Zane Grey: It's All About The Books

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They came from all over the country and some even came from the other side of the world to enjoy the camaraderie of like-minded souls -- as members of the Zane Grey's West Society.

More than 120 of them converged on Payson this week, enjoying free admission to the replica of Zane Grey's Mogollon Rim lodge at Green Valley Park, lots of food and a variety of programs and excursions.

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Members of Zane Grey's West Society meeting in Payson this week, crowded into the conference room at the Best Western Payson Inn to search for Zane Grey books and memorabilia to add to their collections.

But, in the end, it was really about the books.

On Wednesday night, the "Zanies" crowded into the conference room at the Best Western Payson Inn for a book fair.

There were wall-to-wall people perusing and talking about the tables of books. There were big, hardbound books with $100 price tags and little pamphlet-sized books for only $2.

Official Payson historians, Jayne Peace Pyle and Jinx Pyle, were there, selling their various titles on Rim Country history and the cookbook they call the "Zane Grey's Cookbook," which features some of the foods and preparation techniques used by area pioneer families during the time the inventor of the Western novel frequented this part of the country.

There were people who have been with the society since its inception 20 years ago and those who were at their first convention.

Tim Abner of Clay City, Ky. was introduced to Zane Grey when he was in second grade. The first Zane Grey book he read was an abridged version published by Whitman Books for children.

"It was ‘The Last Trail'," he said.

Abner said his mother was a fan of Zane Grey's books and had a few around the house and when he was about 10, he started reading them. A year later, at 11, he became a bona fide collector, when he was given several of the author's books for Christmas.

He now has about 450 in his collection and is an original member of the Zane Grey's West Society. The Payson convention is the fifth he has attended.

Asked to name some of his favorite books, Abner said, "How about my favorite four or so? They're ‘Under the Tonto Rim,' ‘Code of the West,' ‘Wanderer of the Wasteland' and ‘Riders of the Purple Sage.'"

Larry and Carolyn Lockwood of Proctor, Okla. have Zane Grey books in just about every room of their home. The former Arizona residents said there are about 450 books in their collection, along with memorabilia, including autographs.

"I think we have almost three complete sets of the Black's (collection of all of Grey's works)," Larry said.

Larry Lockwood is the real Zane Grey fan in the family. He started reading the Grey books as a fifth-grader. Naming his favorites is not a difficult task for Larry. He said the Zane Grey books he likes the most are "Rainbow Trail," "Riders of the Purple Sage" and "Heritage of the Desert."

Ed Riffle of Glasgow, Ky. is one of the newer society members in town this week.

"I'd seen Zane Grey movies as a child, but never read any of the books," he said. "Then about two-and-a-half years ago, my wife and I were on a cruise and among the 10 people seated at our dinner table were Joe Wheeler and his wife."

Wheeler founded the Zane Grey's West Society in 1983 with the late G.M. Farley.

"He had some material with him and he hooked me," Riffle said.

He has since been prowling antique stores in search of Grey's books.

"I have about 65 and have read about 40 of them," he said. His favorites are "Heritage of the Desert," "The Rainbow Trail" and "Riders of the Purple Sage." The gathering in Payson was Riffle's first convention.

More than 120 people were expected to take part in the convention, which was held from June 18 through June 21 and coordinated by Conrad and Beverly Okerwall of Payson, with help of many others.

Tina Bruess, executive director of the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce, estimates the convention brought about $26,000 to town over its four days.

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