elements but also Soviet pursuers in Siberia; featuring L'Amour's usual detailed realism and crisp stereotypes. This will likely be his greatest best-seller ever and, if filmed, his biggest movie out of some 30 already filmed. The ""breed"" of the title is a test pilot for experimental aircraft, U.S. Air Force Major Joseph ""Joe Mack"" Makatozi, part Sioux, part Cheyenne, and four-fifths James Fenimore Cooper. Besides being a superwoodsman of preternatural sensitivity, with a gift for reading signs that are invisible to the civilized, Joe Mack is also a university grad, an athlete ""who had competed in various international tournaments, a decathlon star of almost Olympic caliber [who] has scored Expert with a dozen weapons [and] was reputed to be skilled in the martial arts""--but beneath ""the veneer of education, culture; and training lay an unreconstructed savage."" Forced down over the Bering Strait, Joe is captured and shipped to a secret prison camp run by Colonel Zamatev, a GRU officer whose specialty is breaking down prisoners who have the rarest and most advanced information. The camp is in the most remote Siberian area, surrounded by forest, swamp and tundra. Almost contemptuously, Joe escapes one night by pole-vaulting (fully dressed and using a length of steel pipe) over the barbed-wire fence. Slipping back into savagery, he traps animals, makes his own bow and arrows, his own fur clothes and moccasins, and easily outsmarts and eludes his pursuers. He plans to return to the States by the same route his ancestors took across the Bering Strait. At last, Zamatev assigns his own savage to track down Joe Mack--Alekhin, a Yakut native of Siberia who can anticipate Joe's each move. The novel becomes a duel of pursuit and escape amid fantastic frigidity, until Joe at last returns to captivity so that he can have a final face-out with Alekhin, then rest up for another escape, and eventually settle scores with Zamatev as well. For sheer adventure L'Amour is in top form, though none of his characters has the breath of real life, and nearly all the plot is laughable. Still, marrying elements of today's political suspense novel to survival skills in the Wild West, he's fight on target for a monster crossover best-seller.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1986
Publisher: Bantam