Thursday, August 8, 2013

"The Ranger and Other Stories" by Zane Grey

And just when you were beginning to think all I read anymore are Jane Austen knock-offs and Sherlock Holmes stories, right?

It's been years and years since I read a western.  Why?  I have no idea.  I love watching westerns, love writing them... so why don't I read more of them?  That's something I intend to change.

This is a collection of four novellas, each of them delightful.  I grabbed it off the shelf at the library, not knowing anything other than the title and author, as it's been rebound and I was being dragged bodily toward the children's section.  But I figured, "Hey, can't go wrong with Zane Grey, right?"

Right!

"The Ranger" concerns a Texas Ranger who's fallen in love with a coquettish Mexican-American girl much younger than he is.  She gets kidnapped, he's the Ranger who has to go after her, and lots of excitement ensues.

"Canyon Walls" features a cowboy on the lam after getting into trouble with the law.  He winds up at a ranch run by a Mormon woman and her daughter -- they take him on as a ranch hand, the ranch prospers, and he falls in love with the daughter despite his initial determination not to.

"Avalanche" is about a young man and his adopted brother who have a big quarrel over a girl and then wind up facing almost certain death when an avalanche seals them into a canyon for the winter.

"From Missouri" involves a young schoolteacher who comes to a ranch where all the cowboys -- and the ranch's owner -- all vie for her attention, as does a troublemaker from a nearby ranch.

You might be noticing a theme here, one that rather surprised me:  falling in love!  The first three are told from perspective of the male characters, but the fourth switches back and forth a bit.  And while they all have an exciting bit here and there, only "The Ranger" involves any kind of gunplay.  "Canyon Walls" has no violence at all, but the other two have fist fights.  Not what I particularly expected, I guess.

But don't let that make you think these stories are boring.  I spent the first three stories convinced throughout them that there was not way they could end well, but fervently hoping they would.  I'm hoping to re-read a couple of these before I take it back to the library to see if I can figure out how Grey wound the tension that tight, but yet set up a satisfying ending for each.

Particularly Good Bits:

He reflected that if he were blamed for the Green Valley affair, also, which was not improbable, he might find himself already an outlaw, whether he personally agreed or not.  ("Canyon Walls," p. 54)

Even so, Jake felt a monstrous hand at the back of him, propelling him toward something that he had gladly and sternly willed, yet against which at odd moments his soul revolted.  ("Avalanche," p. 136)

If this was a movie, I would rate it:  PG for mild violence.

I'll leave you with this song, which the story "The Ranger" reminded me of:

4 comments:

  1. To be honest, I've never been able to "get into" westerns. I think it's because they tend to embody stereotypes. I like the movies for the action, but since I don't read books for action, I'd like to see more variation of character and theme. Since you've read and written westerns, maybe you have suggestions for me of books or authors to try that aren't so stereotypical?

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    1. Wayell... I loved Hondo by Louis L'Amour. I don't think it's stereotypical. Archetypical, maybe. But it's not about punching cows and having showdowns on main street.

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  2. Terrific book cover! And from what I have seen Zane Grey definitely liked for his stories to have romance. :) Here I go to order this from the library...

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    1. Isn't it? And yes, it seems he did. I hope you like it!

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