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.

19 comments:

Kathleen said...

Zane Grey always has been one of my favorite authors. I've read almost all of his books. My favorite? Robbers Roost. Grey gave one of the minor characters in that story one of the best names in the history of western fiction, IMO: Sparrowhawk Latimer.

Thanks for the post, Paty! I enjoyed reading about the man behind the books. So many well-known writers seem to have had tortured souls.

Paty Jager said...

Kathleen, I found the fact he suffered numerous rejections and then severe criticism after he published and yet was one of the richest authors of that time, living exclusively off his writing. He was indeed a wonderful writer.

Jennie Marsland said...

I grew up on Zane Grey. My favourite was, and still is, Riders of the Purple Sage. I loved Lassiter and Jane, and his descriptions of the West made me long to see it. It sn't surprising that so many of his characters were tortured souls. Buck Duane comes to mind.

Calisa Rhose said...

My sister and I fell hard for the Sackett boys as teens and were able to accumulate every single one before our twenties. I admired Zane for his writing bravery.

Thanks, Paty. I really enjoyed this!

Caroline Clemmons said...

I hope his rotten father lived long enough to see his success.

Paty Jager said...

Hi Jennie! He was a great western author to emulate.

Calisa, I agree!

Caroline, I don't think he did since the mother moved in with Zane and his wife.

ellaquinnauthor said...

I guess his wife thought to be fore warned was to be forearmed.

Gerri Bowen said...

I read Zane Grey when I was a teenager, Paty! My father and mother read them, so the books were there. I also got them out of the library when I was older. I remember I loved his descriptions of out West, I felt I was there. His conversations...not so good.

Paty Jager said...

Ella, LOL- I guess so.

HI Gerri! His descriptions were so wonderful because he kept scrupulous notes during his travels about the west.

Liz Flaherty said...

I read him, too, but didn't know any of this about him. What an interesting post.

Patricia Preston said...

Enjoyed the bio. I never knew anything about him. His wife deserves kudos.

P.L. Parker said...

Growing up, our house always had the latest Zane Grey. My did loved his stories, I think he probably has a complete set if the truth were known. I still pick one up every so often and read it. Great and interesting post.

Paty Jager said...

Liz, It is interesting to learn what formed a writer into who they are and the words they put on a page.

Patricia, I agree. His wife was special.

P.L., Thanks! Glad you stopped in.

Sandra Dailey said...

Zane Grey wrote fiction, but he conveyed the sights, sounds and flavor of the old west in a way that brings it to life. His stories will inspire many more westerns for future generations.

Kathy Otten said...

I used to read Zane Grey during history class. My favorite was Rogue River Fued, which was more of a vintage than a western.

Paty Jager said...

Sandra, Zane was applauded for his portrayal of the western landscape it was his over the top characters that he took the most heat for.

Hi Kathy! I don't think there's a western author who hasn't read a Zane Grey book.

Sarah Raplee said...

Loved his books! What an amazing woman his wife must have been.

Linda Hope Lee said...

Paty,

Interesting post. I have not read Zane Grey, but I am learning about his stories through my husband, who reads them. He tells me the plots. One of these days I am going to read one myself. We watched the movie Robbers' Roost the other night on TV.

Linda

Paty Jager said...

Hi Sarah, I agree. He was indeed lucky to have a wife who stood beside him and took care of the things he didn't care about.

Hi Linda, thank you. I'll admit I haven't read all of his books but I found his life interesting.