Dusty Richards Legacy

Why are Zane Grey's Books Stiff?

Posted by Dusty Richards on May 17, 2016 9:53:55 AM

I had a piece of fan mail ask me, "Dusty, why are Zane Grey's books so stiff?"

Zane Grey wrote those books in long hand from the 1910’s and through 1930’s. Having a literary book was the only way to get a book in a hard back best seller and library in those days. 

So his wife, Dolly, an english teacher, rewrote them in that fashion. She was his agent, handled all the paper work and retyped them in a stiff literary fashion.

I have read portions of the novels he wrote in long hand. They were more like what we write today. But remember-there was no Life Magazine, no movies, no tv, and few people knew what the West looked like. 

So these were travelogues to readers and his descriptions were that to them. She made him millions and he squandered it and openly had affairs with young women.  In their private letters that is obvious.

But he was so rich he made 36 movie adaptations of his books.  Half silent, half talkies. He filmed the first ones around Payson, Arizona where his cabin was, but it was in the pines and the movies didn’t have the appeal of the West.

So he moved to the Navajo Reservation (Monument Valley) and him and his camera man made the rest there. Those flat top mesas became the western theme—it wasn’t range land to fight over. 


His camera man was John Ford. In 1937  John Ford took John Wayne and crew up there to Film “Stagecoach”  A short story written by Earnest Haycox called “Stage To Lordsburg".  Ford made the rest of his Westerns up there too.

The museum people let me sit in one of his Morris Chairs with a thin board lap desk and write one time when I visited the cabin reconstructed in Payson. This was how he wrote his books gave them to his wife to make them literary.

In one letter she wrote him about changing something in a book. He wrote back to her while fishing or hunting off somewhere and said ”Go ahead and change it, you will any way.”

Grey died about when I was born. I told his ghost that one day I'd be on the shelf with him some day. It turned true. 

When I was a boy I wanted to read every Western I could find. I never noticed the way Grey’s words went, but ever since I began looking at things as a writer, I'm amazed that I read it.

Hope that explains a lot to you! -Dusty Richards 

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