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THE BEST...THE BEAUTIFUL...AND THE BIZARRE | That's
L'Amour | SO SOCAL

The Mild, Mild West

November 08, 1998|A. Grey Le Cuyer

The Louis L'Amour Library above Billy Martin's Western wear shop on Sunset Plaza can hardly be called a traditional library. There is no circulation desk, no library cards, no rowdy teenagers gawking over National Geographics. There aren't even any National Geographics. There is, however, housed in a quintessential "man's" room redolent of wood and musky leather, a fine collection of books--all by famed and prolific Western writer L'Amour. You can't check the books out, but you're certainly more than welcome to buy one or, while you're at it, the entire leather-bound set. Say, what the heck kind of library is this, anyway?

"We actually call it more of a pictorial library," clarifies Carroll Neal, vice president for Billy Martin's. That would explain all those photos chronicling L'Amour's life and travels that line the stairs and cover the walls, but what about the boots and sweaters laid out in high fashion? Well, a couple of years back, Billy Martin's--which has catered to the diehard urban cowboy on the Sunset Strip since 1994--redesigned the prime space above its shop as a sort of semiprivate lounge for its customers. With the odd polished one-armed bandit and sundry cinematic saloon props thrown in, it is the height of gentrified cowboy decor.

Apparently, Doug Newton, Billy Martin's owner and ardent L'Amour fan, ran into L'Amour's widow, Kathy, and the two hit it off, thinking the library would be "a neat thing to do," Neal says. With L'Amour titles (including "West of Dodge" and "The Lonely Men") having sold more than 260 million copies, and with none of his 116 books out of print, according to son Beau L'Amour, interest in the author's work is hardly flagging. Not that you're likely to see many of his enthusiasts hanging out in these stacks--or, for that matter, a waitress from across the street at Chin-Chin's curled up on a horsehair sofa catching up on cowboy lit.

"We certainly have high-profile customers," Neal allows, though she declines to name names. "If they--or whoever's shopping--need to come up and make phone calls and feel more comfortable, that's the kind of place it is."

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