26 November 2008

Six years later

Back in 2002, I wrote that I'd read more of Zane Grey's novels. Well, six years later I've finally read another. I found Riders of the Purple Sage in The Book Peddler in West Yellowstone, Montana last July.

The cover advertises (above the author's name) "THE ONLY UNCUT, UNCENSORED EDITION!" It might also say it's UNEDITED.

Like most of Grey's fiction, it was serialized in Field and Stream before being published as a book. Undoubtedly, when the book was published, changes were made. I suspect that the censorship charge is aimed at Mormon influences. Grey is not kind to Mormons and the Mormon church in this book.

Well, maybe there were political forces behind the editing, but restored to its full extent (based on a hand-written manuscript found in the Ohio State Historical Society library), it's a complicated novel.

There are at least two stories being told. They are related in the sense that the characters are involved in more than one. But one of the main stories really gets in the way of telling the other. At one time or another during the book, each of the stories goes off on its own for a long time. Then, there are times when they intersect and sort of merge, but not always in ways that are helpful to telling either story. Not having read the edited or censored version, I cannot tell if the novel got better or worse because of the editing.

The better-told of the primary stories is a good romance, but hardly believable. The other is full of mysterious twists and turns that are never well-explained. The heroic characters are well-drawn, admirable, and likable. The villians are sketchily described and their motives are never well-explained. I guess we're just supposed to know, from our experience with melodramas, what the bad guys are like and why.

Riders of the Purple Sage is Grey's most famous book. It's been made into movies four or five times. It's described as one of the first novels of Western fiction, originally published in 1912.

To me, it wasn't as good as Forlorn River. But, I'm tempted to look for another of Grey's romance Westerns for a rainy or snowy day. It would be better in winter than a football game or a golf match on TV.

Download the book from Project Guttenberg

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