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Zane Grey

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Zane Grey was a celebrated twentieth century American author, famous for writing pulp fiction, adventure novels and stories. Most of his literary works were set in an idealized American frontier. One of his key work is Riders of the Purple Sage (1912).

Born on January 31, 1872, in Zanesville, Ohio, he was given the name Pearl Zane Grey inspired by the description of mourning clothes of Queen Victoria in a newspaper.  He was raised in Zanesville, the same town his mother’s ancestors built. Grey developed keen interest in sports, fishing and writing from an early age. He was a voracious reader of adventure stories. His favorite books were Robinson Crusoe and Leatherstocking Tales. Moreover, he was a remarkable baseball player for which he won scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania. Here, he studied dentistry fulfilling his father’s wish. For a while, he played with a minor-league in West Virginia.

Grey practiced dentistry intermittently and often went on fishing trips to Pennsylvania. During his trips he met his future wife, Lina Roth. In fact, she helped him write his first fishing story, “A Day on the Delaware”, published in 1902. A year later he wrote his debut novel, Betty Zane, which to his dismay was rejected by the publishers. The novel follows the heroic tale of the ancestors who helped save Fort Henry. His lucid style of writing is deemed one of chief characteristics of his works.

In 1905, Grey got married and moved to a farmhouse in Lackawaxen with his wife. He grew increasingly fond of Old West during his expeditions to Arizona which later served as the setting for his novels. His wife continued to support his writing career and edited numerous of his manuscripts. Grey gained popularity with the publication of his first western novel, Heritage of the Desert, in 1910. Subsequently, he penned one of the highly acclaimed Western novels. Riders of the Purple Sage is considered to be a milestone in his writing career. Grey focused on the concept of Manifest Destiny in his novels and also explored the realm of wildlife and men’s response when exposed to elemental conditions.

Furthermore, Grey founded a motion picture company which he later sold to the founder of Paramount Pictures. As to honor him, Paramount Pictures adapted several of his literary works. Eventually, he became one of the millionaire American authors. His love of adventures rendered him to continue his expeditions which he later fictionalized in his works. Although his popularity grew exponentially, the critics had varying opinions regarding Grey’s Western novels. They were of the view that he did a grave injustice to the old west with its wrongful depiction. The Western world in his novels was far too fanciful, barbaric and against the moral realities. The characters come across as unrealistic and idealistic. His serialized novel The Vanishing American (1925) also became a topic of heated debate among certain religious groups.

Zane Grey authored over ninety books in his lifetime. Some of these were published posthumously and others were serialized in the magazine. Some of his major works include Spirit of the Border (1906), The Lone Star Ranger (1915), To the Last Man (1921) and Forlorn River (1927). Most of his work was adapted into 112 films made during 1911 and 1996. He died of heart failure on October 23, 1939, and was buried at the Union Cemetery in his hometown.

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