Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey

Zane Grey’s “Riders of the Purple Sage” is probably one of the most famous westerns ever written, but, despite its popularity since it was first published in 1912, the book may not hold as significant a place in the Canon of the American West for the simple reason that, until 2005, many people had never actually read the book that Grey wrote.

When it was first published, as a serial in Field & Stream magazine, the editors had trimmed much of the original manuscript. When it was ultimately re-published in book form, much of the trimmed material never made it back. Not only that, but much of the book was actually re-written by the publisher, ostensibly to be more palatable and inoffensive to gentle readers. One could argue that the editors and publishers were simply “improving” upon Grey’s tendency for purple prose (and many people did, apparently), but essentially what it boiled down to was censorship, a topic which is foremost on most people’s minds here on Goodreads.

Thankfully, Jon Tuska, with the help of the Ohio State Historical Society, in 2005, published a simple paperback version that restored as fully as possible the original, uncut version of Grey’s western masterpiece. Much of the cut material had to do with Grey’s criticisms of Mormonism and organized religion in general. Never having read the bowdlerized version prior to this, I can’t make a comparison. I have no idea what was added or changed in this restored version. I don’t think it matters, though. What matters is that the book that Grey wrote is what readers are reading with this edition, and that’s the most important part.

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