The Collected Short Stories of Louis L'Amour Volume IV


Balikpapan Borneo

After Shanghai the Steel Worker headed south to Balikpapan, Netherlands East Indies, an oil town on the east coast of the island of Borneo. Once in Balikpapan the bad feelings aboard ship continued, worsened by the heat and the fact that they still had a long voyage ahead of them.

“Once at the Dutch Club, a very nice place in Balikpapan, Borneo, some of the crew got the steward ashore and were going to kill him. Not one of the officers made a move to help, but I talked them out of it, partly because the place was too nice for such activity, and partly because I felt sorry for the poor guy. After that he did feed us an awful lot better. The Dutch Club was the only place in town where you could get a cold beer.”

Then they were on to Soerabya, on Java; Batavia, on Sumatra, and the British colony of Singapore. In Singapore Louis got ashore long enough to hang out at the Maypole Bar near the waterfront and to walk to the book store of Muhammed Dulfakir on the corner of High Street to buy a copy of Kipling’s “Departmental Ditties.”

Louis Copy of Kiplings Departmental Ditties from Singapore

Belawan, the sea port for Medan on Sumatra seems to have been an unscheduled stop but in another book store there . . .

Like any literary work of the medieval age, the Sejarah Melauy has its downright boring moments - the endless genealogies of rulers, every girl must be of peerless beauty, no army or fleet numbers less than "the thousands past counting".... But, on the other hand, the sheer narrative power is electric in many passages. It is most brilliant when the author admires the cunning (cherdek) of the peoples of the peninsula - time after time, the "men of Melaka" are just too clever for the foreigner and there is sheer artistry, wit and humour when the author has his gentle digs at the foreigner (gunting makan di-hujung!). Tales abound of the Melaka men (and women) outwitting, outflanking and befuddling all and sundry - from the Emperor of China to the largest Siamese fleets.

“I first heard of the Sejarah Melayu, otherwise the MALAY ANNALS. The book store was small, with limited facilities, but a curious cross-section of the flimsy, popular magazines and the intellectual. I asked about a story of the area, and the clerk seemed either not to understand or did not wish to reveal his ignorance, but a very tall, very thin man with very black aquiline features mentioned the Sejarah Melayu. He also assured me it was difficult to obtain. A few minutes of discussion found us in a coffee house where we spent the afternoon. The young man was something of a scholar, a Moslem, but one of wide-ranging interests, and he was as I was, lonely for talk of books, writers, and ideas. He had attempted school in India and later in Singapore, and now held some sort of government job in Sumatra, but he was a young man of ideas isolated from others of his kind. He spoke excellent English with a peculiar accent and he explained about the SEJARAH MELAYU. It was a sort of history, a book that had grown from a king list, probably by adding actual historical fact along with folk tales known of the various kings, maharajahs, sultans, etc. beginning with the installation of Seri Turi Buana, said to be a descendant of Alexander the Great, in 1179. . . . The following day I had to return to my duties aboard ship, my brief leave being over. There followed some hours of chipping rust, spotting it with red lead and then repainting with the ship's colors. I managed to get ashore one more time, in the evening, and was taken to my friend's home where he showed me, proudly his small collection of European books. It was then I discovered that he read German and French as well as English. We dined there quietly, with his family about, seemingly charmed and somewhat awed by their strange visitor. They all seemed cut from the same mold, slender, dark people with large, slow moving eyes and gentle voices.”

From there they crossed the strait to the Malay side, visiting Penang and making the slow journey up river to Port Swettenham near Kuala Lumpur. Soon they would be heading west, bound for Arabia and Egypt. (MAP)

Before leaving the Far East there is one last story to be mentioned, “The Dancing Kate.” It is an odd combination of elements, sliding back and forth between the anti-heroic style of Louis’s “personal adventure” or literary fiction and the more heroic hyper-realism of the pulps … it bridges the two worlds in some other ways as well. First of all, it’s locations are set far to the east, off the west coast of New Guinea in an area where it is not known when Louis may have visited. The request of a dying man to transport some money to his daughter causes a character, very much like one of Louis’ various alter egos, to miss his ship and need to attempt an ocean crossing from Bugoiya Harbor to Woodlark island in order to get back with his crew.

Pocklington Reef Pocklington Reef Pocklington Reef

A storm blows him east onto Pocklington Reef, a place that Louis would use as a location in another story (the only remaining piece of which can be found at Louis L'Amour's Lost Treasures) and a very obscure location for a writer in land-locked Oklahoma to use. Ultimately, he is saved by a crew of near-pirates and must fight himself free. The story also contains a character, much mentioned by Louis at various times as a real man … Captain Douglas, who according to Louis ran a trading schooner through much of the East Indies and who Louis worked for as a second mate and book keeper. It’s one of the few times a supposedly real, yet not historical, character appears in Louis’s fiction.

Next Page

The Way West

  • Death Westbound

On The Beach at
San Pedro

  • Old Doc Yak
  • It's Your Move
  • And Proudly Die
  • Survival
  • Show Me The Way To Go Home

S. S. Steel Worker

  • Thicker Than Blood
  • The Admiral


  • Shanghai, Not Without Gestures
  • The Man Who Stole Shakespeare

Dutch East Indies

  • The Dancing Kate
  • Off the Mangrove Coast

North Africa

  • Glorious Glorious!
  • By The Ruins of El Walarieh

Europe and WWII

  • The Cross and the Candle
  • A Friend of the General

Home Again

  • Author's Tea


The Collected Short Stories of Louis L'Amour
Volume IV
The Adventure Stories










Copyright © 2006-2007 Louis L'Amour Enterprises Inc.
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