Riders of the Purple Sage is of course a Western, by one of the quintessential authors of the genre, Zane Grey.
I’m sure I’ll catch grief for this, but I was disappointed. It felt like a guilty pleasure more than literature. So, on the plus side, let me acknowledge that it was a pleasure. It was fun, exciting, riveting, and satisfying.
But I felt a little cheated. First, I’m not sure how much Zane Grey really new about cowboys or horses. I’m no expert myself, though I did have a beautiful, gentle mare in my youth. There were several items that gave me doubts about Grey’s knowledge of horsemen of the wild west. Second, and this was quite distracting, he uses the word “sage” hundreds of times – literally hundreds. It was absurd. “Riders” and “purple” popped up over and over again, leaving me convinced that this was an intentional motif of the author, but it just seemed ridiculous. Finally, each one of the four main characters had moments when their behavior was completely unbelievable to me.
Sounds like I hated it right? Well, no! I’ve said before that a good story is more important to me than perfect writing – and this story is captivating. Set in Utah Territory, 1871, it concerns beautiful and wealthy Jane Withersteen who is befriended by near outlaw Lassiter as she fights to keep her independence from the churchmen of her Mormon faith. It’s filled with rustlers, stampedes, horse chases, gunplay, two separate love stories, and a pair of loyal dogs.
I want to give it juuuust a bit less than four stars, but three and a half is too low, so for the sake of the dogs, ya gotta love faithful dogs, I give it…
4 of 5 stars
This book satisfies square O-2 in the 2020 Classic Bingo Challenge and “Abandoned Classic” from the Back to the Classics Challenge 2020
I began this book once before, probably as a teen. I can’t recall what caused me to abandon it, but in spite of my criticism, I’m still glad to have read it and will read more by Zane Grey, though I think next in this genre I’ll try Louis L’Amour
I want to give Grey credit for a subtle allusion to classic lit. When two of the main characters realize their perfect hideout has been discovered – Grey describes their realization as…
Both had seen the footprint in the sand.
A clever allusion to Robinson Crusoe.