Fishing Lines: Many riders of Grey the grumpy sage

Mention Zane Grey and most people think: "Cowboy books". It's true that the author of Riders of the Purple Sage and The Rainbow Trail made his money from westerns - but he spent it on fishing.

Pearl Zane Grey (no wonder he adopted his middle name) was the JK Rowling of the 1920s. He had a novel in the top 10 bestsellers' list every year between 1915 and 1924, and in 1927 alone earnt $323,000. Heritage of the Desert had sold 17 million copies by 1939. Most of his books have been made into films, some two or three times.

When he died in 1939, he should have been worth tens of millions. Instead, he had squandered it all on increasingly lavish boats and exotic trips. By 1931, he owed $300,000 on yet another new boat he was planning.

Nothing wrong with that. Live big, spend big. People expect that from a superstar. Sadly, Grey was a curmudgeon. He hated people catching larger fish, and he was forced to resign from the snooty Catalina Tuna Club over a record 426lb broadbill swordfish landed by a woman. Grey, whose largest swordfish was only 418lb, claimed she was neither big enough nor strong enough to capture such a big fish. The boatman must have done most of the work, he said.

It's a darn shame he was such a vain, pompous, unlikeable man, because he wrote some of the great fishing books. Works such as Tales of Swordfish and Tuna, Tales of Tahitian Waters and Tales of Fishing Virgin Seas are, even today, among the finest works on big-game fishing.

But perhaps he had a more kindly side. After all, he used to take two, three or four female companions along on his trips, lasting weeks or more. So what if he wanted an audience for his achievements?

Ah, it was a bit more than that. A terrific new book on Grey* by Thomas Pauly reveals that, far from being a kindly old chap giving young women the chance to see the world, Grey was a lecherous cad who was rogering them all.

Pauly reveals: "There exists an enormous, totally unknown cache of photographs taken by Grey of nude women and himself performing various sexual activities, including intercourse. These are accompanied by 10 small journals, written in Grey's secret code, that contain graphic descriptions of his sexual adventures."

Pauly, who has seen the collection, says that there are several hundred negatives and prints. "Most are of nude females, and involve more than a dozen different women. The early ones date from Grey's college years, perhaps earlier, but the ones from the 1930s are more pornographic. I was allowed to examine this collection and to offer this inventory, but not to quote from the journals or publish any of the photographs."

Grey claimed the women were a crucial part of his inspiration. He was hugely generous to them, buying expensive gifts and, on one occasion, even a house. His wife Dolly, it seems, knew all about them, but turned a blind eye.

I suspect my wife might not be quite so understanding.

'Zane Grey: His Life, His Adventures, His Women', by Thomas H Pauly ($34.95, Univ of Illinois Press)

Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want it for the fitness tech, or for the style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own