Zane Grey Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

American-born novelist Pearl Zane Gray was born in Zanesville, Ohio, in 1872, to farmer and dentist Lewis and Alice (Zane) Gray. His mother traced her ancestry to a Danish Quaker who arrived in America with William Penn in 1682. She gave the name Pearl to her son, largely because of an admiration for Great Britain’s Queen Victoria, whose favorite color was pearl gray. After years of ribbing, Zane eventually dropped the “Pearl” altogether and changed “Gray” to the more English spelling.{$S[A]Gray, Pearl Zane;Grey, Zane}

He attended Zanesville schools, graduating from Moore High School and going on to the University of Pennsylvania on a baseball scholarship. He studied dentistry, graduating with a D.D.S. degree in 1896.

From 1898 to 1904, he was a dentist in New York City. An avid fisherman all his life, he made frequent fishing trips to the Delaware River near Lackawaxen, Pennsylvania, where he met his future wife, Lena Elise Roth, called Dolly. They married in 1905 and had two sons and a daughter.

He began writing while in New York, publishing an article, “A Day in Delaware,” in Recreation magazine in 1902. In 1903 he completed a historical novel, Betty Zane, based on an ancestor’s journal. It told of the Zane family’s role in settling the Ohio valley. He published it himself, to some critical success. Encouraged by this and his wife’s support, he moved to a cottage in Lackawaxen, to write full time.

In 1908 he traveled west in the company of frontiersman Colonel Charles Jesse “Buffalo” Jones. Along the way, Jones told him tales of the Old West. The West seemed to be the ideal setting for the kind of romantic stories Zane wanted to write. The frontier conditions were perfect for the struggles of the heroes he envisioned. With this exposure to the West, he wrote The Last of the Plainsmen, about Jones. It was rejected by Harper and Brothers, but they accepted his next Western novel, The Heritage of the Desert.

Harper also published Riders of the Purple Sage, selling a million copies and 800,000 reprints. The book’s success and Grey’s popularity with readers made him one of the most successful writers of his time. Twenty-five of his books sold seventeen million copies in twenty years,...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Farley, G. M. Zane Grey, A Documented Portrait: The Man, the Bibliography, the Filmography. Tuscaloosa, Ala.: Portals Press, 1986. Slender biography includes bibliography.

Flora, Joseph M. “Grey, Zane.” In Twentieth Century American Literature, edited by James Vinson. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1980. Contains a comprehensive listing of Grey’s novels and other works plus a brief essay discussing aspects of his career and critical evaluations of his writing style.

“Grey, Zane.” In Twentieth Century Authors, edited by Stanley Kunitz and Howard Haycraft. New York: H. W. Wilson, 1942. Interesting biographical details and career statistics.

Jackson, Carlton. “Grey, Zane.” In American National Biography, edited by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes. Vol. 9. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. Detailed essay about Grey’s personal life.

Nesbitt, John D. “Grey, Zane.” In Twentieth Century Western Writers, edited by James Vinson. Detroit: Gale, 1982. Lists Grey’s novels with original American and English publishers. Essay critiques several novels’ strengths and weaknesses.

Pauly, Thomas H. Zane Grey: His Life, His Adventures, His Women. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2005. The first full-length biography of Grey, essential for research into the man and his work.