“Riders of the Purple Sage” was published in 1912. It was written by Zane Grey. The book is of the Western Genre that Zane Grey popularized. The story follows Lassiter, a rider in black. He comes to the rescue of Jane Withersteen.
Jane Withersteen is being harassed by the Elders of her church to become one of Elder Tull’s wives. Since she is young, pretty and wealthy, they want her to go to an Elder of the Mormon church in Utah. She is aided by another man also, Venters. There is a second plot involving him. He left to pursue the rustlers who took Jane’s cattle. He shoots one of the masked riders, only to discover she is a young woman. He falls in love with her while helping her to heal and finds the proof that Tull had hired the outlaws to steal Jane’s cattle.
While Jane is trying to come to terms with the evil done by the men of her church, she is also trying to prevent Lassiter from killing any more Mormons. Lassiter has been on the search for the man who “ruined” his sister. He discovers the man was the Bishop of Jane’s church and finally shoots the man when he arranges the kidnapping of a four-year-old girl Jane had adopted.
In the end, Venters and Bess, the girl who he shot and then healed in a beautiful valley, leave Utah and Lassiter rescue the little girl, informs Bess she is his niece and takes Jane into the valley so she can escape the clutches of the evil men in her church. In the last of the book, Lassiter topples a giant rock, closing off the pass to where they have escaped. The beautiful valley is forever closed off. The reader is left with a cliff hanger that is resolved in the next book, “The Rainbow Trail.”
Riders of the Purple Sage begins with a horse and rider coming towards Jane Withersteen. She is expecting the Mormon elders who are passing judgment on her for helping Gentiles. One of them that she has helped is a young man named, Venters. When Elder Tull and his men arrive, he calls for Venters. Tull wants Jane to marry him and become one of his wives. Jane’s father died and left her a good bit of land and cattle. He left her a wealthy woman and the men of the Mormon church want her wealth. Since the year is 1871, her assets would become the property of her husband. Jane tries to stay true to her religion and obey her elders, but she refuses to marry.
Soon Tull sends his men inside her home to fetch Venters, even though she protested and tried to deny them. They drag the young man outside. Tull thinks she is in love with the man and when she doesn’t disagree, only says she does love him, Tull announces they will finish the man’s destruction by having him whipped to within an inch of his life and left outside the limits of their lands. He is forbidden to return. Tull has already been instrumental in the financial ruin of Venters and now will finish the job.
Suddenly a man rides into the court yard. He is lazily sitting on his horse and asks what is going on. Jane asks for his help, as does Venters, especially when his identity is given as Lassiter. When Tull tells him to move on this is Mormon business, he asks Venters what he did wrong to deserve punishment. He replies that he was just a friend of Jane and she agrees with the pronouncement. Lassiter tells Tull to let him go, and Tull rides away in fright.
Venters and Jane are very grateful, and she offers to water his horse herself. That is when she discovers the horse is blind. Lassiter tells her the horse was blinded by some Mormons who wanted to take revenge on the horse. Their conversation moves to the cruelty of Mormon men and the usual kindness of the women. Soon, Jane realizes the story behind Lassiter. He is well known for killing Mormons. She hopes to change him with her kindness, so he will never kill another Mormon. She also learns the reason he came to her ranch, Cottonwood. He is looking for the grave of Milly Erne.
Soon Venters announces that he must leave. He thinks that the Elders of the church may lighten up on her a bit if he leaves, also he knows their romance is doomed. He tries to convince her the evil in the rulers of her Church, but she refuses to see it, especially when he talks about the Bishop Dyer. She tries to convince him that Tull has just been in love with her for years and the Bishop is a good man. Venters plans to go to Deception Pass where he thinks rustlers have been taking her cattle. For tonight though, he will camp out in the sage and ride in with Lassiter the next morning. Until then he tries to listen in on conversations at other camps and spends time with his dogs, Ring and White, sheepdogs, “half collie half deer hound.”
The next morning he and Lassiter meet up to ride into Cottonwood. They discuss the Mormons. No Gentile ever prospered in Utah. Venters is planning on returning to Illinois where his mother still lives. Lassiter asks Venters why he never pulled his gun on Tull and those who stole from him, but he says that Jane took his guns from him. He tells Lassiter that he did manage to save some guns, he hid them at Deception Pass. He has gone their and practiced almost every day until he is a quick draw and a good marksman. Lassiter asks Venters to tell him what happened to Milly Erne. He tells him that Milly was a very religious woman. When she arrived at Cottonwood she had a little girl. Although the other wives did not acknowledge her, he thinks she was a Mormon wife. Soon she was repenting her choices and quit teaching at the school, then she quit the church and tried to bring her daughter up outside the church.
Soon, to punish her, the child was stolen. Although Jane tried to help her, she died of a broken heart. Lassiter asks him the name of the man who hurt her, but Venters doesn’t know, but Jane does. When they arrive at the ranch, Jane shows Lassiter her race horses and flirts with him. When he asks to see the grave, she takes him to the spot that is hidden. She tells him that she often comes there to pray, but leaves no trail. Jane and Venters leave Lassiter alone at the grave and head back to the house. Suddenly her Gentile ranch hand, Judkins rides up in a hurry.
Judkins tells her that rustlers took the red herd he was watching. When she asks where the rest of her men were, she is informed they did not show up that morning. They are all Mormon. Jane still refuses to believe the Elders of the church called the men away, she thinks they were killed. She lost twenty five hundred head of steer. She is finally convinced to give Venters Wrangle, a horse fast enough to not be caught. As Venters is riding the herd, he wonders about Oldring, the rustler and what he plans to do with so many cattle. He wonders if the Elders of the church have anything to do with it. Here the book gives descriptions of the land to Deception Pass, where Venters gets his hidden weapons.
Suddenly, one of his dogs starts to growl, and Venters is alerted to the presence of nearby rustlers. He has found the hideout of Oldring and his men. The dog turns his head and growls again. Two riders are within a hundred yards of his position. One is the masked rider that rides with Oldring. The man without a mask fires on Venters and he take both riders out with his rifle. The one without a mask falls over and is caught in the stirrup as his horse bolts; the masked rider falls off the horse to the ground.
After waiting to see if the bullets alerted the men in the hideout, he checks on the fallen rider. When he removes the mask, he learns it is a young woman. She was shot through the shoulder. Venters is horrified and asks for her forgiveness when she briefly regains consciousness. He tries to tend her but fears she is dying. He moves her to shelter, bandages the wound and tries to give her water.
As time passes and she slips in and out of consciousness, Venters decides he must find a better place for them to hide. He leaves his dogs to watch over her and searches until he finds an ancient homestead carved out of a cave. Although the location is hard to find, it provides good cover and view of incoming enemies. It also has a rock that is placed precariously in order to cut off the entrance to the valley and kill anyone trying to climb up to attack. When he returns to the girl, she is awake and running a high fever. She begs him not to take her back to the camp, he assures her he won’t and carries her up the mountain to the hideout he found.
“Meantime, at the ranch,” Jane is tending the wound Judkins received while running from the rustlers. He confirms Venters belief on what happened to the rest of her men. She still has trouble believing the church would stoop so low as to leave her cattle so vulnerable. She sends Judkins to the village to find out what happened.
The next day Judkins returns with guns on. He tells her that he was threatened by a mysterious masked man to quit riding for her. Since he won’t, he will protect himself. He discovered, also, that her men are now part of a group calling themselves, Riders who are supposed to be chasing the rustlers. But, he points out that the group led by Jerry Card, Tull’s man. He spoke to a couple of the men who, although Mormon, were friendly with him, Blake and Dorn. He reminded them that Jane had helped with their families. Although the were shamed to have deserted her, they had to follow the church. Finally he asks her is he can gather a few men not loyal to the church to help him take care of the white herd, all the cattle she has left.
After he leaves, Jane takes her temper into the house where she vents her fury alone. Afterward, she decides to “do her duty as she saw it, live her life as her truth guided her.” Although she may never marry a man, she chooses she will never marry Tull no matter what the men take from her.
Soon Lassiter returns and she tells him what Judkins found out. He offers his friendship, but she is at first reluctant because she fears he will kill her enemies. He still wants to know the name of the man who hurt Milly. He decides to stay around until she agrees to tell him, and she wants to keep him around in hopes her friendship will keep him from killing.
Lassiter takes Jane out to see what is about to happen to her herd. Judkins and his men haven’t arrived yet, but he hopes they will make it in time. Through some binoculars, he shows her that someone is using a white sheet on a nearby hill to reflect the light and frighten the herd into bolting. When she questions him as to why someone would want to stampede her cattle, he says, “That’s a Mormon’s godly way of bringin’ a woman to her knees.”
When she asks him if the rustlers couldn’t be behind this, he replies that it isn’t his style. He wouldn’t skulk behind boulders. Lassiter rides his blind horse down to stop the stampede but is overtaken and thrown from his horse. He manages to curtail the herd from jumping off a cliff, but his horse is killed. As Judkins and his men arrive, Lassiter is making his way to Jane. She offers him a horse to replace the one he lost. He says he will take a fast horse, but not her favorites. But, will she lend him the horse she is on long enough for him to ride after the men who stampeded the herd? She refuses because she knows when he catches them he will kill them.
Jane asks Lassiter to ride for her. He will be in charge of her ranch. Although she is in need of his help, she also hopes to shield the man who he is looking for. When she visits the village later, she is confronted by Tull who tells her she was foolish to hire Lassiter. She tells him she is hoping to stay his gun. He tells her that if she can, it will atone for some of the mistakes she has made. After he leaves her, she makes her way to the home of Collier Brandt. She sees his numerous children playing in the yard and his four young wives entertaining Bishop Dyer.
The Bishop begins by admonishing her for missing church and says he will speak to Tull about it, as he is in charge of her, already. When she says that the fault is hers, he blames Tull for keeping her all to himself. She tries to tell him Tull is not courting her, but he says if he doesn’t step up, he will court her himself. She tries to talk to her friend, Mary after the Bishop leaves. Mary tells her to do her duty to God and marry Tull. She can’t expect to be happy in her marriage, only in Heaven.
After visiting with other women from the church, and getting the same advice, Jane makes her way into the Gentile area of the village. She tries to hire men to work for her. Even though they are in need of work, they know they can’t afford to work for her. They fear for their families and their lives if they do. Finally she offers to help out the Gentile’s anyway as best she can. Soon she arrives at the home of Mrs. Larkin, a Gentile woman in poor health with a beautiful four year old girl, Fay. Mrs. Larkin has asked Jane to adopt her daughter if it becomes necessary, but now she pauses the request unless Jane promises not to insist she be raised to be Mormon. The Mormon women told her Jane would raise her to be another Mormon woman. Jane assures her she would let Fay choose for herself. Then she asks Mrs. Larkin to come live with her so she can care for her and Fay.
Meanwhile, back in the valley Venters and his wounded girl are hiding, her health begins to improve slowly. She manages a few words. Her name is Bess and she wants to know if he plans on taking her to Cottonwood or another town to be hanged. He assures her he won’t do that, and also that he won’t take her back to Oldring. The place he has taken her to he has named Surprise Valley because it was such a surprise to find the perfect spot. As she heals, she begins to want food and to be clean. He makes her a broth with rabbit. He takes off her boots and washes her hands and face. When she asks him why he is tending her, he simply replies that he wants her to heal so he would not have shot and killed a woman.
One day Bess is well enough to answer a few questions. He wants to know what her relationship to Oldring was, but fears she was his woman and doesn’t want to ask too many personal questions. He does determine that although she rode with the outlaws, she never carried a gun and didn’t participate in anything illegal. She was kept in an isolated cabin while Oldring and his men rustled the cattle and terrorized the towns.
While she is resting, he has been working on building a holding area for cattle. He also explores the valley and discovers dwellings long ago evacuated. He brings some pots back to her so they can use them. They talk some more, and Venters learns she can read. She also tells him that Oldring made a deal with a Mormon to steal the cattle from Jane. The Mormon was Jerry Card, the same man leading the Riders who are supposed to be tracking the rustlers.
As Bess continues to heal, Venters realizes they both need a change in their diet. He goes to the herd stolen from Jane and takes a calf. During the night, he takes eight calves and stores them in the corral he built. When Bess sees the fresh meat, she is so worried about Venters that she almost faints. She makes him promise not to go back. Her concern touches Venters, and he asks her what she wants to do with the future. They could go back to civilization, or they could stay there together forever. She chooses to stay with him. With this choice, he knows she loves him.
Back at Cottonwood, Jane has settled Mrs. Larkin and Fay into her home. Lassiter becomes enraptured by Fay and begins to spend more time at the house. Although Jane is still trying to romance Lassiter to forget to kill any more Mormons, she finds herself respecting him and not wanting to control him that way. Jane comes to find that she can’t bring out his gentler side, but little Fay can.
As July passes, Jane uses more and more tricks to try to sway his heart. She realizes she is as happy as she can be during such a time. She has Fay around to fill the spot of a child for her, and she is doing good for her church by keeping Lassiter occupied, so he won’t kill anyone. One day she finally breaks down and tries to take his guns from him. Lassiter realizes her game and stalks away.
Days pass with no sign of Lassiter returning. Suddenly Bishop Dyer arrives and questions her about Fay. He rudely asks if she intends to raise her to be a Mormon. She vehemently answers no. She begins to see the man for the tyrant he is not as the representative of God. He reminds her that her father wanted her to marry Tull and he, as her Bishop has also ordered it. When she still refuses he tells her she is in danger of becoming a heretic. When he asks her about Lassiter, she tells him that he is here to find the man who convinced Milly to leave her husband and her God. The Bishop then assumes that she made love to Lassiter to “bind his hands.” Suddenly the Bishop tries to pull his gun on the man coming around the house. It is Lassiter and he shoots the man in the arm. The Bishop leaves and Jane faints.
When she comes around she is overjoyed to learn he didn’t kill the Bishop, but then he asks her if that was her plan in romancing him, to “bind his hands.” When she admits to it, he is astonished she could be so cruel. He thinks that to a Mormon, that kind of manipulation must be normal, but the rest of the world doesn’t agree. She learns that Milly was his sister. But, since he has fallen in love with Jane, he quit trying to avenge her. She argues with him that it is the Mormon way to find peace, but he reminds her that her Elders carry guns and use them frequently. She realizes she must try to understand and begs him to stay to help her. He agrees.
The next day she receives a summons to see the Bishop. She did not reply nor go to see him. Jane begins to see more changes in her attitude. One day Lassiter arrives and informs her she is being watched, not only out in the fields but her home. The Mormon women who work for her are spying on her. Finally, she fires the women. Judkins arrives and tells her what remains of her herd is safe. Although his ‘men’ are boys, they have done a good job. She tells him to take whatever he needs from her supplies and gives him extra gold to give the boys. Lassiter tells him that the trouble is going to get worse before it gets better.
Blake, a young Mormon man who used to work for her returns. His mother has just died and he has no one they can use to threaten him with, so he wants to come back to work for her. She wants him to care for her horses that she hid in a field. But, he informs her they are missing. Blake offers to watch her last two racers. The loss of the horses almost breaks her. When she talks about leaving with Lassiter he informs her she is always watched when she isn’t in her house. She can’t leave. She replies that she would give everything up except her soul. Lassiter tells her they don’t care about her soul. They intend to break her and give her to some man to have his children. That is all they think a woman is good for.
Back at Surprise Valley Bess and Venters spend more time together. They explore the caves and valley. As time passes, Venters realizes he is in love with Bess. He tells her he wants to marry her and take her to Illinois to meet his mother. But first, he must go back to Cottonwood. They need supplies, and he must report to Jane. Although he doesn’t tell Bess about Jane. Before he leaves, she professes her love for him.
Mrs. Larkin dies back at Cottonwood, and Fay becomes Jane’s daughter. One day a rifleman takes a shot at Lassiter and wounds him. Now she fears for his life and begs him to go. He refuses. Suddenly Venters rides up. He tells her where her herd is and that Tull arranged things with the Rustlers. She still doesn’t believe it. He asks Lassiter why he hadn’t killed the man yet but is not surprised to learn she was keeping him from it. When she tries to stop Venters from confronting Tull, she sees the changes in him when he refuses to abide by her wishes.
Jane tells Vinters to take all the supplies back with him he wants, less for her enemies to steal. When she pets Wrangle, they discuss the horse. Venters assures her Wrangle could out run her other horses, even her Arabian racers. She still denies it. Venters goes into town to confront Tull. Jane learns about it from Lassiter who was with him. He announced that he was leaving and Jane was not friends with him anymore. He accuses Tull of stealing from her and tells where the herd is. He reveals all that Tull did to her and calls him a coward and other fowl things. He even reveals that Tull was behind the theft of her herd. Then Venters tells Tull that the only reason he isn’t killing him is because Jane asked him not too, but if he sees him again he will kill him. Then he and Lassiter backed out of the saloon.
Jane carefully fills a pack for Venters, but when he tries to leave a sniper takes a shot at him. Venters gets away, but the sniper is shot. Lassiter rushes in to let her know Venters got away and to tell her he is going to follow him and find out where he is. He assures her that if she is taken while he is gone, he will track her.
Suddenly Judkins arrives and tells her the cattle he was tending stampeded. The boys were almost all killed, and the cattle went over the cliff.
Two days later Lassiter returns. He doesn’t tell her very much about the place Venters has found, but he thinks unless someone is as good at tracking as he is, Venters is safe. He doesn’t tell her that he visited with Venters and met Bess. Finally, the horses are stolen. Blake is killed in trying to protect them.
After Lassiter left Surprise Valley, Bess shows Venters the gold she found. The cattle is not what kept the outlaws in the area, it’s the gold. She didn’t want to tell him about the gold because she was afraid he would leave her. But, he wants to use it to start a life for the two of them. Venters goes to bring Wrangle back. Suddenly a small group rides up. He sees Jerry Card, Tull’s man and he is riding one of Jane’s racers and leading the other. Venters decides to get the horses back. There are five riders. Two are taken down, a third is riding the horse Jane gave Lassiter and carrying a strange bundle. But, Venters is interested in Jerry Card. He rides past the rider on Bell, Lassiter’s horse. The man tumbles off the horse and it stops. He keeps after Jerry. Soon he sees that Jerry changed horses while they were running, and is on the other horse.
Soon racers can go no further. Jerry abandoned the horses and disappeared into the sage. Venters stopped Wrangle slowly and removed his gear quickly. He proved that Wrangle was a better horse than the other two. Venters spent so time to try to hunt for Jerry on foot, but couldn’t find him. Soon he took care of the recovered racers and tried to find Wrangle who had decided to keep grazing and wasn’t ready to be ridden again yet.
Venters waited for Wrangle to come back, but suddenly he heard him scream. He sees that Jerry is on the back of the horse and is trying an old trick to tame a wild horse by biting its nose. Wrangle has gone mad. Finally, Venters is forced to shoot the horse, who goes over the cliff in his pain and takes Jerry with him.
Venters rides the two racers and Bell into town. He finally plans to confront Tull. He tells them that Jerry stole the horses and nearly killed them. He is returning them. He is met by Judkins who tells him that Tull and Dyer are under protection by the Riders. He also tells him that Lassiter won’t fight them, he has been tamed by Jane. He met with Oldring in the saloon.
Becoming enraged, Venters goes to the saloon to see Oldring. He calls him outside, tells him Bess is still alive and then draws on him. He thought Oldring was going to shoot him, and he kills him, but before the man dies he asks him why he didn’t wait and then doesn’t finish the sentence he was about to say about Bess. After killing the man Venters races back to Surprise Valley. Along the way, he wonders what the man was about to say and wonders at the look in his eyes. He knows he must have the whole story from Bess. There he finds out the man was her father. Without telling her why he begs for her forgiveness.
Back at the ranch, Lassiter is playing with little Fay. She questions why he hasn’t married her new mother. He says that although he loves Jane, she doesn’t love him. Then he tries to convince Jane to leave Utah and come with him. She says she doesn’t want to leave the “purple slopes.” He tells her she has used all her love on Utah, poor families, church, and poor children. But, he tells her the story of his sister who let love change her. He and Milly were close as children. When she married, he left to make his way. When he came back years later, he found her changed. Her husband was a good man and a preacher.
Another preacher had come to town with a different doctrine. He lured her away from her family and church. One day her husband came home to find out she had left for Utah with the new preacher. Lassiter couldn’t believe she left of her own free will. One day he found a letter she had written to her husband. Milly had been kidnapped by three men. She had a little girl who she hoped to get back to her husband, the child’s father, then she planned to die. The letter ended abruptly. Then a second letter arrived two years later that said she knew Lassiter was trying to find her and for him to stop looking. That was fourteen years ago and he was still looking until he found her grave there. He has no idea what happened to the little girl. Now he tells her that although he knows Bishop Dyer is the man who “ruined Milly,” he will not seek revenge for Jane’s sake. Even though she still denies Dyer’s involvement, she feels she does love Lassiter because he would make that sacrifice for her.
Suddenly they hear hoofs and can’t find Fay. She has been kidnapped to make Jane comply. Lassiter is determined to go after Dyer now. Jane still begs him not to kill the man. Then she tells him that it was her father who sent Dyer to preach. He brought Milly to Cottonwood, and her father was the man who ‘married’ her. She tells him that she loves him and will marry him if he does not kill Dyer.
None of her pleas stop him. As Lassiter begins to leave, Jane faints. When she regains consciousness, Judkins is standing over her. He tells her that Lassiter killed Dyer. Dyer had been holding court and trying to prosecute the boys who rode with Judkins and survived the raid on her cattle. Lassiter came in killed Dyer’s guards and then shot and killed him. Lassiter comes back in the room; he tells her the horses are packed and ready for her to ride. She gives the horse, Bell to Judkins and says goodbye. As she and Lassiter ride off, he tells her not to look back. Lassiter set her house on fire.
Meanwhile, Bess and Venters leave Surprise Valley. They are going to Illinois and a new life. Suddenly they meet up with Lassiter and Jane on the trail. At first, Jane is jealous when she finds out Venters was alone in the mountain with Bess all these months. Lassiter assures her that Bess is “sweet and innocent as little Fay.”
But, when Venters tells her that Bess is the daughter of Oldring she asks him how she can be with the man who killed her father. Unfortunately, Venters hadn’t told Bess that yet. As Jane is apologizing for revealing the news and Bess is threatening to leave and Venters is trying to convince her not to go, Lassiter speaks up and stops the arguing. He shows them a locket with Milly’s picture. He proves that not only is Bess Milly’s daughter who was stolen from her, but her father is Milly’s husband back in Texas, not Oldring. Therefore, Lassiter is her uncle.
Lassiter tells him that he shot Dyer, but Tull will be after him when he finds out. Venters and Bess are planning on continuing out of Utah. Since they are on pack mules, Jane trades with them. She and Lassiter will take the mules back to Surprise Valley, and Venters and Bess will take her two race horses that are more steady. Venters and Bess ride hard after they see Tull. They get to safety and then in the nearby town, miles away, they hear a loud crash.
Meanwhile, Lassiter and Jane have arrived at Surprise Valley. Suddenly Lassiter sees some men he was following. He has her wait near the entrance and leaves. When he comes back, he is covered in blood and has a bullet hole in his hand. He tells her he took Fay back from the men who took her. She is hurt but, she will recover. When the riders saw Lassiter, one of them tried to jump on a horse while carrying Fay and dropped her. He got their horses along with the little girl, but he was shot five times and is now out of bullets himself.
Lassiter tells her to get on the horse and ride. He knows Tull is nearby. As they reach the opening to the valley, Lassiter starts to weaken. Tull is right on their heels, he is headed up the stairs leading to the opening and Lassiter doesn’t have the strength to push the boulder over that will shut off the opening and kill whoever is on the steps. Finally, he uses what was left of his failing strength and pushes the stone. The walls crumble on Tull and the outlet to Deception Pass, and Surprise Valley is closed forever.
Jim Lassiter – a mysterious rider dressed in black. When he enters the scene, he seems to be the answer to Jane’s prayers, even though she tries to change him. He is in search for his sister who was kidnapped by Mormons eighteen years earlier. After her marriage to a preacher, Lassiter left home to find his fortune. He spent time riding in some tough areas and built up a reputation for his gun. Although he lives by a code that shows kindness to those less fortunate, he is quick to take action with bullies.
Since he has been looking for his sister among the Mormons, he has found a lot of evil and has killed a few of them. He has been on the trail of the man who took his sister and wants vengeance, especially when he finds out she is dead and her daughter was stolen from her. Jane convinces him to put aside his vengeance for a time, but when the church Elders take the little girl he has come to care about, Fay to make Jane comply and marry an Elder, he fulfills his mission and kills Bishop Dyer. Then he and Jane ride away. He is searching for Fay, and she is just going with him.
Jane Withersteen – when the story begins she is a young, beautiful girl who is aware of her beauty and uses it to manipulate men. But, she also helps the families in the town she owns no matter what their religion is. When her father dies, he leaves her a great fortune. The church Elders want control of her fortune and insist that she marry Tull. She refuses and they start to punish her. They have her cattle stolen, take away her ranch hands, spy on her and damage the reputation of anyone who helps her. Tull also tortures any other man who shows an interest in her. By the end of the book she has lost her house, land, cattle, horses and almost everything she owns. She finally falls in love with Lassiter and goes with him, quitting her church and religion that has been so harsh to her. Jane has begun to see that her beauty and wealth was more of a curse than a gift.
Elizabeth Erne – Milly Erne, Lassiter sister’s daughter. She was stolen from her mother when she was four years old and raised by an outlaw, Outring. He kept her isolated from others and taught her how to ride. She spent time as the ‘masked rider’ but never carried a gun. After Venters shoots her, thinking her an outlaw, he spends the rest of the book caring for her, then they fall in love and leave Utah.
Bern Venters – at the beginning of the book, Venters is saved from a whipping by Lassiter’s arrival. He was a rider and had a few cattle, but when Jane began to show an interest in him, he lost his small herd and his livelihood. Since Jane convinced the young man to put down his guns, he was unable to defend himself against Tull when he arrived. Venters follows the trail of the rustlers who stole almost all of Jane’s herd and ends up at Surprise Valley where he met and fell in love with Elizabeth or Bess.
Zane Grey Biography
Born Pearl Zane Grey in 1872, he was the fourth of five children. His parents were Alice and Lewis M. Gray, a dentist. Alice’s ancestor was an English Quaker who immigrated to the American colonies in 1673. Zane’s maternal great-grandfather founded Zanesville, Ohio after the Revolutionary War.
After Zane’s birth, the family changed the spelling of Gray to Grey. Zane left off his first name and became Zane Grey.
Zane had a great love of fishing and writing. Although his father forbids him to spend time with Muddy Miser, an old man who taught him about living an unconventional life and took him fishing. Zane was very interested in western novels and wrote his first novel, Jim of the Cave when he was fifteen. His father tore it up and then punished him. He did not want Zane to waste time writing.
After some financial loses, Zane’s father moved the family to Columbus, Ohio. As his father was trying to get his dental practice off the ground, Zane made house calls in the area. He used the skill his father taught him and pulled teeth. He practiced his dentistry until the state board stopped him. Then he went to work as a part-time usher in a movie theater while he played baseball. He had hopes of becoming a major league baseball player. Soon he started to get offers from colleges. He chose the University of Pennsylvania. He attended the college on a baseball scholarship and studied dentistry.
Zane was an excellent pitcher, but when the pitcher’s mound was moved out another ten feet because of Cy Young’s pitching, he was sent to the outfield. Although he loved baseball and was an all-around athlete, he also wrote poetry. During his summer break, he was hit with a paternity suit that was settled quietly by his father who paid the girl off with one hundred and thirty-three dollars.
During college, Zane played with a few minor league teams, but after college, he became a dentist, Dr. Zane Grey in 1896. In 1905 he married Lina Roth, better known as Dolly. She was from a well-established family of doctors and was studying to become a teacher. Zane suffered from a bout of depression. He experienced mood swings and bouts of anger. While they were dating, Zane saw other women and told Dolly that he would continue to be unfaithful.
Dolly managed his career and raised their three children. He spent most of their marriage away. He wrote, fished and spent time with his mistresses. He valued her greatly. She was his editor and handled all his contract negotiations. They split his earnings down the middle fifty – fifty. She used her half for the family expenses. The family settled in California in 1920.
Most of Zane’s books were westerns, but he also wrote a bit on his favorite pastime; fishing. He became one of the first millionaire authors. His books led to the shaping of the myths of the wild west. He also wrote baseball books and children’s books. Many of his books became best sellers. Zane Grey was a household name. His writings have been adapted into 112 movies, two television shows, and a series. He wrote over ninety books.
Zane Grey died in 1939 of heart failure at his home in Altadena, California. He was sixty-seven years old. He is buried in Lackawaxen, Pennsylvania.