Jeff Mariotte

Zane Grey’s Call of the Canyon

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Author Pearl Zane Grey (who dropped the Pearl early on) was the first superstar of Western fiction. He grew up reading dime novels, but the first time he wrote a story of his own, his father tore it to pieces and beat Zane for wasting his time on trivialities. Zane persisted, and although he went to school and became a dentist, he never forsook his love of Western stories. At the age of 31, seemingly inspired by Owen Wister’s classic The Virginian, Zane tried again with a novel about one of his forebears, Betty Zane. He submitted it to only one publisher, and when it was rejected, he self-published it.

It was not a hit. He kept trying, and although his books kept being rejected he was able to sell magazine articles. In 1907, Zane made his first trip west, armed with a camera and a notebook. That journey inspired him, and he made more trips and wrote more books. His novel Last of the Plainsmen was rejected by Harper Brothers, but published in a magazine. He kept at it, eventually producing The Heritage of the Desert, his first bestseller. That was followed a couple of years later by Riders of the Purple Sage, and even if you don’t know who Zane Grey is, you know that title.

After that, his books sold millions of copies. More than a hundred movies and TV shows have been produced adapting his work. He’s never been out of print since. Publishers started to recognize the marketability of western fiction, and more writers joined the herd. To compare Zane’s influence on the western field with that of Edgar Allan Poe and Arthur Conan Doyle on the mystery field is not a stretch.

Book cover and ebook image

His prose runs (often headlong and with great enthusiasm) toward the purple. Some of his westerns are more accurately romances set (or partially set) in the west–they’re not all the action-packed westerns that we’ve become accustomed to. His 1924 novel Call of the Canyon is one of the romances, but it includes some vivid scenes of ranch life and descriptions of the western landscape so richly detailed that you’ll almost think you’re there seeing it with your own eyes. It’s set in beautiful Oak Creek Canyon, in Arizona’s Red Rock country, which is one of my favorite areas of the state, which makes it even more special to me.

Rocks and grass at Oak Creek Canyon, Arizona
Oak Creek Canyon, 2022

Now Call of the Canyon has been brought back into print by WordFire Press (the company owned by my dear friends Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta, which has released several of my books (for example, check out the Jeffrey J. Mariotte boxed set!), and edited by a friend who took Kevin’s course on publishing, Eva Eldridge. Eva–not knowing that I was friends with Kevin–asked me to write a foreword for this new edition. I was honored, but I approached it with trepidation, because having my name associated with Zane Grey’s is a bit overwhelming. He’s a legend, a groundbreaking author, and I’m some guy who writes books.

But I couldn’t turn it down. The chance to share a book cover with him, to even be mentioned in the same breath as him, was too good to pass up. It releases on June 4, 2024, and you can nab your copy of this beautiful edition in hardcover, paperback, or ebook, here: Call of the Canyon. I can’t wait to hold it in my hands.

Note: Eva also edited Trouble in Tucson, a Sisters in Crime anthology that contains my story “A Page from the Past.” It’s a story about private eye Dave Tanner, the Tucson Festival of Books, and a stolen Ray Bradbury book

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