Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Western Wednesday: Zane Grey, America's Storyteller

Western Wednesday: Zane Grey, America's Storyteller 

Part of my research for stories includes reading books from the time period I’m investigating, and I recently came across the works of Zane Grey while preparing for a series I’ll be releasing in 2022. I had heard of him, along with Louis L’Amour, as two of the best authors in classic western literature. The more I dug, the more intrigued I became. 
Pearl Zane Gray was born on January 31, 1872 in Zanesville, Ohio, a town founded by his mother’s ancestors. (Spelling of the family name was changed from Gray to Grey sometime in the late 1890s.) As a boy, he would hear stories of his forebear’s adventures as pioneers in America’s “First West,” the Ohio Valley. He would later novelize their stories and those of other homesteaders as well as ranchers, cowhands, buffalo hunters, soldiers, and gamblers as the migration westward continued. 
As a young man, Zane was an excellent baseball player whose abilities led to a scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania. He chose dentistry to please his father and graduated in 1896, but chose to play amateur baseball for several seasons, practicing his dentistry intermittently. In addition, he loved the outdoors and found great joy in fishing. He discovered the town of Lackawaxen, Pennsylvania and visited often. 
It was during one of his visits to Lackawaxen in 1900 that he met Lina Elise “Dolly” Roth, eleven years
his junior, while canoeing near the Delaware House, a boarding house on the river. By this time, he’d been writing, but had yet to find success. Dolly encouraged him to continue his efforts, and in 1902 his first article was published, “A Day on the Delaware,” in Recreation magazine. The following year he wrote, illustrated, and published his first novel, Betty Zane, with money from his sister-in-law Reba Grey. 
Dolly and Zane married in 1905, and he left dentistry to pursue his writing full-time. They settled in Lackawaxen, and the following year visited the Grand Canyon, Zane’s first trip out west. Times were lean as he tried to establish himself as an author. Using the last of Dolly’s inheritance, he went on a hunting expedition with Western conservationist Charles “Buffalo” Jones. He wrote about his experience in The Last of the Plainsmen which was published by Outing Press in 1908 and marked a turning point in his career. 
The Heritage of the Desert
came out in 1910, and his most famous work, Riders of the Purple Sage was published in 1912. By 1915, Zane had fifteen books in print along with many fishing and outdoor adventure articles and serialized stories. His success allowed him to purchase a home in Altadena, California and a hunting lodge on the Mogollon Rim near Payson, Arizona. Each year, he spent several months gathering experiences, then he would return home and craft his stories into tales for serialization, magazine articles, or a novel. 
Being in California allowed Zane to work closely with the motion picture industry which had begun producing films based on his novels. A prolific writer, he wrote ninety books before his death. Another twenty manuscripts were published posthumously. His novels and short stories have been adapted into 112 films, two television episodes, and a television series. 

Have you read any of his books? 

A brand-new widow, she doesn’t need another man in her life. He’s not looking for a wife. But when danger thrusts them together, will they change their minds...and hearts? 
Hannah Lauman’s husband has been murdered, but rather than grief, she feels...relief. She decides to remain in Georgia to work their gold claim, but a series of incidents makes it clear someone wants her gone...dead or alive. Is a chance at being a woman of means and independence worth risking her life? 

Jess Vogel never breaks a promise, so when he receives a letter from a former platoon mate about being in danger, he drops everything to help his old friend. Unfortunately, he arrives just in time for the funeral. Can he convince the man’s widow he’s there for her protection not for her money? 
Gold Rush Bride: Hannah is the first book in the exciting series Gold Rush Brides. Steeped in romance, intrigue, and history, the story will keep you turning pages long into the night.

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