Believe it or not, my book related to Zane Grey is not the only new one on the market. Candace Kant, who did a brilliant job with "Zane Grey's Arizona" in the early 1980s, has just released another book about him. It's entitled "Dolly & Zane Grey, Letters from a Marriage." I got the book recently and made a very quick read of it. For anyone looking to get a more in-depth feel of Zane Grey's life, this is a great book.
One thing to understand about Zane Grey is that for a long time, much of his "affairs" were kept private. In the past couple of years this has changed. It started with Thomas Pauly's "Zane Grey: His Life, His Adventures, His Women" and Kant's new book continues the exposing of what really happened.
Grey's noted "secretaries" were more than just writing assistants. He developed physical and spiritual bonds with these women, something that Pauly touches on extensively and Kant further delves into. What emerges is a fascinating view of an enormously complex man.
Kant's new book is probably one of the most insightful as far as Zane Grey's wife Line Elise Roth, better known as "Dolly." One can't help but marvel at the job she did managing Zane Grey's business affairs, all the while struggling with his infidelity and the need to keep such matters private, lest they ruin the empire that they were building. And "they" is the appropriate term. Kant makes it very clear in her editing of the letters between Zane and Dolly, that Grey would not have been the Zane Grey we know and love, without the presence of his wife Dolly. Through the years, various "literary assistants" of Grey tried to out-position Dolly, most notably Mildred Smith, but no one could eclipse her and for good reason. Dolly came from a well-to-do family in the East and was an extremely well educated person, having graduated from Columbia University. Later she was on the board of directors at numerous places, including banks. Kant, through the letters between them, shows just how closely Dolly managed Grey's affairs. And it wasn't just money. Kant tells of how early on Dolly would re-write Grey's novels after editing them, putting them in her flowing script for better presentation to potential publishers.
Through this book you also get a feel for the close bond that Dolly and Zane shared. Dolly had a way of knowing what to tell Zane at times, to pick him up when needed or even temper his feelings when necessary. She was also the one who would clean up problems with Zane's "girls" when they occurred. Kant uses the letters to paint a picture of a conflicted woman that way, albeit who perfectly understood what was at stake. All the while, Dolly raised three kids, Romer, Betty and Loren, running the household in an admirable way.
You also get a really good feel for just how much Zane Grey traveled. It's something that I cannot emphasize enough. I've had people ask me with regards to my own book: "did Zane Grey live there?" And I have to tell them: "I don't think he really lived anywhere. He lived on the road, but was based out of Altadena, at least in the later years." This really comes through as Kant presents the letters chronologically, framing them up by giving background on each one of Grey's trips. It brought about some realizations to me. I've picked up some of the old magazines in which Grey's stories appeared in segments. Country Gentleman, Ladies Home Journal and McCall's were amongst the magazines that his stories appeared, often starting there before they were published in novel form. It's through that view that I better understand the public's fascination with Grey, particularly in those times. It's also why Grey's works will continue to resonate well into the future. Remember, during that time period you didn't have TV. There was no "Discovery Channel" to take you around the world. Instead, the way people "saw" exotic locales was through their magazines. Who was one of their chief "hosts" or "guides?" Zane Grey. Even through the fiction, people were able to see the world. Grey's descriptiveness allowed folks to picture what he was seeing. Grey didn't usually visit "run of the mill" cities, but instead exotic locales. It reminds me of a newspaper headline I've seen when "To the Last Man" was being filmed here. It said: "America's Least-Civilized Being Filmed." This was comparatively unexplored country. It was "exotic" to those who read about it. That's the power of Zane Grey.
Kant guides us through these trips and his letters to home give a firsthand account of what was happening as it was happening.
You could say it's Zane Grey "unplugged." In my opinion, it's often Zane Grey at his best. It provides a very compelling story and makes you marvel at the man.
Grey may have started off as a relative city slicker, but I'd say that by the time he died in 1939, he was an adventurer if there ever was one. He learned to adapt to the many situations that he was in.
Kant's book is a good pickup for anyone who wants to get a better feel for the depth of Zane Grey the person.
It's also, in my opinion, the best book to date about Grey's wife Dolly.
I would also encourage you to track down Kant's earlier work, "Zane Grey's Arizona." While it's now out of print, it provided a great overview of Grey's time in this state.