Reviewing Zane Grey’s Classic’ Riders of the Purple Sage’


I must confess that two things which I have loved are t western films and books of that turbulent period referred to as the ‘wild west’ in American history of the 19th century. This was a period that created legends of its own in the shape of Doc Holiday, Billy the Kid and a host of other characters.

One writer who brought that period alive was Zane Grey. This man has many distinctions. He was the first millionaire writer and his popularity can be gauged from the fact that 34 of his books were published posthumously.

I have read at least 25 of his books, but the book that has made the most profound impression on me is his ‘Riders of the Purple sage’. This novel is written in a racy style and once one starts reading one can’t put it down.

‘Riders of the Purple Sage, ‘is a book that more than any other novel of the Wild West has contributed to making the legend of the Wild West come alive. Just for information the period of the Wild West refers to the period after the American civil war

The book has all the ingredients of a pot boiler with a gunfighter in a black dress, an outlaw boss and a lovely frontier woman torn between love and law. Zane Grey brings these figures alive. This novel of Zane grey is just not a western, but a novel that brings to the fore the deepest emotions of the human heart like love, honor and bravery

The plot runs something like this. There is a young and beautiful girl named Jane Withersteen, who inherits a ranch on the death of her father. The sad part is that the ranch is located in Cottonwoods which is an area dominated by the Mormons.

The Mormons were an offshoot of Christian faith and had some Bizarre customs and rituals that included multiple marriages in the same clan. The story is set in Utah in 1871 when the area was not properly policed.

There is a small rivulet called Amber spring that runs through her property and this is coveted by the Mormon Church. This rivulet supplies all the water to the settlement of the Mormons

The Mormons elders land on the ranch and wish to force Jane to marry another Mormon named Elder Tull. She refuses and the Mormons led by Elder Tull enter her ranch and arrest her foreman. They plan to whip him. A helpless Jane prays to Jesus for deliverance and lo and behold a rider in black appears. He is Lassitor, who is after the Mormons who have abducted his sister.

Zane Grey has created a most masculine and lovable character in Lassitier. A man who is quick on the draw and can fire guns like greased lightning. He is the archetype of the mythical Western gun fighter

The later novelists, who made a name for themselves, based their characters on Lassitor, Zane Grey’s creation. Jane hires Lassitor and she falls in love with him. Zane Grey made his heroines virtuous and lovely and the hero’s masculine, strong and good lovers. Needless to say Lassitor cleans up the murky Mormon dominated settlement and marries Jane

This is one of the finest books of Zane grey. He is still very popular in the States. He is a master story teller who brings the Wild West alive. It is also one of his best sellers and sold millions of copies. The best part is his prose that is simple and direct. He knows how to relate a story.

I have read this book thrice and every time and I have marveled at its grip on the reader. I think it is as a classic of American frontier fiction, colorful and authentic. It caters to the dream of an average man of a beautiful heroine and a strong man. Certainly Zane Grey has carved a niche of his own. Last but not the least Zane Grey has a clientele in India as well.