Even though his characterization is weak, Zane Grey can tell a story. Riders of the Purple Sage contains one of his most involved and interesting plots. He accomplishes this by keeping five intriguing situations going simultaneously. The reader knows that by the end of the novel he will discover who caused Milly Erne's death, who the mysterious "Masked Rider" is, and who will win the battle between Jane Withersteen and the Mormon Church. There are two blossoming love affairs in the novel in which the reader recognizes the attraction before the characters themselves are aware of it. Minor intrigues develop along the way: Which of Jane Withersteen's horses is the fastest and what is the real connection between Bess and Oldring? The resolution of these situations involves rough and tumble action complete with shoot-outs, life-and-death chases across the stretches of sage, escapes up precarious canyon walls, and stampeding cattle. The villains experience a number of early successes which put the potential heroes and sympathetic characters at a temporary disadvantage. The action moves rapidly from one episode to another with a minimum of tedious emotional scenes, sweeping the involved reader along with the story. Grey presents this action in cinematic detail, giving the reader a clear picture of each significant step, rock, sage bush and canyon.
The technique that Grey is most often praised for is his descriptive ability, rendering the colors, the...
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