Louis L'Amour, one of America's most prolific storytellers whose frontier tales of gunfighters, lawmen and drifters enthralled millions of readers from waitresses to presidents, has died. He was 80.

The funeral for L'Amour, who died of lung cancer Friday at his Beverly Hills home, will be private, his daughter, Angelique L'Amour, said Sunday night.A few hours before his death,

L'Amour was proofreading the manuscript of his autobiography "Education of a Wandering Man," according to Bantam Books, his publisher of 33 years.

"For millions of readers around the world, Louis was the embodiment of the North American frontier," said Stuart Applebaum, his editor at Bantam.

"They were able to relive our American history and heritage," the editor added. "His books gave pleasure to truck drivers and truck stop waitresses, financiers and presidents of the United States. . . . His work far transcends the Western novel genre."

L'Amour wrote 101 books, nearly all of them Westerns, including "Hondo," "The Iron Marshal," "The Quick and the Dead," "Sackett's Land," "Down the Long Hills" and "Ride the Dark Trail."

Nearly 200 million copies of the books are in print; his works were translated into 20 languages.

More than 45 of his novels and short stories were made into movies, including "Hondo," "Burning Hills," "Heller in Pink Tights" and "Stranger on Horseback." Stars cast in L'Amour Westerns included John Wayne, Natalie Wood and Alan Ladd.

Applebaum noted that perhaps his best-known novel, "How The West Was Won," was based on the movie screenplay.

L'Amour was a writer who paid scrupulous detail to accuracy.

"If he said that the cowboys went over a hill and to the right was Jones Hill, then there was Jones Hill. He researched it from heck to breakfast," retired newspaperman Jack Evans said Sunday.

"He would travel widely to check out the geography, the way people talked," Evans said from his farm in L'Amour's hometown of Jamestown, N.D. "If you start reading his books, you won't quit. It gets ahold of you and grabs you 'til the end. He was that good a writer."

"He always said he was just a storyteller, in the ancient folk tradition of people sitting around the fire, just telling stories," Joseph Wershba, a New York-based television news producer who knew L'Amour for more than a decade.

L'Amour dispelled myths about life in the Old West, such as townfolk fleeing the bad guys. Many of the actual settlers, he noted, were Civil War veterans not afraid of gunplay.