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Riders of the Purple Sage ()


New York Public Library's Books of the Century

Her father's death has left Jane Withersteen in possession of the richest land holding in the Cottonwoods, a Mormon village on the 1871 Utah frontier.  Most importantly, Amber Spring runs through her property and so she controls the water supply that makes possible the rolling fields of purple sage.  But now the Mormon church wants to gain contol of the spring by forcing an unwilling Jane to marry Elder Tull.  They've been steadily increasing the pressure on her and as the novel opens, Tull and his henchmen have come to arrest Venters, the Gentile foreman on her ranch.  Outnumbered and outgunned, Jane prays for deliverance.  Just as Tull is about to whip Venters, a rider in black appears--Lassiter, the scourge of the Mormons.

Lassiter is an archetype of the mythic Western hero.  In him we see the origins of both Shane and Ethan Edwards (from The Searchers, Amos in the novel)--a lone gunmen fighting for Justice, he has descended upon Mormon Utah with a vengeance, obsessively searching for the sister who was kidnapped by a Mormon proselytizer.

Jane takes him on as a ranch hand, but makes him swear to forsake violence.  Inevitably (as in High Noon), events force her to release him from his oath.

Despite an extremely harsh view of Mormons, this is one of the truly great Westerns; a must read.

(Reviewed:)

Grade: (A)

  

Websites:

Book-related and General Links:
    -ZANE GREY (1872-1939) original name Pearl Grey (kirjasto)
    -Zane Grey Museum--National Park Service (Lackawaxen, PA)
    -Zane Grey's West Society
    -ARCHIVES : "zane grey" (NY Review of Books)
    -REVIEW : Larry McMurtry: Pulpmaster, NY Review of Books
       Zane Grey: Romancing the West by Stephen J. May
       Maverick Heart: The Further Adventures of Zane Grey by Stephen J. May

GENERAL :
    -The American West
    -The West and the Frontier in American Culture (from ALA)
    -Westweb: Western History Resources

If you liked Riders of the Purple Sage, try:
 

Abbey, Edward
    -The Brave Cowboy

Ambrose, Stephen E.
    -Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West

Berger, Thomas
    -Little Big Man

Connell, Evan S.
    -Son of the Morning Star

Horgan, Paul
    -A Distant Trumpet

MacLean, Alistair
    -Breakheart Pass

Matthews, Greg
    -Power in the Blood

McCarthy, Cormac
    (The Border Trilogy)
        -All the Pretty Horses
        -The Crossing

McMurtry, Larry
    -Lonesome Dove
    -The Streets of Laredo
    -Dead Man's Walk

Michener, James
    -Centennial

Parkman, Francis
    -The Oregon Trail

Schaeffer, Jack
    -Shane

Slotkin, Richard
    -The Fatal Environment : The Myth of the Frontier in the Age of Industrialization, 1800-1890

Snyder, Midori
    -The Flight of Michael McBride

Trevanian
    -Incident at Twenty-Mile

West, Jessamyn
    -The Massacre at Fall Creek

Wister, Owen
    -The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains

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