America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 15-17.


Grey, Zane.  Riders of the Purple Sage.  New York: Harper, 1912.

Trained as a dentist, Grey had a practice in New York City from 1896 to 1904.  But in 1907, he fulfilled a lifetime obsession and began a decade of travels throughout the American West.  He used these experiences to lend immediacy to the novels that he began to write both to support himself and to express his sense of awe at the geography and the passing history of the region as a wilderness being opened to settlement.

Along with Owen Wister’s The Virginian, Grey’s Riders of the Purple Sage provides the prototype for the Western genre.  But whereas Wister did not devote himself to the genre, Grey made it impossible for reviewers and readers to ignore it.  From 1910 to 1925, his novels dominated the bestseller lists, and their enduring popularity has kept many of them in…

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