True West
Riders of the Purple Sage Image Credit: True West
Riders of the Purple Sage Image Credit: True West

Riders Of The Purple Sage

Zane Grey’s timeless novel will be staged as an opera.

Jana Bommersbach

The famous purple sage of Western lore is made more dramatic by the red sandstone spires that dot Monument Valley, where Zane Grey rides below. His lyrical descriptions of this majestic site remind one of an Ed Mell painting, for example, Red Rock Cloud Drift (inset), which is why Arizona Opera chose to partner with the artist to present the visuals for its grand interpretation of Zane’s Riders of the Purple Sage novel. – ALL ZANE GREY PHOTOS COURTESY ZANE GREY’S WEST SOCIETY, THE HAROLD B. LEE SPECIAL COLLECTIONS LIBRARY AT BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY AND ZANE GREY INC.; ALL ILLUSTRATIONS BY ED MELL –

Thank the Grand Canyon.

Long before it was a national park— before it was even a game preserve, thanks to President Teddy Roosevelt—this steep-sided canyon of grandeur inspired one of the greatest storytellers of the American West.

He was a writer who touched hundreds of millions in 20 languages, telling stories of Old West ethics and codes— in glory and shame— while painting verbal scenes so vivid, the landscape became a living character.

Yes, Arizona’s Grand Canyon deserves credit because the nearly 34-year-old Zane Grey was smitten to his soul after experiencing the canyon on his honeymoon in 1906—on his wife’s dime—and on a hunting expedition in 1907. Until then, he’d been an Ohio boy, then a Pennsylvania boy, then a New York dentist


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