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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey

A Classic

Set in 1871 and written in 1912, Zane Grey's Riders of the Purple Sage is a classic, perhaps THE classic of the Western genre.

The plot is a little more complicated than most Westerns - it features two concurrent stories. Jane Withersteen is a wealthy Mormon with no husband. Her local church leader (an Elder) wants to marry her, in fact has all but ordered her to do so even though she has no interest in him. Tull orchestrates a plot to have the local Mormons shun her as much as possible (including not working for her) and not help her as rustlers steal entire herds of cattle that are no longer tended.

Zane Grey (1872-1939)
In the meantime, a stranger named Lassiter arrives. He has a reputation as a Mormon-hater and a gunslinger and becomes a defender of Jane Withersteen. Meanwhile, one of her last employees (Venters) goes after a herd of cattle that is being rustled and discovers a secret pass and a secret valley that they have been using. The story splits at this point and largely becomes the story of Venters and the story of Withersteen and Lassiter. The stories come together from time to time until the final culmination.

The question is, of course, does this 99 year old story still hold up after all of these years? Yes, after you get used to the stilted language. Grey is wordy and given to using some phrases over and over again. But, the story is solid and entertaining. There is an exciting chase scene towards the end that is quite riveting.

If you are a fan of Westerns you should take a look at this one - it is the one that set the parameters of the genre.

Note: If you are a member of the LDS church, you will probably be offended by some of Grey's comments about the Mormon church. Grey is not dismissive of the entire church, but he is clearly not a fan of the early Mormon pioneers of Utah, especially the men. He thinks they abused the rules of the religion to manipulate others. On the other hand, Jane Withersteen is a Mormon and she is quite faithful to the ideals of the church, so it is a mixed bag.

I rate this book 4 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey.

Reviewed on November 23, 2011.

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