The prolific American writer Zane Grey was the pioneer of the Western literary genre. Grey produced well over 100 books, in which he presented the West as a moral battleground, where his characters were either destroyed or redeemed. His semi-outlaw heroes were his most enduring creation. He sold some 17 million books during his lifetime, and an estimated 100 Hollywood Western films have been based on his stories.
Born with the name Pearl Grey in Zanesville, Ohio, in 1872, Zane was the son of a farmer and part-time preacher. His mother was a second-generation Danish Quaker. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in dentistry in 1896 and practiced in New York City until 1904. That year, Grey wrote and self-published his first book, Betty Zane, after it was turned down by several publishers. The colorful frontier story was based on his mother's journal and eventually became a critical success. He married Lina Elise Roth, who encouraged him to become a full-time professional writer.
In 1908, Grey made a journey to the West with Colonel C. J. "Buffalo" Jones, who told him tales of adventure on the plains. This trip turned out to be a turning point in Grey's career. In 1912, Riders of the Purple Sage was published. It sold 2 million copies and was filmed three times. Grey's formula—in which a mysterious outlaw fights to protect the innocent and the good—shows up in many of his novels. In 1918, he moved to Altadena, California, where he lived for the rest of his life. Grey died on October 23, 1939.