It’s about 4pm, I have nothing I want to work on, and I have to kill some time before I can sneak out.
I just finished Zane Grey’s Riders of the Purple Sage. I must confess that I’ve read a Zane Grey book or two before and was not impressed. I am a big fan of Louis L’Amour, and I felt that Louis did a better job with the western genre.
But, Riders is not much like any western that I’ve ever read. It is about a group of men and women struggling against the corruption and greed of the Mormon Church in 1871. Mormons are not treated well in this book. This was before Mormonism gave up polygamy and part of the plot is about a pious Mormon woman who does not want to marry a Mormon Bishop who has other wives, not because of the wives, but because she doesn’t love him.
The plains of northern Utah are covered with purple sage and part of the charm of the book is the wonderful descriptions of the purple sage and the romantic landscape. The descriptions take your breath away at times.
The characters are very compelling. There is a young rider who accidentally shoots a girl who is riding with some rustlers and nurses her back to life. There is the mysterious gunfighter named Lassiter. There is the beautiful and rich Mormon woman struggling with her faith.
This is all wonderfully told and woven together with a plot that could have been a Greek tragedy or a play by Shakespeare. It is absolutely riveting. Grey takes a while to bring the plot up to speed, but the second half of the book, with its awesome imagery and breathtaking pace is as good as I’ve ever read.
TV and Movie westerns have probably prejudiced us against the western genre. When I had written a western story, I couldn’t find even one online ezine publishing western stories, yet there are hundreds of spec-fic ezines. This is a great loss because I think that the Western is a very basic and essential genre and worth reading and writing.
I suggest your put your preconceived notions away for a few days and give Riders of the Purple Sage a chance. If you’re like me you’ll find yourself Googling the the internet for the sequel. There must be a sequel – I want to find out what happened to these people!