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About the Author
Zane Grey is noted for his careful research and accurate portrayal of the American West. Grey’s first book was published in 1904, and he went on to write more than 50 novels, most of them tales of adventure with a Western setting, including The Last of the Plainsmen (1908), Riders of the Purple Sage (1912), The Thundering Herd (1925), Code of the West (1934), and West of the Pecos (1937). His nonfiction works includeTales of Fishing (1925). Many of Grey's novels continue to be extremely popular, and several have been adapted into motion pictures.
Read an Excerpt
A sharp clip-clop of iron-shod hoofs deadened and died away, and clouds of yellow dust drifted from under the cottonwoods out over the sage.
Jane Withersteen gazed down the wide purple slope with dreamy and troubled eyes. A rider had just left her and it was his message that held her thoughtful and almost sad, awaiting the churchmen who were coming to resent and attack her right to befriend a Gentile.
She wondered if the unrest and strife that had lately come to the little village of Cottonwoods was to involve her. And then she sighed, remembering that her father had founded this remotest border settlement of southern Utah and that he had left it to her. She owned all the ground and many of the cottages. Withersteen House was hers, and the great ranch, with its thousands of cattle, and the swiftest horses of the sage. To her belonged Amber Spring, the water which gave verdure and beauty to the village and made living possible on that wild purple upland waste. She could not escape being involved by whatever befell Cottonwoods.
That year, 1871, had marked a change which had been gradually coming in the lives of the peace-loving Mormons of the border. Glaze-Stone Bridge-Sterling, villages to the north, had risen against the invasion of Gentile settlers and the forays of rustlers. There had been opposition to the one and fighting with the other. And now Cottonwoods had begun to wake and bestir itself and grow hard.
Jane prayed that the tranquillity and sweetness of her life would not be permanently disrupted. She meant to do so much more for her people than she had done. She wanted the sleepy quiet pastoral days to last always. Trouble between the Mormons and the Gentiles of the community would make her unhappy. She was Mormon-born, and she was a friend to poor and unfortunate Gentiles. She wished only to go on doing good and being happy. And she thought of what that great ranch meant to her. She loved it all-the grove of cottonwoods, the old stone house, the amber-tinted water, and the droves of shaggy, dusty horses and mustangs, the sleek, clean-limbed, blooded racers, and the browsing herds of cattle and the lean, sun-browned riders of the sage.
While she waited there she forgot the prospect of untoward change. The bray of a lazy burro broke the afternoon quiet, and it was comfortingly suggestive of the drowsy farmyard, and the open corrals, and the green alfalfa fields. Her clear sight intensified the purple sage-slope as it rolled before her. Low swells of prairie-like ground sloped up to the west. Dark, lonely cedar-trees, few and far between, stood out strikingly, and at long distances ruins of red rocks. Farther on, up the gradual slope, rose a broken wall, a huge monument, looming dark purple and stretching its solitary, mystic way, a wavering line that faded in the north. Here to the westward was the light and color and beauty. Northward the slope descended to a dim line of cañons from which rose an up-flinging of the earth, not mountainous, but a vast heave of purple uplands, with ribbed and fan-shaped walls, castle-crowned cliffs, and gray escarpments. Over it all crept the lengthening, waning afternoon shadows.
The rapid beat of hoofs recalled Jane Withersteen to the question at hand. A group of riders cantered up the lane, dismounted, and threw their bridles. They were seven in number, and Tull, the leader, a tall, dark man, was an elder2 of Jane's church.
"Did you get my message?" he asked, curtly.
"Yes," replied Jane.
"I sent word I'd give that rider Venters half an hour to come down to the village. He didn't come."
"He knows nothing of it," said Jane. "I didn't tell him. I've been waiting here for you."
"Where is Venters?"
"I left him in the courtyard."
"Here, Jerry," called Tull, turning to his men, "take the gang and fetch Venters out here if you have to rope him."
The dusty-booted and long-spurred riders clanked noisily into the grove of cottonwoods and disappeared in the shade.
"Elder Tull, what do you mean by this?" demanded Jane. "If you must arrest Venters you might have the courtesy to wait till he leaves my home. And if you do arrest him it will be adding insult to injury. It's absurd to accuse Venters of being mixed up in that shooting fray in the village last night. He was with me at the time. Besides, he let me take charge of his guns. You're only using this as a pretext. What do you mean to do to Venters?"
"I'll tell you presently," replied Tull. "But first tell me why you defend this worthless rider?"
"Worthless!" exclaimed Jane, indignantly. "He's nothing of the kind. He was the best rider I ever had. There's not a reason why I shouldn't champion him and every reason why I should. It's no little shame to me, Elder Tull, that through my friendship he has roused the enmity of my people and become an outcast. Besides, I owe him eternal gratitude for saving the life of little Fay."
"I've heard of your love for Fay Larkin and that you intend to adopt her. But-Jane Withersteen, the child is a Gentile!"
"Yes. But, Elder, I don't love the Mormon children any less because I love a Gentile child. I shall adopt Fay if her mother will give her to me."
"I'm not so much against that. You can give the child Mormon teaching," said Tull. "But I'm sick of seeing this fellow Venters hang around you. I'm going to put a stop to it. You've so much love to throw away on these beggars of Gentiles that I've an idea you might love Venters."
Tull spoke with the arrogance of a Mormon whose power could not be brooked and with the passion of a man in whom jealousy had kindled a consuming fire.
"Maybe I do love him," said Jane. She felt both fear and anger stir her heart. "I'd never thought of that. Poor fellow! he certainly needs some one to love him."
"This'll be a bad day for Venters unless you deny that," returned Tull, grimly.
Tull's men appeared under the cottonwoods and led a young man out into the lane. His ragged clothes were those of an outcast. But he stood tall and straight, his wide shoulders flung back, with the muscles of his bound arms rippling and a blue flame of defiance in the gaze he bent on Tull.
For the first time Jane Withersteen felt Venters's real spirit. She wondered if she would love this splendid youth. Then her emotion cooled to the sobering sense of the issue at stake.
"Venters, will you leave Cottonwoods at once and forever?" asked Tull, tensely.
"Why?" rejoined the rider.
"Because I order it."
Venters laughed in cool disdain.
The red leaped to Tull's dark cheek.
"If you don't go it means your ruin," he said, sharply.
"Ruin!" exclaimed Venters, passionately. "Haven't you already ruined me? What do you call ruin? A year ago I was a rider. I had horses and cattle of my own. I had a good name in Cottonwoods. And now when I come into the village to see this woman you set your men on me. You hound me. You trail me as if I were a rustler. I've no more to lose-except my life."
"Will you leave Utah?"
"Oh! I know," went on Venters, tauntingly, "it galls you, the idea of beautiful Jane Withersteen being friendly to a poor Gentile. You want her all yourself. You're a wiving Mormon. You have use for her-and Withersteen House and Amber Spring and seven thousand head of cattle!"
Tull's hard jaw protruded, and rioting blood corded the veins of his neck.
"Once more. Will you go?"
"Then I'll have you whipped within an inch of your life," replied Tull, harshly. "I'll turn you out in the sage. And if you ever come back you'll get worse."
Venters's agitated face grew coldly set and the bronze changed to gray.
Jane impulsively stepped forward. "Oh! Elder Tull!" she cried. "You won't do that!"
Tull lifted a shaking finger toward her.
"That'll do from you. Understand, you'll not be allowed to hold this boy to a friendship that's offensive to your Bishop.3 Jane Withersteen, your father left you wealth and power. It has turned your head. You haven't yet come to see the place of Mormon women. We've reasoned with you, borne with you. We've patiently waited. We've let you have your fling, which is more than I ever saw granted to a Mormon woman. But you haven't come to your senses. Now, once for all, you can't have any further friendship with Venters. He's going to be whipped, and he's got to leave Utah!"
"Oh! Don't whip him! It would be dastardly!" implored Jane, with slow certainty of her failing courage.
Tull always blunted her spirit, and she grew conscious that she had feigned a boldness which she did not possess. He loomed up now in different guise, not as a jealous suitor, but embodying the mysterious despotism she had known from childhood-the power of her creed.
"Venters, will you take your whipping here or would you rather go out in the sage?" asked Tull. He smiled a flinty smile that was more than inhuman, yet seemed to give out of its dark aloofness a gleam of righteousness.
"I'll take it here-if I must," said Venters. "But by God!-Tull, you'd better kill me outright. That'll be a dear whipping for you and your praying Mormons. You'll make me another Lassiter!"
The strange glow, the austere light which radiated from Tull's face, might have been a holy joy at the spiritual conception of exalted duty. But there was something more in him, barely hidden, a something personal and sinister, a deep of himself, an engulfing abyss. As his religious mood was fanatical and inexorable, so would his physical hate be merciless.
"Elder, I-I repent my words," Jane faltered. The religion in her, the long habit of obedience, of humility, as well as agony of fear, spoke in her voice. "Spare the boy!" she whispered.
"You can't save him now," replied Tull, stridently.
Her head was bowing to the inevitable. She was grasping the truth, when suddenly there came, in inward constriction, a hardening of gentle forces within her breast. Like a steel bar it was, stiffening all that had been soft and weak in her. She felt a birth in her of something new and unintelligible. Once more her strained gaze sought the sage-slopes. Jane Withersteen loved that wild and purple wilderness. In times of sorrow it had been her strength, in happiness its beauty was her continual delight. In her extremity she found herself murmuring, "Whence cometh my help!"4 It was a prayer, as if forth from those lonely purple reaches and walls of red and clefts of blue might ride a fearless man, neither creed-bound nor creed-mad, who would hold up a restraining hand in the faces of her ruthless people.
The restless movements of Tull's men suddenly quieted down. Then followed a low whisper, a rustle, a sharp exclamation.
"Look!" said one, pointing to the west.
Jane Withersteen wheeled and saw a horseman, silhouetted against the western sky, come riding out of the sage. He had ridden down from the left, in the golden glare of the sun, and had been unobserved till close at hand. An answer to her prayer!
"Do you know him? Does any one know him?" questioned Tull, hurriedly.
His men looked and looked, and one by one shook their heads.
"He's come from far," said one.
"That's a fine hoss," said another.
"A strange rider."
"Huh! he wears black leather," added a fourth.
With a wave of his hand, enjoining silence, Tull stepped forward in such a way that he concealed Venters.
The rider reined in his mount, and with a lithe forward-slipping action appeared to reach the ground in one long step. It was a peculiar movement in its quickness and inasmuch that while performing it the rider did not swerve in the slightest from a square front to the group before him.
"Look!" hoarsely whispered one of Tull's companions. "He packs two black-butted guns-low down-they're hard to see-black agin them black chaps."
"A gun-man!" whispered another. "Fellers, careful now about movin' your hands."
The stranger's slow approach might have been a mere leisurely manner of gait or the cramped short steps of a rider unused to walking; yet, as well, it could have been the guarded advance of one who took no chances with men.
Reading Group Guide
1. 1. How does blindness, both literal and metaphorical, function in the novel?
2. 2. What is the role of the setting and landscape?
3. 3. What is the significance of the many references to the “unseen hand”?
4. 4. How is the West represented in the novel?
5. 5. Literary critic Jane Tompkins has argued that “metamorphosis is what the novel strives for and enacts at every level. You can see it not only in the relation between character and landscape, but also in the constant boundary-crossing that takes place within and between characters.” Discuss.
6. 6. Whose worldview wins and why?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
To "Do Your Reserach First" I say that YOU should do your research first into Mormon history before commenting on a novel that even Mormon historians and artists hail as a great work of American literature. I am a Mormon, a BYU graduate and a Mormon historians myself. Every point you made about 19th century Utah Mormon culture, church governments and history in your review below is incorrect. Obviously you are either an LDS convert or you've done little if any reserach into your own history. The so-called "Avenging Angels" (Danites) of Pioneer Utah WERE a reality. Bill Hickman and Porter Rockwell were among the most famous of them--and among the most famous (and violent) Gun fighters of the old West. You also seem to overlook that the portrayal of the Mormons in "Riders of the Purple Sage" is mostly positive. The heroin IS a Mormon and REMAINS a Mormon. Since the novel is set in 1870's Utah where 99% of the population was Mormon, it makes complete sense that both the "Good guys" and the "bad guys" in the novel should BOTH be Mormons. When I attended Brigham Young University in the 1980s and took a class in Mormon Literature, "Riders of the Purple Sage" was required reading.
Zane Grey spent a great deal of his life living in "Mormon Country" (the Rocky Mountain states where Mormons then made up the majority of the population.) He knew what he was writing about.
Now for everyone else reading this: If you want to know the origin of the Western novel read "Riders of the Pruple Sage." It is THE book that created the genre. (And other Mormons should be proud that the FIRST American Western is a Mormon story. Mormons were--after all--the first white Americans to settle in the western states.)
The rugged West was once a great hunger for the United States. The Western was gobbled up by young and old and the spirit of adventure was very much alive. As time has progressed and technology has sped up all processes to hyper speed - the West and its adventure have become dusty and old. As I get older, I yearn for the 'old days' and crave to know what it was like to live in the time of the pioneers. Reading Riders of the Purple Sage allowed me to take a glimpse into a rough and tumble past and explore a region and time I will never get to experience. Its hard to imagine a time when the law of the land was the one with the biggest gun and the best shooting. Or a time when women had few, if any options to them and were essentially at the mercy of the men around them. As fascinating as the characters in the book - what I got from Riders of the Sage was the raw majesty of the land surrounding them. The Sage, the cliffs, the towns became characters for me within the book. Even if I were to travel to the far flung areas that were once the border of the Western frontier; it would not be the same. Time and technology will have invariably changed it as it has all of the world. Zane Grey brought to life the stark nature of the West and its people. I think it is time for us to explore a little bit of what we once were as a country - even if it is through a little great fiction. Zane Grey had a great way of capturing the West and giving us a glimpse into how it was won. While many who read the book might rail at the portrayal of Mormonism - I didn't really see it as a study of the religion. Merely one viewpoint of Mormonism at the time. I found meaning in the 10,000 foot view as it were - and saw it as a great 'study' of the West.
This was the first of three Zane Grey books that I read in the last month. Having visited the south west recently for the first time, these books really came alive for me. I plan to read every Zane Grey book that I can get my hands on and reccommend his books highly.
Westerns are not my thing, but the author uses beautiiful language. Ending is a bit sudden, but made me interested in the sequel, "the Rainbow Bridge."
My father, who is 104, loves Zane Grey and loved this book. With the large print it made it easy for him to read and enjoy. He loves to read these books over and over and I am sure this one will be read many times. The paperback version was a lot easier for him to handle as well.
I read this book when I was in college as part of a course on Specialty Writing. Zane Gray and Louis L'Amour were both held up as the writers who defined the genre of the Western. Not only is this a great novel, it IS a historically accurate one! Notwithstanding people who want to ignore the often extremely bloody history of the Mormon church, this book simply tells it like it is! Zane writes this books against the backdrop of a religion that had Avenging Angels to enforce the will of Brigham Young. That's even in the Mormon written histories! These weren't just a few 'excommunicated' renegades. No! These were sanctioned bullies who killed and beat and burned their way into history. Let's not forget that the United States government sent troops to deal with the polygamous tyrants who ran Utah. That was the Utah War. We should not rewrite history to make certain folks feel better. That's not right. If we can talk about the Spanish Inquisition for the Catholics or the murder of innocent men, women, children and religious by King Henry the 8th or the cruelties supported by the Southern Baptists during the Jim Crow days down South, then I'm afraid that a well written, novel on a bunch of bully boys is in order too. This is a well done novel full of suspense and action and TRUTH with only the names changed to protect the very guilty.
Love the setting
The type on this version is too small. When I bumped the font size up one notch it was then too big. I don't recommend this version. Buy the $0.99 version instead.
Loved the descriptions of nature and of humanity. In true American style story telling, the ending was a happy one.
I was looking to learn about action writing. There were some examples in climbing rocks and horse riding, but the logic of the novel fell apart for me and I stopped.
For all its fame as a western novel, this is really a love story (two, actually) that never quite makes it to being a tragedy.A soap opera in which everyone turns out to be something more than they appear at first, this was a bit of a surprise at first, but I was rooting for the good guys the whole way through. Disturbing bit of writing - two of the main 'western confrontation' scenes, in which the good guys ride to town to confront the bad guys, are told by secondary characters after the fact. Disappointing use of the narrative, to say the least.
I found this book to be, first and foremost, anti-Mormon, and I am not Mormon.
This book sold 1 million copies in 1912 at the height of an anti-Mormon fever.Today, it seems bigoted and bombastic. However, the descriptions of Southern Utah mesa country and feats of horsemanship are great.
A while ago I received a copy of the Oxford World¿s Classics catalogue inviting me to ask for any books I¿d like to review on my blog. Where to start! I could have chosen hundreds, but one in particular leapt out at me from a genre I¿d never read before.The evocative title has a lot to do with it (and there¿s a band called New Riders of the Purple Sage). I grew up with Westerns ¿ The Virginian, Alias Smith & Jones and The High Chapparal on TV, John Wayne and Clint Eastwood on film. Having worked in a library for my Saturday job in the late 1970s, I had heard of Zane Grey, Louis Lamour, JT Edson and others ¿ they were quite popular then, so the author¿s distinctive name did ring a bell. Indeed, I¿ve enjoyed modern novels in a similar vein too ¿ Cormac McCarthy¿s Border Trilogy was superb. Could this book, one of the originals in the genre, hold its own against all the above?Pearl Zane Grey (his real name) was born in Ohio in 1872. He won a baseball scholarship to Penn where he studied dentistry ¿ but he always wanted to become a writer. He was a bit of a lad too, and would often disappear off hunting, fishing or visiting old girlfriends! However, with his wife¿s help, he developed his writing career. Inspired by another classic western novel The Virginian by Owen Wister, Riders as I¿ll call it for short, was Grey¿s greatest novel; published in 1912 it was fairly early in his long career which made him a millionaire.The first few paragraphs set the scene beautifully¿"A sharp clip-clop of iron-shod hoofs deadened and died away, and clouds of yellow dust drifted from under the cottonwoods out over the sage.Jane Withersteen gazed down the wide purple slope with dreamy and troubled eyes. A rider had just left her and it was his message that held her thoughtful and almost sad, awaiting the churchmen who were coming to resent and attack her right to befriend a Gentile.She wondered if the unrest and strife that had lately come to Cottonwoods was to involve her. And then she sighed, remembering that her father had founded this remotest border settlement of southern Utah and that he had left it to her. She owned all the ground and many of the cottages. Withersteen House was hers, and the great ranch, with its thousands of cattle, and swiftest horses of the sage. To her belonged Amber Spring, the water which gave verdure and beauty to the village and made living possible on that wild purple upland waste. She could not escape being involved by whatever befell Cottonwoods."That was enough to totally transport me into this frontier world ¿ after a mere few pages I was totally hooked. You can see the landscape with its sagebrush, and coppery red canyons in the distance. What was particularly surprising, is that the main character is a woman ¿ a strong one at that; but also that even in the frontier villages of the wild west there is intolerance ¿ here between the Mormons and the Gentiles.Jane, being an heiress, is under immense pressure to wed the Mormon preacher, and he and his men don¿t like the friendship she has with Bern Venters. They drive Venters out of town so to speak, but Jane is saved from enforced marriage by the arrival of the gunman Lassiter who stays to help, and has a quest of his own. The Mormons plan a war of attrition on Jane ¿ their women spy on her, their men stop working for her, and one of her herds of cattle is rustled. Jane struggles with her religion, finding it hard to see evil, and always wanting to look after her folk, but it¿s not until she adopts an orphan child of one of her tenants that her eyes are opened and she lets herself find true love. Meanwhile Venters who is hiding in the canyons, discovers the rustlers base of operations, and shoots one of them known as the Masked Rider ¿ the identity of whom is another story.I won¿t tell you any more of the plot to save spoiling it, but this novel has a bit of everything you could expect from a Western ¿ cowboys, horses, rustlers, preachers,
They used poor software to scan. Many unreadable passages
Strong characters and a believable story without a definitive ending that leaves one's imagination to finish the story, I loved it.
What a delightful read! ~*~LEB~*~
Pretty brown she cat walks in "may I join? My name is nightfall. Im sort of related to skyfall"
Sits his tail curled around his paws
A feiry ginger she cat walks in with flaming wings "im here to join" she snarls folding in her wings
Heyo who is leader
Entertaining and memorable, but I'll never recommend it. My main complaint is that Zane Grey only knows one way to describe the sage: it's purple. And if I have to read "and close forever the outlet to Deception Pass" I will gouge out my eyes. When writers use a phrase like that enough that I notice it, it is a bad thing. I read this because I recently discovered the western genre and Zane Grey's name is plastered all over recommended western lists and apparently this is his best western. If that's so, I don't think I'll be reading another of his books. Elmore Leonard wrote way better Westerns. As a Mormon, I would have been a little offended at his depiction of my religion if it weren't so laughably inaccurate. I'm not denying that after being driven out of the United States by mobs and into the middle of nowhere, some men may have violently defended their rights. And maybe they got used to that and ended up going too far. And there may have been corrupt leaders, but it's like Grey had only heard of a religious group called Mormons who settled the desert and who practiced polygamy. And that's where his knowledge stopped. The rest he made up to tell a story. So if you read this book, remember Grey was not a Mormon and take his depiction with a grain (or the whole shaker) of salt. Whatever. The general plot was pretty good and the imagery was great. I liked how some people died you wish hadn't and some lived who you wished had died. They were all pretty much only really minor characters, but a story where only the bad guys die and all the good guys live isn't really a great story. Some things were predictable, like all the relationships (especially the four main protagonists), the horse situation and the last page or so. Totally saw that coming, except Lassiter's mood swing. What? Considering what he was doing during that chapter up to that point, that seems like an unlikely - and radical - change of character, especially in light of their imminent situation. Actually that whole last chapter could be skipped. The action is decent, but there's a character who shows up for no good reason. Grey really forced that person's appearance. And the book ends so abruptly it's uncomfortable. You know what else he forced? *SPOILER ALERT* Lassiter liked to roll stones when he was younger. Who cares? That's a weird detail to share with someone you met once a couple of months ago. And the story would work fine without it. But really, it's a pretty good story. I felt like it was a western romance instead of the western adventure I expected, but still good. Also, the edition I have didn't have a map, which would have been nice to have when following Venters' story. So if you can, get a copy with a map.
This was the first Zane Grey book I've read (my father used to read them) but this one caught my eye and once started, I couldn't stop. Excellent writer.
enjoyed this book. Kept me interested all the way through and on edge waiting to see what would happen next.