Book review, The Day of the Beast by Zane Grey
This 1922 Zane Grey book was a kind of vacation from some of the one’s I’ve been reading.
“His native land! Home!” is how The Day of the Beast begins this tale of a soldier returning wounded from World War I. But he is returning to a home far different that his memory of when he left it.
“My own -- my native land!” Daren Lane whispered aboard the ship bringing him into New York harbor.
“A sense of strangeness dawned upon him. His home-coming, so ceaselessly dreamed of by night and longed for by day, was not going to be what his hopes had created,” the first page continues.
Instead he found in his home town what in the early 1920s was still somewhat risque behavior by former friends and acquaintances, dancing strange dances, young ladies wandering unescorted and become sexually familiar with boys. One young man, who had not gone to war, was conceited and a leader of the bazaar.
Behavior that is common today was just beginning in those days right after the First World War. I kind of chuckled at the “evil” goings on in Lane’s hometown, since they are so common today. But when Grey penned this book -- “not a western romance” the reader is warned on the cover, these behaviors were still new in the U.S.
The girls to whom he comes home has changed, joined the “wild” gang and is involved with another young man. Discouraged and not well, Lane slowly recovers from what was to have been a certain death and becomes involved with adventures that both bring to light and curtail some of the new practices and brings him to another young lady. She turns out to be his true love and marriage follows.
No actual location is given for this tale, which could have and probably did in one form or another occur in various parts of post-World War I United States.
This turn of Grey’s from his usual westerns tackles what in Grey’s time was a turning of America from good to not so good.
According to the book’s cover, Grey was, “A descendant of the famous Zane family of frontier origin. He was born in Zanesville, Ohio, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. He has played amateur, college and professional baseball. Much of the material for his stories has been supplied by his extensive travel in out-of-the-way places of the West.”
“One of the most popular sites on Oregon’s Rogue River is a simple one-room cabin of peeled logs and hand-split shingles,” an online Seattle Times article states. The article states it was once owned by Zane Grey and is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
“Pearl Zane Gray was born on January 31, 1872, in Zanesville, Ohio, a town founded by his mother’s ancestors. (The spelling of the Gray family name was changed to “Grey” sometime during the late 1890s.) As a youth in Ohio, he developed interests in fishing, baseball and writing. All three pursuits would later bring him acclaim.
“Grey’s baseball prowess led to a scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania’s Dental Department. He graduated in 1896 with a degree in dentistry, but chose to play amateur baseball for several seasons, practicing dentistry intermittently. He established his own dental practice in New York City in 1898.
“While residing in New York, he continued to play baseball. He loved to get away from the city and began visiting Lackawaxen with his brothers.s One on of these outings in 1900-, Zane (“Doc”) met 17-year-old Lina Elise Roth, or “Dolly” as he called her, while canoeing near the Delaware House, a grand boarding house on the river.
“Dolly was a positive influence in Grey’s struggle to become a successful writer. He encouragement and belief in his abilities led him to continue writing despite rejection by publishers.
“Grey’s first published article was ‘A Day on the Delaware,’ in Recreation magazine, May 1902. In 1903, Grey wrote, illustrated, and published his first novel, Betty Zane, with money from Dolly.”
Published by Grossett & Dunlap, New York, no price is listed on the book cover, but a long list of Grey’s books is in the book. Amazon.com lists a 2012 paperback version for $5.39 with the Kindle Edition at $0.00.
For both a look back at life in an earlier American age and just plain good reading, grab this oldie and turn off the TV.
Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Milton M. Gross Copyright 2014