Zane Grey


Zane Grey that is. He was born on January 31, 1872. Ask someone to name an author of Westerns, and Zane Grey is probably the name that will come up.  

His full name was Pearl Zane Grey, but he stopped using that first name as an adult; he took enough bullying about it as a boy. He was an adventurer, an athlete (went to the U of Pennsylvania on a baseball scholarship), and especially a fisherman; fishing was his greatest passion. He was trained as a dentist but took up the profession only half-heartedly. Quickly devoted himself to writing. 

He published “Riders of the Purple Sage” in 1912. It wasn’t his first novel, but it was his most successful by far. And it has been one of the most successful Westerns, period. Again, ask someone for the title of a Western, and this may be the one that comes up. (I think maybe part of the allure is the title. Purple? Purple sage? I think of sagebrush as silvery gray-green.) Google ‘Images’ for the title of the novel and see how many various editions of the work have been produced. Zane Grey became one of the first millionaire authors, back when a million dollars was still a lot of money. And he wrote everything in longhand. 

Grey wrote more than 90 books, mostly Westerns. But he also wrote two hunting books, six children’s books, three baseball books, and eight fishing books. More than 100 movies were made based on his stories; five film versions of “Riders of the Purple Sage” alone were produced. Sales of his books surpassed 40 million.

Grey died on October 23, 1939.