|Born:||January 31, 1872 |
|Died:||October 23, 1939 |
Zane Grey (January 31, 1872 – October 23, 1939) was an American author best known for his popular adventure novels and pulp fiction that presented an idealized image of the rugged Old West.
Pearl Zane Gray was born in Zanesville, Ohio. (He would later drop his first name, and his family changed their name to Grey.) Growing up in Zanesville, a city founded by a maternal ancestor Ebenezer Zane, he developed interests in fishing, baseball and writing, all which would later contribute to his acclaim. He attended the University of Pennsylvania on a baseball scholarship, where he studied dentistry and joined Sigma Nu fraternity; he graduated in 1896. During that time, while playing baseball over the summer in Delaware, he was charged with, and quietly settled, a paternity suit, foreshadowing future womanizing behavior. He went on to play minor league baseball with a team in Wheeling, West Virginia. Additionally, his brother, Romer Carl Grey, played briefly in 1903 for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
While sporadically practicing dentistry, he often visited Lackawaxen, Pennsylvania, to fish the upper Delaware River. It was there where he met Lina Roth, better known as "Dolly", whom he would later marry. With her help and supported in part by her inheritance, he began to focus more on his writings, publishing his first fishing story in 1902. When they married in 1905, they moved to a farmhouse in Lackawaxen. While his wife managed his career and raised their children, Grey often spent months away from her, fishing, writing, and spending time with his many mistresses. While Dolly knew of his behavior, she seemed to view it as a handicap rather than a choice, and she did not blame him for it.
The Greys moved to Altadena, California in 1920 spurred by the memory of a visit during their honeymoon. In 1920, Grey bought a prominent mansion on Millionaire's Row (Mariposa Street) built by Chicago business machine manufacturer Arthur Woodward. Designed by architects Myron Hunt and Elmer Grey (no relation to the author), the 1907 Mediterranean style house is acclaimed as the first fireproof home in Altadena, built of solid concrete as prescribed by Woodward's wife, Edith Norton Woodward who lost friends in Chicago's Iroquois Theater Fire of 1903. Grey summed up his feelings for Altadena with a quote still used to this day in that city: "In Altadena, I have found those qualities that make life worth living."
He became especially interested in the West in 1907, after joining a friend on an expedition to trap mountain lions in Arizona. Grey wrote steadily, but it was only in 1910, and after considerable efforts by his wife, that his first western, Heritage of the Desert, became a bestseller. It propelled a career churning out popular novels about manifest destiny and the "conquest of the Wild West." Two years later he produced his best-known book, Riders of the Purple Sage (1912). He formed his own motion picture company, but in a few years sold it to Jesse Lasky who was a partner of the founder of Paramount Pictures. Paramount would make a number of movies based on his writings.
It is also speculated that two of his creations, Lone Star Ranger (a novel later turned into a 1930 film) and King of the Royal Mounted (popular as a series of big little books and comics, later turned into a 1936 film), were later used as an inspiration for two radio series by George Trendle (WXYZ, Detroit) which later made the transition to television - The Lone Ranger and Challenge of the Yukon (Sgt. Preston of the Yukon on TV).
He became one of the first millionaire authors. Over the years his habit was to spend part of the year traveling and living an adventurous life and the rest of the year using his adventures as the basis for the stories in his writings. Some of that time was spent on the Rogue River in Oregon, where he maintained a cabin he had built on an old mining claim he bought. He also had a cabin on the Mogollon Rim in Arizona which burned down during the Dude Fire of 1991.
He was the author of over 90 books, some published posthumously and/or based on serials originally published in magazines. Many of them became bestsellers. One of them, “Tales of the Angler’s El Dorado, New Zealand” helped establish the Bay of Islands in New Zealand as a premier game fishing area.
From 1918 until 1932 he was a regular contributor to Outdoor Life magazine, becoming one of the publication's first celebrity writers. In the pages of the magazine he began to popularize big-game fishing.
Grey indulged his interest in fishing with visits to Australia and New Zealand. He first visited New Zealand in 1926 and caught several large fish of great variety, including a mako shark, a ferocious fighter which presented a new challenge. Grey established a base at Otehei Bay Lodge on Urupukapuka Island which became a magnet for the rich and famous and wrote many articles in international sporting magazines highlighting the uniqueness of New Zealand fishing which has produced heavy-tackle world records for the major billfish, striped marlin, black marlin, blue marlin and broadbill. He held numerous world records during this time and invented the teaser, a hookless bait that is still used today to attract fish.
Grey also helped establish deep-sea sport fishing in New South Wales, Australia particularly in Bermagui, New South Wales, which is famous for Marlin fishing. Patron of the Bermagui Sport Fishing Association for 1936 and 1937, Grey set a number of world records, and wrote of his experiences in his book "An American Angler in Australia".
Grey had built a getaway home in Avalon, Catalina Island, which now serves as the Pueblo Hotel. Avid fisherman as he was he served as president of the Catalina's exclusive fishing club, the Tuna Club.
Zane Grey died of a heart attack on October 23, 1939 at his home in Altadena, California. He was interred at the Union Cemetery in Lackawaxen, Pennsylvania, where the National Park Service maintains the Zane Grey Museum as part of the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River. His home in Altadena is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Zane Grey Terrace, a small residential street in the hillsides of Altadena, is named in his honor.