First, I have never, ever read a Zane Grey novel. Even while in the Gulf where reading material was at a premium did I read one. They were floating around, I just opted to read other stuff.
In my first book, Will notices that a friend of his has dozens of Zane Grey novels, and all in hardback. He makes the observation he didn’t even know they existed in hardback. My beautiful wife went out, found a slug of hardbacks on eBay, and bought them for me. They filled an entire shelf and then some in our built in library. At least for a while, I shouldn’t be able to complain that I’ve nothing to read.
But onto the book. I pulled out Sunset Pass, not because it was first in a series or anything, but simply because it was the easiest to pull out. So here’s what I’ve got.
First, it’s almost like reading a John Wayne western. Trueman Rock is young cowboy who had to leave the town of Wagontoungue (yes, that’s how Grey spelled it) years before. Seems Trueman is good with a gun and got himself in a little trouble over it. Years later he returns to find the town has all but been taken over by the Preston family and there’s a mystery surrounding one Ash Preston. To complicate matters, Trueman meets the only girl in the Preston clan, a nice looking young lady named Thiry. Now he’s on a collision course with the Prestons, needs to save the girl, and the town he loves.
Like I said, it’s like reading a John Wayne western.
One thing that impresses me is Grey’s use of speech. He pays attention to how the characters talk. Thiry has an education, and speaks like it. Trueman talks in a form of English that looks like someone took a hacksaw to it. Oddly, you understand every word. So for a writer, watching speech patterns is important.
Also, when a character isn’t talking, or we’re seeing something through their eyes, Grey writes normally. No hacksawed words or local phrases. It must have taken a lot of attention to detail on his part to be able to shift from how a character talks to normal words and writing.
The characters are Western staples (and why not, Grey had a huge hand in creating the Western elements we use today), and we don’t get deep in psychological motivations and such. The book was a good, simple read without a lot of complicated subplots or characters.
Overall, left with one of those, “Why didn’t I read this guy years ago!” It might have made sitting in the middle of nowhere at lot easier.