Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Wednesday Western - Zane Grey
Another well known author of westerns is Zane Grey. His given name was Pearl Zane Grey and he was born in Zanesville, Ohio January 31, 1872. He was the fourth of five children. His maternal grandfather founded Zanesville and this connection to the past was one of the reasons he enjoyed studying history. His other passions were writing, fishing, and baseball.
Growing up, Zane was involved in many brawls. Some thought he brawled due to the beating he received from his father, but even though his father forbid him to have contact with another man, Muddy Miser. Zane had a five year relationship with the man who taught him how to fish and play baseball. He became the father figure his own father couldn't be.
Zane enjoyed reading adventure stories and when at the age of fifteen he penned his own adventure story, his father tore it up and beat him. His love of baseball and athletic ability awarded him a college scholarship to The University of Pennsylvania.
His grades were mediocre but his ball playing moved him up to the minor leagues. While he loved baseball and writing, he knew he had to be practical and graduated with a degree in dentistry, like his father. He set up practice in New York, knowing the competition would be stiff but wanting to be near the publishing houses.
In 1900, he met seventeen-year-old Lina Roth(known as Dolly), a daughter of a physician.
After a passionate and quarrelsome relationship married in 1905. Grey suffered depression, anger, and mood swings his whole life. He once said of his state, “A hyena lying in ambush—that is my black spell! I conquered one mood only to fall prey to the next...I wandered about like a lost soul or a man who was conscious of imminent death."
During his courtship to Dolly, he told her, "But I love to be free. I cannot change my spots. The ordinary man is satisfied with a moderate income, a home, wife, children, and all that....But I am a million miles from being that kind of man and no amount of trying will ever do any good." He added, "I shall never lose the spirit of my interest in women."
When they married and moved to Lackawaxen, Pennsylvania, Zane's mother and sister moved in with them. Zane eventually gave up practicing dentistry and began writing. Dolly took care of the children, the home and the finances while Zane wandered about writing and philandering. She knew about his mistresses and didn't seem to mind. She even negotiated Zane's book contracts. She had a head for finances and didn't mind her husband's wayward ways. He appreciated her management of his career, their family, her emotional support, and her editorial prowess. She split all his earnings 50/50 with her half being used to support the family.
They eventually moved to Altadena, California and bought a mansion. In 1910 The Heritage of the Desert was Zane's first book to be published. It was a best seller. This was after being rejected many times. One of his comments from back during his rejections reflects what authors feel these days: "That which I desire to write does not seem to be what the editors want..."
Zane went on to write 60+ books and short stories and had 21 movies and Television shows made from his books. He took scrupulous notes when traveling to describe the areas and built bigger than life characters. He received many bad reviews and criticism over his bawdy description of the old west and "over the top" violence. But he only came back with the fact readers were buying his books and reading them and directors were making movies out of his stories. But given his depressions and mood swings reading bad reviews would put him in a funk for long periods of time.
Zane was one of the first millionaire authors and he inspired many Western writers who followed him.He was a major force in shaping the myths of the Old West.