Book Review: : Lone Star Ranger By Zane Grey

Nick Brown
3 min read
“Lone Star Ranger” on display
Share ::
So it was in him, then–an inherited fighting instinct, a driving intensity to kill.

I’ve read a certain amount of Louis L’Amour – enough to admire that he somehow wrote the same story a hundred times over with remarkable skill and pacing. However, in the realm of western writers I was until recently ignorant of Zane Grey’s craftsmanship.

Zane Grey wrote horse operas around the turn of the last century. I’m interested in writing from that period, though mostly science fiction. Still, it was strange that I’d never read any Zane Grey.

I must have been speaking aloud for then, from the hideous shadows of a dimly lit alley alcove, wafted a wavering tip from some poor derelict sunk in the last clutches of vice. “Lone Star Ranger,” he croaked. “It’s the best damned book Grey ever wrote. It’s got a scene that grabs your sack and won’t let go. You’ll know when you get to it.”

I took my hobo’s advice and secured a vintage hard-bound copy. Happily anticipating a gripping adventure, I opened the cover and read the sentence you see at the top.

From there things went steeply downhill. Grey plugged away with a functional but uninspired grasp of language mechanics that one might earn from a one-room schoolhouse. His forgetful plot wandered with the same organic chaos as its untamed setting. True to life, I suppose, but not the reason we read fiction. Nothing grabbed my sack. It wasn’t a sack grabber.

Lone Star Ranger follows the life of Buck Duane who, unable to contain the murderous impulses inherited from his gunfighter father, shoots down a bully in his home town and rides into the wild rather than face the law.

The first half of the book finds Buck halfway joining a powerful outlaw gang, only to violently secure the escape of a beautiful girl they’ve enslaved. The girl nurses him to health from the shots he’s endured in freeing her, then is captured in a rainstorm never to be seen again. Seriously. She’s just gone from then on.

Years pass and Buck (off camera) hones his gunfighting skills to legendary heights. He has some scrapes with bounty hunters until a resourceful Texas Ranger discerns his noble heart and offers him a position if he’ll only bring another gang of rustlers to justice. He does so, of course, while falling in love with the daughter of the outlaw boss. Forget about that first girl, she’s out of the plot.

It was near torture making it through this book while being slapped senseless by its grammatical errors and misused turns of phrase. My favorite line, to paraphrase: “She was a curly headed lass with gray or hazel eyes.” Were her eyes gray or hazel? I neither know nor care. I suppose he was trying to create an image for the reader, but all I saw was an old man sitting at a typewriter. Perhaps he once told this tale around a campfire to confuse some boyscouts.

To be fair, the book I read was pasted together from two separate books at the request of his publisher, who thought the readership would be repulsed by the adventures of a murderous gunfighter. The original novel, as intended, is currently available under the title Last of the Duanes. Fascinating, but I for one have had my fill.
1 2 3 746