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Sunday, January 31, 2016

An expression of life

“I arise full of eagerness and energy, knowing well what achievement lies ahead of me.” – Zane Grey

Best known for his popular novels of the Old West, Grey idealized the American frontier and wrote some 9 million words in his lifetime.  His 1912 best-seller  Riders of the Purple Sage was the highlight of an amazing 90 books in the genre, many of which had second lives and continuing influence when adapted as films and television productions. Overall, his novels and short stories have been adapted into 112 films, two television episodes, and a television series, The Zane Grey Theater.

Born on this day in 1872, Grey grew up in Zanesville, Ohio, a city founded by his maternal great-grandfather Ebenezer Zane, an American Revolutionary War patriot.  From an early age he was intrigued by history and even though he first chose dentistry for a career, he gravitated to writing about history and the American West.   “Writing was like digging coal,” he said about his early efforts.  “I sweat blood. But the spell was on me.”

Grey struggled to get his work published and actually self-published his first novel.  An editor at Harper & Row, his publisher of choice, consistently rejected him, but when he did “Riders,” and the editor out-of-hand rejected it again, he got an audience with a senior vice president, made an impassioned plea and got the book published.  The rest, as they say, is history – both literally and figuratively.

Besides his Westerns, he wrote 2 hunting books, 6 children’s books, 3 baseball books, and 8 fishing books.   His total book sales – which made him a millionaire many times over – have been over 40 million (still counting).
 A great athlete (he was a star baseball player in college and as a minor league player) and a frequent brawler as a young man, his writing depicting both athleticism and fistfights were often cited by his readers when talking about the "realism" brought out in his books.  “Well, what is writing,” he responded,  “but an expression of my own life?”

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