Saturday, May 31, 2014


By Ashley Kath-Bilsky

What really happened at the O.K. Corral...and afterwards?

It was over in 30 seconds, and when the smoke cleared on that fateful Wednesday afternoon of October 26, 1881, three men were dead and three were wounded. Only one participant in the gunfight survived uninjured; his name was Wyatt Earp. Among the dead were Billy Clanton, and Frank and Tom McLaury. The three men wounded were Morgan Earp, Virgil Earp, and (with a minor graze to his hip), J.H. “Doc” Holliday. In addition, there was another man who not only managed to flee when the shooting started, but later hired legal counsel to seek murder charges against the Earps and Holliday. That man’s name was Joseph I. “Ike” Clanton.

In the aftermath of perhaps the most famous gunfight in the American West, tensions grew in Tombstone, Arizona, and public opinion became divided. Many supported the actions of the Earps and Holliday, but there were others (including the newspaper The Nugget) who felt the infamous gunfight was nothing short of murder.

A Preliminary Hearing was held before Judge Wells Spicer between November 9th and November 15th 1881, to determine if murder charges should be filed against Virgil Earp, then Chief of Police of Tombstone and a US Deputy Marshal, as well as his brothers, Wyatt and Morgan Earp, and family friend, Doc Holliday. Having read both the testimony of various witnesses for the prosecution and for the defense, including statements by Wyatt and Virgil Earp, I must say one could make viable arguments for both cases even today.

Sheriff John Behan (pictured) had been sitting in a barber’s chair getting a shave where he noticed a crowd gathering at the corner of Fourth and Allen. Amidst talk of trouble brewing on Fremont Street between the Earps and the McLaurys and Clantons, Behan told the barber to hurry up. His sworn statement reflected that he tried to stop the Earps and testified against their actions. A housewife named Mrs. Martha King, also a witness for the prosecution, testified she had been inside Bauer’s Butcher Shop on Fremont when the shooting started. She had seen the Earps and Holliday walk by and that as the wind caught Holliday’s long coat, she saw he was armed.

Ultimately, no charges were filed and the rest, as they say, is history.

But what truly led up to such a deadly gunfight in the middle of the day? Was it justice or a case of the Earps and Holliday taking the law into their own hands to settle a personal account? It would seem the latter since Sheriff Behan had tried to intervene and stop the Earps, according to his sworn testimony. Ike Clanton also testified that after the Sheriff had spoken to them (meaning him, his brother, and the McClaurys), and told them to ‘stay where they were’, Behan then approached the Earp party with his hands up and told them he had everything under control and to stop. The Earps and Holliday, obviously intent on their course, ignored the Sheriff and walked right by him. The distance between the two parties at that time had been a mere 20 paces. The actual gunfight took place at very close range as pictured in the re-enactment here.

Joseph I. ‘Ike’ Clanton, whose brother had been killed in the gunfight, testified at length. An interesting incident in his transcribed sworn testimony concerned a volatile encounter he’d had with Doc Holliday the day before the deadly gunfight. Whilst eating at a ‘lunch stand’ near the Eagle Brewery Saloon, Ike Clanton claimed Holliday started swearing at him and accused Ike Clanton of “using his name”. In his testimony, Ike Clanton stated he had no idea what Holliday even meant by “using his name”. An enraged Holliday kept on Clanton “to get my gun out and get to work”, but Ike Clanton testified he was unarmed at the time, which further aggravated Holliday. At this point, Holliday then accused him of threatening the Earps, which he also denied. Ironically, Morgan Earp—seated a short distance away—simply listened intently to the altercation, but both Morgan Earp and Holliday kept “a hand in their bosoms and I presumed on their pistols”.

Whether Ike Clanton had been drinking with friends and said something in a private conversation about Holliday that was overheard and reported back to the dentist turned gunfighter, one can only speculate now. If, as Holliday alleged, Ike Clanton had threatened the Earps, why was Morgan Earp just watching the altercation unfold and not saying anything until Ike Clanton was leaving the lunch stand? Was this an attempt at intimidation by two men highly skilled with guns or a justified argument with a braggart who had been mouthing off about Holliday and the Earps? Like they say, there are always two sides to every argument.

The American West is riddled with stories of gunfights and ‘calling outs’ which—in a predominately lawless society—was just the way men settled their arguments. And arguments could range from looking at someone the wrong way to accusations of cheating at cards, insulting a lady’s honor, or (as it appears in the famous gunfight on Fremont Street in Tombstone), the final word in a long-held grudge that had reached its boiling point. It didn’t take much for a man in the American West to take exception with a person (whether warranted or not), and for that person to then be viewed as an adversary or enemy.

Needless to say, it involves no stretch of the imagination to consider not just the origin but evolution of 'gunfights' (that could involve several people) or the act of 'calling someone out' (between two armed men). Put simply, I believe there is a strong argument the Old West way of settling disputes evolved from the practice of duels.

Duels - How a Medieval Combat of Chivalry Came to America

With its medieval origins of chivalry, a duel was an arranged combat between two individuals wherein they had equal or matched weapons and rules of conduct. In the 17th and 18th century, the weapons of a duel included swords. But with the advancement of weaponry, the late 18th century and 19th century primarily involved pistols. And like many practices adopted from England and Europe in the Colonial United States, the considered gentlemanly art of dueling became one of them.

Historically, a duel was all about honor. The intent was not to kill one’s opponent but to ‘gain satisfaction’ whereby one could restore or defend their honor by the simple fact they were willing to risk their life for it. And there were rules involving the act of dueling which were strictly observed. In fact, not following the rules of a duel was viewed not only as dishonorable but cowardly. At the same time, terms could also be established for a particular duel, i.e., to the death or ‘first blood’

First blood meant that the duel would end when one individual was wounded, even if it were minor. A duel’s terms could also be established that it would continue until one participant was too injured to continue. As a result, it could be quite a lengthy ordeal. However, these type duels were primarily fought with swords. Duels involving pistols were usually based on each party firing one shot. If no one was struck, and if the challenger felt his honor had been ‘satisifed’, the duel could end. If, on the other hand, the challenger felt his honor still insulted, the duel could continue until one person was injured or killed.

An interesting aspect regarding duels was the act of deloping, where a participant fired into the air or at a tree because they felt their opponent was not worth shooting. Deloping was viewed as dishonorable for it cheated the other participant of obtaining satisfaction. In fact, Rule 13 of the Code Duello of 1777 banned the practice of deloping.

Pistol duels were common in Colonial America, and involved many respected political leaders of their times. Button Gwinnett, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, dueled with Lachlan McIntosh (a political opponent) on 16 May 1777. Both men were wounded, and Gwinnett died three days after the duel. One of our nation’s most famous duels involved United States Vice President Aaron Burr and the former United States Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton.

The duel took place on 11 July 1804 and resulted in Hamilton being killed. On 30 May 1806, a then future President of the United States, Andrew Jackson engaged in a pistol duel with Charles Dickinson, a prominent duellist. Dickinson was killed, and Jackson was wounded. It has been documented that Jackson fought at least two duels in his lifetime, although he openly bragged that he had fought 14.

In a pistol duel, both participants would stand back-to-back with matching loaded weapons in hand. They would then walk a prescribed number of paces, turn to face one another and fire their weapon. An interesting side note is that the more severe the insult that precipitated the duel, the less number of paces taken which separated the opponents. Some pistol duels stipulated that shots would not be fired at the same time, but that each participant took a turn with the challenged participant firing first.

Dueling pistols were made to exact specifications using calibers of .45, .50, .and .65. They were sometimes custom-made and often intricately embellished. As a result, a matching set of dueling pistols was prized and often became family heirlooms. Pictured below is a matched set of Italian flintlock pistols (circa 1765) I purchased for my husband years ago in New Orleans.

According to long-standing tradition, each participant in a duel would also have a second who assisted them. The second would ensure that the duel was fair and followed the established rules. Weapons to be used were checked to make sure they were identical, as well as both loaded. A second would also measure the length of ground agreed upon beforehand. But there was another important, if not vital, aspect of being a second that has often been overlooked. It was the second who not only carried the principal’s challenge but first investigated and determined if the insult resulted from a simple misunderstanding or a deliberate insult of honor requiring a duel.

The Code of Honor, Or, Rules for the Government and Principals and Seconds in Duelling (1784-1849), a 22-page booklet published by John Lyde Wilson, (a former governor of South Carolina), states if an individual believes they have been insulted, either in public or by words or behavior, they are encouraged to “be silent on the subject, speak to no one about the matter, and see your friend, who is to act for you, as soon as possible. Never send a challenge in the first instance, for that precludes all negotiation. Let your note be in the language of a gentleman, and let the subject matter of complaint be truly and fairly set forth…” “When your second is in full possession of the facts, leave the whole matter to his judgment, and avoid any consultation with him unless he seeks it. He has custody of your honor, and by obeying him you cannot be compromitted.”

One such instance of the importance of a second doing his job took place on 22 September 1842. In a scheduled duel that could have changed the course of American history, none other than Abraham Lincoln (future President of the United States and then a state legislator for Illinois) met on that date to duel with James Shields, the state auditor of Illinois. The duel was cancelled due to the mediation and intervention of seconds.

But just as there have been men who felt they had every right to defend their honor in a duel, there have always been people who denounced the practice of dueling. During the American Revolution, George Washington asked his officers to refuse challengers, believing (and rightly so), it would threaten the success of the war. And after the Burr-Hamilton duel, Benjamin Franklin openly criticized the practice.

By the end of the 1800s, laws were established to prevent duels, but they still took place – particularly in the south and American West. Yet, the armed combats that took place on the frontier followed few, if any, rules. In a climate where lawlessness often prevailed, where drunken cowboys could ride hell-bent up the street shooting off their guns for the fun of it, and tempers could flare in a heartbeat after a night of too much drinking or one bad hand of cards after another, the established rules and regulations of dueling were cast aside. The age of gunfights prevailed.

There were no seconds making sure each man was armed with an identical weapon, or marking off the distance between adversaries. As stated earlier, by the time Sheriff Behan tried to stop the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday from their appointment with destiny, they were only 20 paces away from where the Clanton-McLaury parties stood. Neither was just one bullet fired at your opponent. Quite the contrary, they kept firing until their ammunition ran out. Bullets flied, often striking innocent bystanders and damaging both public and private property. There would be so much smoke from the gunpowder, that until it settled it was difficult to know who was still standing…if anyone.

Perhaps the only type of gunfight in the American West that most resembled the so-called gentlemanly art of dueling was the ‘calling out’ of someone. This was a gunfight between two individuals, and although usually impulsive rather than planned, the two parties agreed to meet at a designated place and time.

One such ‘calling out’ occurred on 21 July 1865 between Wild Bill Hickok and David Tuff. After an argument over cards, the two men decided to shoot it out in a gun fight. Tuff was killed. Another famous ‘calling out’ type duel happened in Fort Worth, Texas on 08 February 1887 between Luke Short (incidentally, a good friend of Wyatt Earp), and Jim Courtright.

And yet, although duels have become obsolete and we now use dialogue, mediation, litigation and the courts to settle disputes, some states still do not have any laws prohibiting duels—although individuals may be prosecuted under established laws such as assault or manslaughter. Interestingly, even in the 21st century, the state of Kentucky still requires officials taking office, from a judge or county official to and including the state’s governor, to say the following oath when being sworn into office. Pay particular attention to the second paragraph.

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm, as the case may be) that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this Commonwealth, and be faithful and true to the Commonwealth of Kentucky as long as I continue a citizen thereof, and that I will faithfully execute, to the best of my ability, the office of ______, according to law, and,

I do further solemnly swear (or affirm) that since the adoption of the present Constitution, I, being a citizen of this State, have not fought a duel with deadly weapons within this State nor out of it, nor have I sent or accepted a challenge to fight a duel with deadly weapons, nor have I acted as second in carrying a challenge, nor aided or assisted any person thus offending, so help me God.” [Source: The National Conference of State Legislatures]

NOTE: As recently as 2010, the “Kentucky Dueling Language Amendment” was supposed to be placed before the Senate and House of Representative for a vote in the state’s General Election. However, the Legislative session ended without the amendment being voted on; consequently, it was not on their November 2, 2010 ballot.

I hope you enjoyed this post about the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (and its aftermath), as well as dueling and my opinion of its influence on gunfights in the American West.

As many of you know, I love to incorporate history into my novels -- which is why I enjoy research so much. So, an interesting side note to this post is how two noted gunfighters of the American West -- Wyatt Earp and Luke Short -- are featured in my best-selling time travel romance, WHISPER IN THE WIND.

History comes alive in WHISPER IN THE WIND. In addition to a sensuous love story between Jordan Blake and Molly Magee, Fort Worth Texas in 1885 plays a prominent role -- as do some mighty compelling characters and historical figures.

What is the story behind Pinkerton detective Jordan Blake's somewhat guarded friendship with Wyatt Earp? And what happens when a spirited 21st century heroine -- who doesn't think twice about speaking her mind -- goes back in time and meets some Old West legends in person?

WHISPER IN THE WIND is available in print and Kindle format on Amazon. You can also find it in digital format on Nook, Kobo, and iBooks.

As always, thank you for taking the time to visit the Sweethearts of the West blog. ~ AKB

Turner, Alford (Ed.), The O. K. Corral Inquest (1992)

Wilson, John Lyde, The Code of Honor: or Rules for the Government of Principals and Seconds in Duelling (1838, 1858)

Lubet, Steven, Murder in Tombstone: The Forgotten Trial of Wyatt Earp (2004)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


Just this past week, Prairie Rose Publications published two new sweet/sensual anthologies of some of the best, most entertaining western romance reading you’ll find anywhere, and we’ve got two more headed your way in June!

Lassoing a Groom and Lassoing a Bride came out with a bang and have already started garnering some wonderful reviews! Priced at $2.99 each, you can’t go wrong!

Author Richard Prosch just had his new story, WAITING FOR A COMET, released as a single sell short story with our PAINTED PONY BOOKS line. This story is such a great crossover story, we also included it in the anthology from TORNADO ALLEY PUBLICATIONS, THIS SUMMER STORM! This is one you do not want to miss! For only .99, it's a steal--and is for all ages!

Coming in June! From our TORNADO ALLEY PUBLICATIONS imprint for younger readers, we have a new anthology, THIS SUMMER STORM, coming your way on June 5th! This anthology has 7 stories in it for Young Adult ages, 13-17, and we are just thrilled to bring this debut anthology your way! These stories take place in different times and locations, with one thing in common: they are all some of the best tales you’ll find out there for this age group!

Also coming in June, two more anthologies from Prairie Rose Publications. Lassoing a Mail-Order Bride will be released on June 5, and we are thrilled to offer this wonderful collection of stories about mail-order brides taking a circuitous “route” to the love of their lives by answering one little ad that changes everything for each of them. AND, on June 12, our spicy anthology, COWBOY CRAVINGS, will make its debut for your reading pleasure! With four spicy-hot stories of love in the old west, this is one collection you will not want to be without!

Also in July, we have a real treat coming from FIRE STAR PRESS for those of you who enjoy retro historical reads. The Viet Nam War era was a turbulent time in our nation’s history, and also in the lives of the many young people who were faced with going to fight overseas, and the loved ones they left behind. Author B.J. Betts has authored a love story, ECHOES IN THE NIGHT, that takes place during this time and will leave you wanting more—and in August, she delivers, with SAIGON MOON!

Join us at the end of July, as well, for our PRP CHRISTMAS IN JULY sale, when we’ll be offering many titles, old and new, for several days at special low prices! Stop by our websites and see all of our wonderful offerings! We’d love to have you come visit.

Monday, May 26, 2014


Those of you who love the West enough to follow this blog have no doubt read at least one of Zane Grey's novels. Until researching this post, I had no idea that he had developed the basis for the long-running radio and television series "The Lone Ranger" and "Sergeant Preston of the Yukon." I'm probably giving away my age, but I used to watch both of those.

Zane Grey was a troubled, somewhat self-indulgent yet brilliant writer. While I don't approve of all aspects of his life (detest cheating spouses), I certainly admire his writing achievements. Those of us who write western historical romances owe him a great debt. With his acknowledged veracity and emotional intensity, he connected with millions of readers worldwide and inspired many of the western writers who followed him. He became one of the first millionaire authors, not bad when you consider what he'd be worth in today's currency.

Zane Grey was a major force in shaping the myths of the Old West. His books and stories were adapted into other media, such as film and TV productions. He was the author of more than 90 books, some published posthumously and/or based on serials originally published in magazines. His total book sales exceed 40 million. From the beginning, vivid description was the strongest aspect attributed to his writing.

Grey wrote not only westerns, but two hunting books, six children’s books, three baseball books, and eight fishing books. Many of them became bestsellers. According to Wikipedia, he wrote over nine million words in his career. From 1917 to 1926, Grey was in the top ten best-seller list nine times, which required sales of over 100,000 copies each time. Even after his death, Harper had a stockpile of his manuscripts and continued to publish a new title each year until 1963. During the 1940s and afterward, as Grey's books were reprinted as paperbacks, his sales exploded.

Grey suffered bouts of depression, anger, and mood swings, which affected him most of his life. As he described it, “A hyena lying in ambush—that is my black spell! I conquered one mood only to fall prey to the next...I wandered about like a lost soul or a man who was conscious of imminent death."

Pearl Zane Grey was born January 31, 1872, in Zanesville, Ohio. He was the fourth of five children born to Alice "Allie" Josephine Zane, whose English Quaker immigrant ancestor Robert Zane came to the North American colonies in 1673, and her husband, Lewis M. Gray, a dentist. His family changed the spelling of their last name to "Grey" after his birth. Later Grey dropped Pearl and used Zane as his first name. He grew up in Zanesville, a city founded by his maternal great-grandfather Ebenezer Zane, an American Revolutionary War patriot. Understandably; Zane Grey was intrigued by history from an early age. Grey developed interests in fishing, baseball, and writing, all of which contributed to his writing success. His first three novels recounted the heroism of ancestors who fought in the American Revolutionary War.

As a child, Grey frequently engaged in violent brawls, despite (or because of) his father's punishing him with severe beatings. Though irascible and antisocial like his father, Grey was supported by a loving mother and found a father substitute. Muddy Miser was an old man who approved of Grey's love of fishing and writing, and who talked about the advantages of an unconventional life. Despite warnings by Grey’s father to steer clear of Miser, the boy spent much time during five formative years in the company of the old man.

Grey was an avid reader of adventure stories such as Robinson Crusoe and Leatherstocking Tales and of dime novels featuring Buffalo Bill and Deadwood Dick. He was enthralled by and crudely copied the great illustrators Howard Pyle and Frederic Remington. He was particularly impressed with OUR WESTERN BORDER, a history of the Ohio frontier that likely inspired his earliest novels. Zane wrote his first story, "Jim of the Cave," when he was fifteen. His father tore it to shreds and beat him. As a writer, that horrified me! What a hard man and terrible parent his father must have been. Both Zane and his brother Romer were active, athletic boys who were enthusiastic baseball players and fishermen.

Supposedly due to shame from a severe financial setback in 1889 caused by a poor investment, Lewis Grey moved his family from Zanesville and started again in Columbus, Ohio. While the older man struggled to re-establish his dental practice, Zane Grey made rural house calls and performed basic extractions, which his father had taught him. The younger Grey practiced until the state board intervened. His brother Romer earned money by driving a delivery wagon. Grey also worked as a part-time usher in a movie theater and played summer baseball for the Columbus Capitols, with aspirations of becoming a major leaguer. Eventually, Grey was spotted by a baseball scout and received offers from many colleges. Romer also attracted scouts' attention and went on to have a professional baseball career.

Zane Grey in baseball uniform
for the University of Pennsylvania

(love the old-style uniform, don't you?)

Grey chose the University of Pennsylvania on a baseball scholarship, where he studied dentistry and joined Sigma Nu fraternity; he graduated in 1896. When he arrived at Penn, he had to prove himself worthy of a scholarship before receiving it. He rose to the occasion by coming in to pitch against the Riverton club, pitching five scoreless innings and producing a double in the tenth which contributed to the win. The Ivy League was highly competitive and an excellent training ground for future pro baseball players. Grey was a solid hitter and an excellent pitcher who relied on a sharply dropping curve ball. When the distance from the pitcher's mound to the plate was lengthened by ten feet in 1894 (primarily to reduce the dominance of Cy Young’s pitching), the effectiveness of Grey’s pitching suffered. He was re-positioned to the outfield. The short, wiry baseball player remained a campus hero on the strength of his timely hitting.

He was an indifferent scholar, barely achieving a minimum average. Outside class he spent his time on baseball, swimming, and creative writing, especially poetry. His shy nature and his teetotaling set him apart from other students, and he socialized little. Grey struggled with the idea of becoming a writer or baseball player for his career, but unhappily concluded that dentistry was the practical choice.

During a summer break, while playing summer nines in Delphos, Ohio, Grey was charged with, and quietly settled, a paternity suit. His father paid the $133.40 cost and Grey resumed playing summer baseball. He concealed the episode when he returned to Penn.

Grey went on to play minor league baseball with several teams, including the Newark, New Jersey Colts in 1898 and also with the Orange Athletic Club for several years. His brother Romer Carl "Reddy" Grey (known as "R.C." to his family) did better and played professionally in the minor leagues. He played a single major league game in 1903 for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

After graduating, Grey established his practice in New York City under the name of Dr. Zane Grey in 1896. It was a competitive area but he wanted to be close to publishers. He began to write in the evening to offset the tedium of his dental practice. He struggled financially and emotionally. Grey was a natural writer but his early efforts were stiff and grammatically weak. Whenever possible, he played baseball with the Orange Athletic Club in New Jersey, a team of former collegiate players that was one of the best amateur teams in the country.

Grey often went camping with his brother R.C. in Lackawaxen, Pennsylvania, where they fished in the upper Delaware River. When canoeing in 1900, Grey met seventeen year-old Lina Roth, better known as Dolly. She came from a family of physicians and was studying to be a schoolteacher.

After a passionate and intense courtship marked by frequent quarrels, Grey and Dolly married five years later in 1905. During his courtship of Dolly, Grey still saw previous girlfriends and warned her frankly, "But I love to be free. I cannot change my spots. The ordinary man is satisfied with a moderate income, a home, wife, children, and all that....But I am a million miles from being that kind of man and no amount of trying will ever do any good". He added, "I shall never lose the spirit of my interest in women."

After they married in 1905, Dolly gave up her teaching career. They moved to a farmhouse at the confluence of the Lackawaxen and Delaware rivers, in Lackawaxen, Pennsylvania, where Grey's mother and sister joined them. (This house, now preserved and operated as the Zane Grey Museum, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.) Grey finally ceased his dental practice to devote full-time to his nascent literary pursuits. Dolly’s inheritance provided an initial financial cushion.

Zane Grey home in
Lackawaxen, Pennsylvania
While Dolly managed Grey's career and raised their three children, including son Romer Zane Grey, over the next two decades Grey often spent months away from the family. He fished, wrote, and spent time with his many mistresses. While Dolly knew of his behavior, she seemed to view it as his handicap rather than a choice. Throughout their life together, he highly valued her management of his career and their family, and her solid emotional support. In addition to her considerable editorial skills, she had good business sense and handled all his contract negotiations with publishers, agents, and movie studios. All his income was split fifty-fifty with her; from her "share", she covered all family expenses. Their considerable correspondence shows evidence of his lasting love for her despite his infidelities and personal emotional turmoil.

The Greys moved to California in 1918. In 1920 they settled in Altadena, California, where Grey bought a prominent mansion on East Mariposa Street, known locally as "Millionaire's Row". Designed by architects Myron Hunt and Elmer Grey (no relation to the author), the 1907 Mediterranean-style house is acclaimed as the first fireproof home in Altadena, built entirely of reinforced concrete as prescribed by the first owner's wife. Grey summed up his feelings for the city: "In Altadena, I have found those qualities that make life worth living."

Altadena, California estate
In Altadena Grey also spent time with his mistress Brenda Montenegro. The two met while hiking Eaton Canyon. Of her he wrote, "I saw her flowing raven mane against the rocks of the canyon. I have seen the red skin of the Navajo, and the olive of the Spaniards, but her...her skin looked as if her Creator had in that instant molded her just for me. I thought it was an apparition. She seemed to be the embodiment of the West I portray in my books, open and wild."

With the help of Dolly's proofreading and copy editing, Grey gradually improved his writing. His first magazine article, "A Day on the Delaware", a human-interest story about a Grey brothers’ fishing expedition, was published in the May 1902 issue of Recreation magazine. Elated by selling the article, Grey offered reprints to patients in his waiting room. In writing, Grey supposedly found temporary escape from the harshness of his life and his demons. "Realism is death to me. I cannot stand life as it is." By this time, he had given up baseball.

Grey read Owen Wister’s great Western novel THE VIRGINIAN. After studying its style and structure in detail, he decided to write a full-length work. Grey had difficulties in writing his first novel, BETTY ZANE (1903). When it was rejected by Harper & Brothers, he lapsed into despair. The novel dramatized the heroism of an ancestor who had saved Fort Henry. He self-published it and became an indie author.☺

After attending a lecture in New York in 1907 by Charles Jesse "Buffalo" Jones, western hunter and guide who had co-founded Garden City, Kansas, Grey arranged for a mountain lion-hunting trip to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. He brought along a camera to document his trips and prove his adventures. He also began the habit of taking copious notes, not only of scenery and activities but of dialogue. His first two trips were arduous, but Grey learned much from his compatriot adventurers. He gained the confidence to write convincingly about the American West, its characters, and its landscape. Treacherous river crossings, unpredictable beasts, bone-chilling cold, searing heat, parching thirst, bad water, irascible tempers, and heroic cooperation all became real to him.

He wrote, "Surely, of all the gifts that have come to me from contact with the West, this one of sheer love of wildness, beauty, color, grandeur, has been the greatest, the most significant for my work."

Upon returning home in 1909, Grey wrote a new novel, THE LAST OF THE PLAINSMEN, describing the adventures of Buffalo Jones. Harper’s editor Ripley Hitchcock rejected it, the fourth work in a row. He told Grey, "I do not see anything in this to convince me you can write either narrative or fiction." Grey wrote dejectedly,

"I don’t know which way to turn. I cannot decide what to write next. That which I desire to write does not seem to be what the editors want...I am full of stories and zeal and fire...yet I am inhibited by doubt, by fear that my feeling for life is false".

The book was later published by Outing magazine, which provided Grey some satisfaction. Grey next wrote a series of magazine articles and juvenile novels.

With the birth of his first child pending, Grey felt compelled to complete his next novel and his first Western, THE HERITAGE OF THE DESERT. He wrote it in four months in 1910. It quickly became a bestseller. Grey took his next work to Hitchcock again; this time Harper published his work, an historical romance in which Mormon characters were of central importance. Grey continued to write popular novels about Manifest Destiny, the conquest of the Old West, and the behavior of men in elemental conditions.

Two years later Grey produced his best-known book, RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE (1912), his all-time best-seller, and one of the most successful western novels of all. Hitchcock rejected it, but Grey took his manuscript directly to the vice president of Harper, who accepted it. As Zane Grey had become a household name, after that Harper eagerly received all his manuscripts. Other publishers caught on to the commercial potential of the western novel. Max Brand and Ernest Haycox were among the most notable of other writers of westerns. Grey's publishers paired his novels with some of the best illustrators of the time, including N. C. Wyeth, Frank Schoonover, Douglas Duer, Herbert W. Dunton, W. H. D. Koerner, and Charles Russell.

Grey had the time and money to engage in his first and greatest passion: fishing. From 1918 until 1932, he was a regular contributor to Outdoor Life magazine. As one of its first celebrity writers, he began to popularize big-game fishing. Several times he went deep-sea fishing in Florida to relax and to write in solitude. Although he commented that “the sea, from which all life springs, has been equally with the desert my teacher and religion,” Grey was unable to write a great sea novel. He felt the sea soothed his moods, reduced his depressions, and gained him the opportunity to harvest deeper thoughts:

"The lure of the sea is some strange magic that makes men love what they fear. The solitude of the desert is more intimate than that of the sea. Death on the shifting barren sands seems less insupportable to the imagination than death out on the boundless ocean, in the awful, windy emptiness. Man’s bones yearn for dust."

Over the years, Grey spent part of his time traveling and the rest of the year wrote novels and articles. Unlike writers who could write every day, Grey would have dry spells and then sudden bursts of energy, in which he could write as much as 100,000 words in a month. He encountered fans in most places. He kept a cabin on the Rogue River in Oregon. Other excursions took him to Washington state and Wyoming.

From 1923 to 1930, he spent a few weeks a year at his cabin on the Mogollon Rim, in Central Arizona. After years of abandonment and decay, the cabin was restored in 1966 by Bill Goettl, a Phoenix air conditioning magnate. He opened it to the public as a free-of-charge museum. The Dude Fire destroyed the cabin in 1990. It was later reconstructed 25 miles away in the town of Payson.

During the 1930s, Grey continued to write, but the Great Depression hurt the publishing industry. His sales fell off, and he found it more difficult to sell serializations. He had avoided the Stock Market Crash and continued to earn royalty income, so did better than many financially. In the 1930s, nearly half of the film adaptations of his novels were made.

From 1925 to his death in 1939, Grey traveled more and further from his family. He became interested in exploring unspoiled lands, particularly the islands of South Pacific, New Zealand and Australia. He thought Arizona was beginning to be overrun by tourists and speculators. Near the end of his life, Grey looked into the future and wrote:

Grey with a koala on his travels
"The so-called civilization of man and his works shall perish from the earth, while the shifting sands, the red looming walls, the purple sage, and the towering monuments, the vast brooding range show no perceptible change."

The more books Grey sold, the more the established critics attacked him. They claimed his depictions of the West were too fanciful, too violent, and not faithful to the moral realities of the frontier. They thought his characters unrealistic and much larger-than-life. Broun stated that “the substance of any two Zane Grey books could be written upon the back of a postage stamp.”

T. K. Whipple praised a typical Grey novel as a modern version of the ancient Beowulf saga, “a battle of passions with one another and with the will, a struggle of love and hate, or remorse and revenge, of blood, lust, honor, friendship, anger, grief—all of a grand scale and all incalculable and mysterious.” But he also criticized Grey’s writing, “His style, for example, has the stiffness which comes from an imperfect mastery of the medium. It lacks fluency and facility.”

Grey based his work in his own varied first-hand experience, supported by careful note-taking, and considerable research. Despite his great popular success and fortune, Grey read the reviews and sometimes became paralyzed by negative emotions after critical ones.

His novel THE VANISHING AMERICAN (1925), first serialized in The Ladies’ Home Journal in 1922, prompted a heated debate. People recognized its Navajo hero as patterned after Jim Thorpe, a great Native American athlete. Grey portrayed the struggle of the Navajo to preserve their identity and culture against corrupting influences of the white government and of missionaries. This viewpoint enraged religious groups. Grey contended, "I have studied the Navaho Indians for twelve years. I know their wrongs. The missionaries sent out there are almost every one mean, vicious, weak, immoral, useless men." To have the book published, Grey agreed to some structural changes. With this book, Grey completed the most productive period of his writing career, having laid out most major themes, character types, and settings.

His WANDERER OF THE WASTELAND is a thinly disguised autobiography. One of his books, TALES OF THE ANGLER'S EL DORADO, NEW ZEALAND, helped establish the Bay of Islands in New Zealand as a premier game fishing area. Several of his later writings were based in Australia.

As a loyal tree-hugger, this next phase positiverly nauseates me! Grey co-founded the "Porpoise Club" with his friend, Robert H. Davis of Munsey's Magazine, to popularize the sport of hunting of dolphins and porpoises. They made their first catch off Seabright, New Jersey on September 21, 1912, where they harpooned and reeled in a bottlenose dolphin. Arghhhh!  Dolphins and porpoises are so intelligent and harmless. Grey should have stuck with writing, in my opinion. (Yes, you can email me your protests.)

Grey's son Loren claims in the introduction to TALES OF TAHITIAN WATERS that Zane Grey fished on average 300 days a year through his adult life. Grey and his brother R.C. were frequent visitors to Long Key, Florida, where they helped to establish the Long Key Fishing Club, built by Henry Morrison Flagler. Zane Grey was its president from 1917 to 1920. He pioneered the fishing of Boohoo fish (sailfish). Zane Grey Creek was named for him.

Grey fished out of Wedgeport, Nova Scotia, for many summers. He also helped establish deep-sea sport fishing in New South Wales, Australia, particularly in Bermagui, New South Wales, which is famous for Marlin fishing. Patron of the Bermagui Sport Fishing Association for 1936 and 1937, Grey wrote of his experiences in his book AN AMERICAN ANGLER IN AUSTRALIA.

From 1928 on, Grey was a frequent visitor to Tahiti. He fished the surrounding waters several months at a time and maintained a permanent fishing camp at Vairao. He claimed that these were the most difficult waters he had ever fished, but from these waters he also took some of his most important records, such as the first marlin over 1,000 pounds. He held numerous world records during his time, all of which have since been broken.

Grey had built a getaway home in Santa Catalina Island, California, which now serves as the Zane Grey Pueblo Hotel. He served as president of Catalina's exclusive fishing club, the Tuna Club of Avalon.

Grey started his association with Hollywood when William Fox bought the rights to RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE for $2,500 in 1916. The ascending arc of Grey’s career matched that of the motion picture industry. It eagerly adapted Western stories to the screen practically from its inception, with Bronco Billy Anderson becoming the first major western star. Legendary director John Ford was then a young stage hand and William S. Hart, who had been a real cowhand, was defining the persona of the film cowboy. The Grey family moved to California to be closer to the film industry and to enable Grey to fish in the Pacific.

After his first two books were adapted to the screen, Grey formed his own motion picture company. This allowed him to control production values and faithfulness to his books. After seven films he sold his company to Jesse Lasky, who was a partner of the founder of Paramount Pictures. Paramount made a number of movies based on Grey's writings and hired him as advisor. Many of his films were shot at locations described in his books. In 1936 Grey appeared as himself in a feature film shot in Australia, WHITE DEATH (1936).

Grey became disenchanted by the commercial exploitation and pirating of his works. He felt his stories and characters were diluted by being adapted to film. Nearly fifty of his novels were converted into over one hundred Western movies, the most by any Western author. Shortly after Grey's death, the success of Fritz Lang's "Western Union" (1941), a film based on one of his books, helped bring about a resurgence in Hollywood westerns. Its costars were Randolph Scott and Robert Young. The period of the 1940s and 1950s included the great works of John Ford, who successfully used the settings of Grey’s novels in Arizona and Utah.

The success of Grey's THE LONE STAR RANGER (a novel later turned into a 1930 film) and KING OF THE ROYAL MOUNTED (popular as a series of Big Little Books and comics, later turned into a 1936 film), inspired two radio series by George Trendle (WXYZ, Detroit). Later these were adapted again for television, forming the series "The Lone Ranger" and "Challenge of the Yukon" (Sgt. Preston of the Yukon on TV). More of Grey's work was featured in adapted form on the Zane Grey Show, which ran on the Mutual Broadcasting System for five months in the 1940s, and the “Zane Grey Western Theatre”, which had a five-year run of 145 episodes.

Zane Grey 1872-1939

Zane Grey died of heart failure on October 23, 1939, at his home in Altadena, California. He was interred at the Union Cemetery in Lackawaxen, Pennsylvania, where the National Park Service maintains the Zane Grey Museum.

photos - Wikipedia and Google commons

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Memorial Day

For many, this weekend marks the beginning of summer. Formerly known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day is a Federal Holiday to remember the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. It originated after the Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who lost their lives. By the 20th century, Memorial Day evolved into honoring all Americans who have perished while serving in the military. 

Harlequin Sale
This picture is of either Memorial Day or Fourth of July in Ortonville, Minnesota in 1880.  I chose it because we go to Ortonville every Fourth of July. My brother has a cabin there and many of the buildings in this picture are still standing. 

For Memorial Day we travel north, to the Canadian Border where we will decorate family graves. It promises to be a lovely weekend and we are looking forward to a bit of down time completely ‘off the grid’. We don’t even have cell service at our property. 

In honor of Memorial Day, Harlequin has a sale on all military hero books. The Major’s Wife is part of this sale. 

I hope you all have a lovely weekend!

Thursday, May 22, 2014


Last week, the final installment in my Teton Romance Trilogy, Teton Sunset, was released. As you might guess, the books are set in the area we know today as Grand Teton National Park. The mountain range known as the Grand Tetons and their surrounding land became a national park in 1929.
While I spend a great deal of time researching the locations and history I write about, and staying true to the descriptions of the land, I used actual dates and events loosely while writing these story. While Teton Sunset takes place in 1855, the first expedition came to the Tetons in 1860, and Jackson Valley wasn’t actually inhabited by white settlers until 1887.
The first white man to see the jagged peaks of the Tetons is believed to be John Colter, who was a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. On their return trip down the Missouri River in 1807, Colter left the expedition with a couple of trappers and headed back into the wilderness. He spent several years trapping in the Rocky Mountains, eventually ending up in the valley at the base of the Tetons, which was later named Jackson’s Hole after trapper Davey Jackson. The name of the valley has been shortened to Jackson Hole. French-Canadian trappers soon found their way into the region, and they gave the Tetons the colorful name “le trois tetons”, meaning “the three breasts.” The Shoshone Indians who inhabited the area called the mountains Teewinots, which means “many pinnacles.”
For several decades, trappers, Indians, traders, and outlaws passed through the valley, but the first permanent settlers didn’t arrive until 1887. The area, due to its high altitude, wasn’t suited for farming, but was ideal for grazing cattle.
In 1859, Captain William Raynolds led an expedition into the Yellowstone Region of Montana and Wyoming to find out about the area’s potential for agricultural and mineral resources, and to map the region. The expedition included noted naturalist/geologist Ferdinand Hayden, and guided by legendary mountain man, Jim Bridger. Due to bad weather, the expedition never made it into the region that would later become Yellowstone National Park, but ended up further south in the Tetons. Due to the start of the Civil War, Captain Raynolds didn’t publish his report and research until 1867. Ferdinand Hayden would, in 1872, lead a government-funded expedition into Yellowstone, carving the way for the creation of the first national park.
To find out more about Grand Teton National Park, and national parks in general, please visit the National Park Service website at

Teton Sunset Blurb

Life for Lucas Walker is a constant adventure, a daily game to be won in the vast Teton wilderness.  Facing every challenge head-on, he values the freedom to go where he wants, when he wants, and without attachments to any one person.
She is known to the native people of the land as Ghost Woman. Hiding from a terrifying past, she has lived alone and under conditions too harsh for even the hardiest men.  Trusting another person is something she can’t do. Forced to put her life in the hands of a man who dares her to confront everything from which she’s tried to escape, she struggles to protect the walls she has built around her identity . . . and her heart. 
Brought together through life or death situations, Lucas and his unwilling charge find themselves fighting dangers only found in the untamed mountains.  Their battle for survival teaches them the ultimate lesson in how to trust and love someone.  When the past catches up to them, they discover that the heart can't always be protected; sometimes the only way to be safe is to open it.


“I’m not going with you,” Tori said again when he advanced on her with that same dark scowl on his face. Wordlessly, he moved past her into the cabin, and Tori turned to follow him.
Lucas rummaged through the pile of clothes at the foot of her bunk, and shoved several articles into a leather pouch draped around his shoulder.
“What are you doing?” Tori demanded, and rushed to his side.
Lucas continued shoving shirts into the bag. “Packing,” he grumbled. “I’m taking you down off this mountain.”
Tori reached into the pouch and pulled several shirts from it, tossing them on the other side of the bed.
“Like hell you are Walker. You can’t tell me what to do.”
 “Is there anything else you want to bring?” Lucas glanced around the cabin as if she wasn’t even there.
“No, because I’m not leaving.” Tori moved in front of him, her hands on her hips. She glared up at him. “Get out of my cabin, Walker.”
 Finally, he looked down at her.
“If there’s nothing else, I guess we’re ready to go.” He nodded in satisfaction. Before she had a chance to comprehend his intent, Lucas bent forward and grabbed her around the knees, then tossed her over his shoulder. The air left her lungs, and a sharp pain jabbed through her injury.
“Put me down, you lout,” she screeched, and pounded her fists against his back. “Walker, put me down this instant. You have no right to take me away from here.”
Ignoring her tirade, Lucas moved out of the cabin, pulling the door shut behind him. He strode to his horse, and unceremoniously dumped her into the saddle. Before she could squirm off the prancing animal’s back, Lucas swung up behind her, and wrapped a steely arm around her waist.
“You can’t do this, Walker,” she growled between clenched teeth, grabbing at his arm to try and dislodge his hold on her. He wouldn’t budge, much like the shackles she’d worn in her prison cell back in St. Louis.
“I think I just did,” he whispered in her ear, and nudged his horse forward.
Tori gritted her teeth. Anger flooded her like nothing ever had. How could she have, even for a second, thought that Lucas Walker was a trustworthy man?
“You’d better sleep with one eye open from hereon, Walker,” she grumbled.
“Oh, I plan to.” His lips lingered against her ear, and despite all the anger that welled up in her, a shiver ran down her spine, and it wasn’t due to fear of this man.
“I haven’t had both eyes closed since I came to this cabin, Tori.”

Peggy L Henderson is a laboratory technologist by night, and best-selling western historical and time travel romance author of the Yellowstone Romance Series, Second Chances Time Travel Romance Series, and Teton Romance Trilogy. When she’s not writing about Yellowstone, the Tetons, or the old west, she’s out hiking the trails, spending time with her family and pets, or catching up on much-needed sleep. She is happily married to her high school sweetheart. Along with her husband and two sons, she makes her home in Southern California.