Of the more than a hundred novels written by Louis L'Amour, the premier storyteller of Western-genre fiction, few are as important as the Sackett series; and no entry in that series may be as plain good and fulfilling to read as The Daybreakers. First published in 1960, this compact epic (only 204 pages in paperback) propound the classic L'Amour morality and moral perspective like no other. The good people do good, the bad people do bad, and the best are simply the best. Along the way, there is a healthy dose of plain-spoken didacticism, coming as close as L'Amour ever got to expounding a philosophical position.
The Daybreakers is told from the perspective of Tyrel Sackett, younger brother of the large and honey-voiced Orrin Sackett. At the start, Tyrel shoots a man dead to save Orrin, and the consequences launch them on a cross-country odyssey. They collect two staunch friends, the grizzled Cap Rountree and the erstwhile Tom Sunday. Starting off as drovers in the employ of a rancher driving cattle to Texas, they settle down to become ranchers in their own right, eventually growing prosperous. Orrin becomes a town marshall and is well on his way to becoming an elected politician. This drives a wedge between him and Tom, and Tyrel must intervene to save his brother again.
L'Amour depicts the old West as a land of sharp moral divisions and clear dichotomies. In his writing, a man is either good or bad, nothing can be done to change him, and the good men always prevail. This can be irritating to contemporary readers who are more accustomed to morally ambiguous protagonists, lovable villains, and flawed characters with redeeming qualities. In The Daybreakers, however, L'Amour handles the good versus bad distinction more deftly and with greater subtlety than he usually does. His remarkable narrator is inspiring for not only being supremely good at heart but the most competent of perhaps all L'Amour's many heroes. Tyrel Sackett has a quick gun, a good mind, a sharp eye, and such an unshakeable sense of what is right that it's hard to see him as the caricature he likely is.
Fans of L'Amour and Western fiction in general will likely love this book. For those unfamiliar with L'Amour's writing and Westerns, The Daybreakers is a worthy introduction to a well-populated genre of entertaining fiction.
NOTE: This novel is not to be confused with the recent zombie movie of the same title, which is set in 2017.