Now, for the first time in a century, Zane Grey’s best-known novel is presented in its original form exactly as he wrote it.
When in the early 1900s Zane Grey took his manuscript to two publishing companies, they rejected it because of the theme of Mormon polygamy, fearing it would offend their readers and subscribers. Then Grey made a special plea to Frederick Duneka, who was vice-president of Harper & Bros. and who had been Mark Twain’s editor at that company. Duneka and his wife read the novel and liked it but feared it would offend some readers. Harper & Bros. agreed to publish a changed version of the novel and purchased both the book and magazine-serial rights. Given the task of executing the necessary editorial changes, a senior editor of the company made changes in tone, diction, and style as well as content. The novel first appeared in nineteen installments in the monthly magazine Field & Stream from January 1912 to July 1913.
Blackstone Audio here presents the original, uncensored, unabridged novel Riders of the Purple Sage, obtained through the Golden West Literary Agency with the cooperation of Zane Grey’s son, Loren Grey, and the Ohio State Historical Society.
In Cottonwoods, Utah, in 1871, a woman stands accused and a man is sentenced to whipping. Into this travesty of small-town justice rides the one man whom the town elders fear. His name is Lassiter, and he is a notorious gunman who's come to avenge his sister's death. It doesn't take Lassiter long to see that this once peaceful Mormon community is controlled by the corrupt Deacon Tull, a powerful elder who's trying to take the woman's land by forcing her to marry him, branding her foreman as a dangerous 'outsider'. Lassiter vows to help them. But when the ranch is attacked by horse thieves, cattle rustlers, and a mysterious masked rider, he realizes that they're up against something bigger, and more brutal, than the land itself.
©2005 Zane Grey, Inc. (P)2010 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“Zane Grey epitomized the mythical West that should have been…The standout among them is Riders of the Purple Sage.” (True West)
“Poignant in its emotional qualities.” (New York Times)
“A powerful work, exceedingly well written.” (Brooklyn Eagle)
"Riders of the Purple Sage" is a classic of Western genre fiction, and I was looking forward to a good cowboy adventure story. It turns out that this is far less an adventure story and much more a morality tale about the abuse of power by religious leadership. The story is set during the era of Utah's pre-statehood 'theocratic democracy' and chronicles the conflicts that arise from attempts to force women into unwanted polygamous marriages and the church's violent efforts of the era to exclude non-Mormons from Utah. When it's done being a morality tale, it's a good old-fashioned romance.
The gunman, Lassiter, one of the most famous characters in Western literature, acts as a contrast to the perverse religiosity of the locals by acting according to his own moral code and sense of justice. He's the original Man in Black.
In the end the characters aren't developed deeply enough for the story to hold together completely. Still, there are a couple of good adventure sequences, beautifully described canyon country of southern Utah, and the bad guys all get what they deserve.
Nice narration by Mark Bramhall, though he's weak on the female voices.
I hardly think that I'm going to make a contribution to the reputation of Zane Grey, but if you have never read anything by him, and you think you "don't like westerns" then pick up this book, because you're in for a surprise.
Set in a time and place that we can't conceive, Grey writes about how people come to find their "true grit" and its impact on their lives and the lives of those around them because of it.
I found myself drawn into the story, the depth of the characters and the intricate weave of life that he creates among them. Grey is a master storyteller. He describes the landscape so well, you can really see it in your mind's eye.
And that's just the surface. You are swept along as the characters begin to question their beliefs, and in many cases abandon them, in others find a particular value in them that makes them stronger people as a consequence.
This is a book I'll read again, and again. There's that much detail and perfect storytelling, that it's more than worth a second or third read.
Buy it, read it, enjoy it, learn from it. What more could you ask for?
An old broad that enjoys books of all types. Would rather read than write reviews though. I know what I like, and won't be bothered by crap.
I enjoyed the story especially the discovery of the secret valley. I didn't care much for the dated treatment of women, however this book isn't as bad as some I have read.
The ending was perfect and well worth waiting for.
Mark Bramhall has the perfect western twang to his voice. He doesn't do as good a job as the women, is horrendous for little Fay and sometimes all the men sound the same, but his voice is a good listen.
I would love to find out what happens next, especially to little Fay!
Zane Grey is an icon of western literature and is a great listen for those who love this genre.
It's getting harder and harder to find good books that aren't filled with foul language and sex. This is a good clean book. A little cheesy at times but give me cheesy over raunchy any day. Maybe I'm a minority as far as that goes but it's getting harder to find a book that I would recommend to my kids that are adults now.
Reader, reviewer, blogger
I do like westerns if the story is a good one. The story here is fine, but you must understand the author's point of view. He was certainly a man of of his time, and the weak women and hardened men were part of that. There is a lot of repetition. The ending is very different from movies made from it. Just when you think it must be over, the author throws in one more thing.
Only if they enjoy pulp fiction and agree to suspend their beliefs about diversity and sexual equality. (Grin)
His women's voices were a little difficult to believe, but his accents and pacing were fine.
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
It is 1871, and twenty-eight-year-old Jane Withersteen has been single-handedly managing the extensive ranch lands, massive herds of cattle and horses, and vital water supply, Amber Spring, her father left her when he died by the village he founded, Cottonwoods, the remotest Mormon border settlement in southern Utah. Due to an “invasion of Gentile settlers and forays of rustlers,” the Mormon communities have become more aggressive and “hard” towards the non-Mormons. "Mormon-born" Jane "was a friend to poor and unfortunate Gentiles" and "wished only to go on doing good and being happy" on her beloved ranch, but in the beginning of the novel Elder Tull, lusting after Jane's beautiful person and rich land and wanting to add her to his harem of wives, has his men punish Bern Venters, a young Gentile rider (cowboy) with whom she is rumored to have formed an engagement. To make Jane see Mormon reason, Tull is about to have his men whip Venters to within an inch of his life and dump him in the wastelands, when her prayer for providential intervention is answered by the timely arrival of Lassiter, the infamous, black-clad Mormon killer.
Can Jane stand strong against the increasingly underhanded efforts of Tull and company to break her and make her obey her church's male leaders ("There'll be a way to teach you what you've never learned")? What will happen to the impossible relationship between Jane and Venters? For what dread purpose has Lassiter come to Cottonwoods? Will Jane be able to seduce his big black guns from him in her quest for peace and love for all men? Can she be true to herself and her heart without being false to her religion and her church? Why does she almost never think or talk about her father? Just what, if any, relationship obtains between the infamous cattle rustling Oldring gang and the Mormon men? And what is the identity of Oldring's lieutenant, the fell Masked Rider?
The novel is better written than the pulp fare I expected. Grey has a good eye and ear for prose. He writes sublime descriptions of glorious sunrises and sunsets in the sage-clad prairies, an Edenic hidden valley, a terrifying storm, a suspenseful horse chase. His characters move through vivid and majestic landscapes: "The sage about him was breast-high to his horse, oversweet with its warm, fragrant breath, gray where it waved to the light, darker where the wind left it still, and beyond the wonderful haze-purple lent by distance." And he's good at laconic cowboy speech, as when Lassiter explains what happened when a Mormon tried to draw a gun on him: "I told him he'd introduced himself sufficient, and to please move out of my vicinity." Grey vividly expresses the sublimity of time via Venters' speculations in a ruined city of ancient cliff-dwellers and dramatically condemns masculine violence via Jane's realization that "Men were blood-spillers. . . . On sea, on land, everywhere--shooting, stabbing, cursing, clashing, fighting men! Greed, power, oppression, fanaticism, love, hate, revenge, justice, freedom--for these, men killed one another." He even plays interesting narrative tricks, leading right up to exciting scenes (like a stampede or a showdown) and then building suspense by having characters recount the action they witnessed rather than showing it happen real time on screen.
For its genre and era, the novel's take on gender and race is intriguing. In the hell of the Utah border country, Jane's promotion of peace and desperate faith in her churchmen reveal her feminine "blindness," but she is, finally, a strong woman (a daughter of Vikings!). Although Bess is an unbelievably innocent girl, she is also "a supreme horseman." If Indians are not demonic villains here, it is because they are present only as 1000-year-old powdery bones and ruins and as similes describing the tracking skills of the white heroes. But although Lassiter groups Indians with children and dogs for being more able to "see things as they appear on the face" than adult whites like Jane, he also recognizes that whites "can't be any higher [than Indians] in the things for which life is lived at all…. Relationship, friendship--love."
Grey's depiction of 19th century Mormonism is less benign. His Mormon men abuse their religious authority to tyrannize their submissive women and do such devious and devilish acts to increase the power and wealth of their church (and of themselves within it) that they make notorious rustlers seem like square-dealing men.
The novel is not without flaws. At times Grey waxes, ahem, purple ("Slumbering, fading purple fire burned over the undulating sage ridges. Long streaks and bars and shafts and spears fringed the far western slope. Drifting, golden veils mingled with low, purple shadows. Colors and shades changed in slow, wondrous transformation) or overwrought ("Would all his labor and his love be for naught? Would he lose her, after all? What did the dark shadow around her portend? Did calamity lurk on that long upland trail through the sage? Why should his heart swell and throb with nameless fear?"), and the "prattle" of little Fay is atrocious ("Why don't oo marry my new mower an' be my favver?"). Despite being emotionally satisfying, the climactic last few chapters upon reflection contain much that is implausible. And Grey stage-manages things so that his heroes are superior gunslingers who only shoot morally reprehensible people who draw on them first.
The reader Mark Bramhall has appealing gravel and emotion in his voice, and all his male characters are just right, but sometimes his women (Jane and Bess) sound too tremulous and sobby (though that is also what Zane Grey's text does to them), and his little Fay is appalling (though that is also what Grey's text does to her).
Finally, Riders of the Purple Sage is absorbing, and people interested in the Western genre should try it, for it is an interesting proto-Shane, with stronger religious and romantic angles.
Very high, marvelous story and a wonderful narration
Lassiter. his total change as a character made him come alive, he was not just some unchanging and unrealistic man often pictured as a western stereotype.
Tull's chase against our heros
Elder Tull. A terrifying, tortuous, and power mad church leader. He exemplified the errors in the first generation of Mormons in Utah and also is a symbol of those men who with 'invisible hands' control things for their own will. A connection to someone like Richelieu is inevitable.
I am a Holy Bible Thumping, God loving, Holy Spirit following Jesus Freak.
Love wins always.
Lassiter because he has a high moral code and love for family, friends, children and eventually God.
It gave me an extreme reaction that dedication ( not religion ) , but closeness to God, love and family always wins.
Yes, I would recommend this book to friends. It is an epic novel of the American west and Mormon corruption.
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