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Riders of the Purple Sage (Dover Thrift Editions) Paperback – September 27, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

Review

''Zane Grey epitomized the mythical West that should have been. . . The standout among them is Riders of the Purple Sage.'' --True West

''Poignant in its emotional qualities.'' --New York Times

''A powerful work, exceedingly well written.'' --Brooklyn Eagle --This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.

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7 1.5-hour cassettes --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Dover Thrift Editions
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications (September 27, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486424561
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486424569
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (576 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,596 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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120 of 135 people found the following review helpful By Peter Reeve on February 27, 2003
Format: Paperback
If you are not an aficionado of the Western novel but would like to sample the genre, then you should try one or more of the three great classics; Jack Schaefer's "Shane", Owen Wister's "The Virginian" , and this novel by Zane Grey. Of the three, "Shane" has the most literary merit and is the only one with claims to being great literature. "The Virginian" is often regarded as the first true representative of the genre, establishing as it does many of the great archetypal characters and incidents of Western myth, and "Riders of the Purple Sage" remains the best-selling Western.
"Riders" has two very remarkable features. The first is the surprising complexity and mythic depth of the story. There is for example, a Garden of Eden theme, with two of the characters isolated for an extended time in a lush wilderness. This is so strikingly like the Emil Zola novel "La Faute de l'Abbe Mouret" (The Abbe Mouret's Sin) that one wonders if Grey had read and been inspired by that work. Interwoven with this is an Oedipal theme. If all of this sounds a bit much for a cowboy yarn, I can only say that it really is all there.
The other remarkable thing about the book is its attitude toward the Mormon religion. The hero is an avowed "killer of Mormons". The LDS church is depicted as essentially brutal and tyrannical. This, I suppose, reflects a prejudice of the time, but I wonder how present-day members of that church regard this novel.
It has to be said that Grey is not a great writer and in particular, he cannot do dialogue. In fact, the dialogue in the first few pages is so appalling that I nearly gave up on the book there and then. However, I'm glad I stuck with it. It is such a fine and strange story and has such a wonderful sense of place.
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43 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Orrin C. Judd VINE VOICE on December 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
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.
GRADE: A
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43 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Magellan HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on December 28, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is the only western I've ever read; I'm mostly into classical literature, science writing, and non-fiction, but I asked friends for a book rec in the field, and they said read this one and the two Thomas Berger novels about Little Big Man.

The novel is interesting in that it's not a stereotypical western story. The main character is a woman who owns a large cattle ranch and is basically the mainstay of the little town of Cottonwoods, a Mormon town on the Utah border, sort of like the Cartwright family was in the popular TV western series, only in this case, Lorne Green is replaced by a female lead. The novel also is unusual in that it shows her struggling against the tyranny and even criminality of her fellow Mormon ranchers, who don't like the fact of a beautiful, wealthy, but unattached woman, who wields considerable influence in the local town despite their best attempts to undermine her.

One the things that sparked my interest in the novel was hearing an English prof in a radio interview on National Public Radio talk about some of the scholarship that is being devoted to genres like the western novel. She was working herself on the books of Karl May (The Legend of the Llano Estacado), Owen Wister (The Virgianian), and Zane Grey.

One of the interesting things she had to say had to do with Grey's vivid prose descriptions of the western landscape. She said Grey's prose sensualized the landscape, giving it an almost masculine sensuality and almost sexuality.
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57 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Thomas S. Rue on January 31, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey, Harper & Bros., 1912, 280 pages.

After Riders of the Purple Sage was released in 1912, it was labeled "scandalous" by Heber J. Grant, then president of the Mormon church.

Grey reportedly lived several years in Utah, in the society of the saints, in a small cabin he built. Surrounded by Mormon guides and farmhands, he came to hear of secret blood-oaths taken in temples to which only the faithful could gain admittance. He heard of binding loyalties to a priesthood patriarchy, and of plans for the Mormon "political Kingdom of God" to eventually consume all others.

From his writing, it appears that Grey joined other 19th and other early 20th century eastern writers and editors in their moral outrage at the "patriarchal order" of the Latter-day Saints. The antebellum eastern press unitedly condemned slavery and polygamy as "the twin relics of barbarism."

Set in 1872 in a fictituous souther Utah town of Cottonwoods, Purple Sage became the best selling of Grey's western novels.

The book is a clasically-romantic double love-story, replete with cattle rustling clergy and other Mormon scoundrels. It is set in some of the most majestic scenery of the United States, "where the clear blue sky arches over the vales of the free," a Mormon hymn asserts.

The plot starts with lovely Jane Withersteen, faiful saint of Cottonwoods, saving sagerider Bern Venters, a gentile friend, from lynching by local church leaders. Jane is then robbed and scourged by her wicked churchmen -- punishment for refusing to become the plural wife of her bishop.

She subsequently falls in love with a Mormon-hating gunfighter known and feared across the territory as Lassiter.
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