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Book Reviews

Milt Gross Book Review: "The Heritage of the Desert" by Zane Grey
By Milton M. Gross
Dec 22, 2013 - 4:53:09 AM

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The Heritage of the Desert by Zane Grey, published in 1913, is a great book of romance in Wild West adventure. Milt Gross photo.
I'm not a worshipper of the 'good old days' in terms of how it was to have been living then. Except when the subject is a book by Zane Grey, in this case, The Heritage of the Desert, published in 1913 by Grosset & Dunlap, New York.

Born January 31, 1872, according to Wikipedia, Zane Grey followed an ancestor's career and became a dentist. But he is best known for his authoring 90 books, many of which were westerns.

The Heritage of the Desert, typical of his books was all accurate western in that he detailed extensively scenes from the West and filled those scenes with adventure and, in this case, romance. Although no humor took place in this story, it was a comedy because of its happy ending -- hero gets heroine in marriage and a happy ending with her relatives being on board.

Unlike some of his books, which seem to criticize Mormonism as was common in the early 1900s, this one paints the Mormons as the 'good guys' who provide the family into which hero John Hare eventually marries.

Hero John Hare, found and aided when he was very sick, by a Mormon, became well and hearty through his adventures in the country abutting the Grand Canyon. A somewhat common theme in older books about the outdoors, the climate and hardships he faces, endures, and conquers bring him to solid health. (When I've camped in the great outdoors, I've awakened with a sore spot in my back from a stone that protruded through my sleeping bad -- a definite contrast with this Zane Grey hero.)

The story features a couple of bad guys both of whom end up dead -- a handy way to rid the tale of them. It also features lots of other bad guys, good-guy Indians who aided the good Mormons, wild horses, a mean bear that also ended up dead, other wildlife, and great scenes of the Wild West.

I think it was the details of the Grand Canyon area scenes that most impressed me. I've flown over the Grand Canyon via Delta at a height of many thousands of feet, but had a fair view of that canyon and others in the area. But Grey takes you right down into all that geography in lengthy adventures that almost leave you hot (or cold at night) and thirsty as you wander for weeks through that harsh turf.

But his emphasis on romance makes this book unique. From page 109 comes, "With no gentle hand he grasped her arm and forced her to look at him. But the misery in her eyes overcame him,and he roughly threw his arms around her and held her close.

" 'It can't be a lie. You do care for me -- love me. Look at me.' He drew her head back from his breast. Her face was pale and drawn; her eyes closed tight, with tears forcing a way out under the long lashes; her lips were parted. He bowed to their sweet nearness; he kissed them again and again, while the shade of the cedars seemed to whirl about him. 'I love you, Mescal. You are mine -- I will have you -- I will keep you -- I will not let him (my note: the "him" being an evil son of the hero mormon, who plans to marry her despite her negative feelings toward him) have you!'

"She vibrated to that like a keen strung wire under a strong touch...."

I like that "keen" strung wire. Don't hear that word much these days.

I'm not a reader of those "romantic" paperbacks with the hero holding the heroine on the cover drawing, so that she is leaning back showing a good portion of her breasts. But I'll bet none of them can cause the reader to feel those romantic yearnings as does this paragraph or two by Grey.

The story has suspense, drama, romance, and a happy ending beneath those wide, wide skies of the Old West. What more could you ask? (And with no commercials, with which TV drama bores you to sleep.)

The only grammar issue I noted was Grey's lack of commas after he introduced a sentence with a phrase. I don't how commas were handled by those who knew in 1913. I also noted at times semi-colons dividing the clauses of long sentences, which is not popular in 2013 but is correct grammar.

I've been reviewing a number of books, some of the newer ones apparently authored by folk who never heard of grammar. I much prefer correct grammar that makes following the tale a lot easier.

But this book, whatever I think of some of its grammar, is great!

To read it yourself, for $1.99 offers a Kindle version that includes others of Zane Grey's tales. will sell you a new hardcopy for $26.95, a used hardcopy for $8.43, or a new paperback for $19.98. For great reading about the Old West written in the good old days, grab yours now.

I got mine from a man in a town outside Bangor, a group of old Zane Grey books for around $14.

Too late for a Christmas present, but never too late to read, The Heritage of the Desert by Zane Grey.

Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at

Milton M. Gross Copyright 2013

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