There never has been anyone quite like Zane Grey. Famed as the author of Riders of the Purple Sage and 57 other Westerns tinged with purple prose, Grey ranks as the greatest best-selling novelist of his time. For years the total sales of his books fell behind only the Holy Bible and McGuffey Readers. At his death in 1939 his novels had sold more than 15 million copies in the U.S. alone, and they are still selling at the rate of 750,000 to a million books a year. Magazines paid Grey as much as $85,000 for the serial rights to a single work, and Hollywood transferred epic after epic to the silver screen. Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, Warner Baxter, Warner Oland, Richard Arlen, Richard Dix, Randolph Scott, Wallace Beery, Roscoe Karns, Harry Carey, William Powell, Jack Holt, Jack La Rue, Billie Dove, Lili Damita, Fay Wray, Jean Arthur and Buster Crabbe are among the stars who got their start in Zane Grey movies.
On film or in print Grey's Westerns enthralled the public. The books were stilted, awkward and stuffed with painful dialogue ("If you think I'm wonderful and if I think you're wonderful—it's all really very wonderful, isn't it?"), but they throbbed with the pulse of a true storyteller and the fervor of a moralist who made certain that virtue triumphed over evil on the range. "Never lay down your pen, Zane Grey," John Wanamaker, the white-haired merchant prince, once advised, putting a friendly hand on the novelist's shoulder. "I have given away thousands of your books and have sold hundreds of thousands. You are distinctively and genuinely American. You have borrowed none of the decadence of foreign writers.... The good you are doing is incalculable."
Grey received acclaim and money (and some critical brickbats) for his writings, but in another field his distinction was almost beyond compare—he was one of the finest fishermen the world has known. In the words of Ed Zern, who edited the anthology Zane Grey's Adventures in Fishing, "It is reasonable to assume that no one will ever challenge his right to be known as the greatest fisherman America has ever produced." It has been said that the dream of many American males is to have $1 million and go fishing. "Well," writes Zern, "Zane Grey had $1 million, and he really went fishing." Grey is the classic case of the compulsive angler. He was truly obsessed by fish. "Not many anglers, perhaps, care for the beauty of a fish," Grey wrote in Tales of Fishes, one of his eight books on angling, "but I do." He could rhapsodize on the beauty of a huge tuna that "blazed like the sword of Achilles" or marvel over the shimmering colors of a dolphin, only then to feel a pang because the dolphin was dying and he, Grey, was "the cause of the death of so beautiful a thing." The leaping of fish absolutely fascinated him, and even fish fins and fishtails had what he called, with a flourish, "a compelling power to thrill and excite me."
From black bass to blue marlin. Grey pursued fish the world over with unmatched avidity. He explored and established new fishing grounds and techniques in Florida, California, Nova Scotia, New Zealand and Australia. He took great delight in fishing where no one had ever fished before, and his sense of anticipation was so keen that even arranging tackle for a trip gave him exquisite pleasure. He was the first man to catch a fish weighing more than 1,000 pounds on rod and reel. In his day he held nine world records: 582-pound broadbill swordfish; 171-pound Pacific sailfish; 758-pound bluefin tuna; 318-pound yellowfin tuna; 1,040-pound striped marlin; 1,036-pound tiger shark; 618-pound silver marlin; 111-pound yellowtail; and a 63-pound dolphin. The records for the yellowtail and the yellowfin tuna have not been beaten since the International Game Fish Association began keeping records in 1938. Grey was held in such high regard that the Pacific sailfish was named for him, Istiophorus greyi. Hardy's in England manufactured a Zane Grey reel, while in the U.S. there was a Zane Grey bass bug, a Zane Grey steel-head fly and a Zane Grey teaser.
April 28, 1968
Grey had his bad days fishing—he once passed 88 days without a strike—but he remained enthusiastic. "The enchantment never palls," he wrote. "Years on end I have been trying to tell why, but that has been futile. Fishing is like Jason's quest for the Golden Fleece.... Something evermore is about to happen." When something did, Grey wrote about it exuberantly. If he made an unusual catch he would wire The New York Times. There were some critics who thought him guilty of exaggeration. A friend, Robert H. Davis, the editor of Munsey's Magazine, wrote Grey, "If you went out with a mosquito-net to catch a mess of minnows your story would read like Roman gladiators seining the Tigris for whales." Davis added, "You say, 'the hard, diving fight of a tuna liberates the brute instinct in a man.' Well, Zane, it also liberates the qualities of a liar!" Grey cheerfully reported these comments himself in Tales of Fishes. Such criticisms did not bother him. But he was vexed and angered when his sportsmanship was called into question, as it was on a couple of occasions.
Zane Grey's passion for fishing, which, by his own admission, grew stronger through the years, started in his childhood. "Ever since I was a little tad I have loved to chase things in the water," he wrote. He was born in Zanesville, Ohio, on January 31, 1872. His Christian name was actually Pearl, and the family name was spelled Gray. After college he dropped Pearl in favor of his middle name of Zane, and he changed the spelling of Gray to Grey. (He also shaved three years off his age, according to Norris F. Schneider, the foremost authority on Grey, and upon his death obituaries reported he had been born in 1875.) Whatever his name or date of birth, Zane Grey came from pioneer stock. His great grandfather, Colonel Ebenezer Zane, settled what is now Wheeling, W. Va. in 1770 and moved into Ohio after the Revolution. Zanesville is named for him. Zane Grey's father, Dr. Lewis Gray, was a farmer and a preacher who eventually became a dentist with a practice in the Terrace section of Zanesville.
The oldest of five children, young Pearl was so mischievous that he was known as "the terror of the Terrace." On one occasion he destroyed a bed of imported tulips planted in front of the Zanesville Historical and Art Institute. The name Pearl, especially in conjunction with the name Gray, apparently bothered him considerably. The only time he ever liked it, if liked is the word, was in adolescence, when he strove to dramatize himself by dressing in pearl-gray suits.
He was 6 when he saw his first fish. "Looking down from my high perch into the clear pool directly under me, I saw something that transfixed me with a strange rapture. Against the sunlit amber depths of the little pool shone a wondrous fish creature that came to the surface and snapped at a bug. It flashed silver and rose." The experience stayed with him. In school and church Pearl Gray was a dreamer. "I dreamed, mostly of fields, hills and streams.... As I grew older, and learned the joys of angling, I used to runaway on Sunday afternoons. Many a time have I come home late, wet and weary after a thrilling time along river or stream, to meet with severe punishment from my outraged father. But it never cured me. I always went fishing on Sunday. It seemed the luckiest day." Dr. Gray told Pearl the only good fishermen who had ever lived were Christ's disciples, but the boy paid no heed, and he became the admirer of a local bum named Muddy Mizer who was always fishing on the Muskingum River.
Besides fishing, Pearl's other love was baseball, a sport at which he and his brother Romer—called R.C.—excelled. Pearl was a pitcher, and he and R.C. played semipro ball around Ohio. Dr. Gray wanted Pearl to become a dentist, and he had him start by polishing sets of false teeth on a lathe. His pitching arm stood him in good stead. When the family moved to Columbus, Pearl unofficially went into practice on his own, pulling teeth in Frazeysburg until the Ohio Dental Association compelled him to stop. He continued playing baseball, and after one game a scout from the University of Pennsylvania offered him a scholarship. His father allowed him to accept it on the condition that he major in dentistry.
At Penn, Grey was at first highly unpopular. Ignorant of student traditions, he accidentally entered the upper-class section of the lecture hall one day and triggered a riot in which his clothes were torn off and the room wrecked. After another contretemps he was chased by sophomores into a stairwell, where he managed to hold them off by hurling potatoes. His name and his refusal to go along with the crowd, to smoke, drink or gamble, made him the butt of jokes, and he escaped by spending most of his time reading in the library and playing baseball. He proved to be so good a ballplayer that, as he wrote later, "The bitter loneliness of my college days seemed to change. Wilborn, captain of the track team, took me up; Danny Coogan, the great varsity catcher, made me a member of Sigma Nu; Al Bull, the center on the famous football team that beat Yale and Princeton and Harvard, took me as a roommate."
Grey played left field for Penn. His one lapse came in a game against Harvard, when he accidentally stepped into a hole and a fly ball hit him on the head, allowing the winning run to score. Ordinarily his fielding was excellent. He once made a catch that helped Penn beat the Giants at the Polo Grounds. In his senior year he came to bat against the University of Virginia with Penn trailing. It was two out in the ninth and a man on second. A verbose professor shouted, "Grey, the honor of the University of Pennsylvania rests with you!" Grey thereupon homered to win the game.
Grey was graduated with a diploma in dentistry in 1896. He opened an office in Manhattan on the West Side, and there he languished. He did not like the city, and he got away whenever possible. He played baseball for the Orange Athletic Club in New Jersey, and he became the youngest member of the Camp Fire Club. There a fellow member suggested that Grey write a story about his bass fishing on the Delaware. He did, and the story—his first effort—was published in Recreation in May 1902. The appearance of the article gave him direction, and he began writing an historical novel about his ancestor, Betty Zane, who carried gunpowder to her brother, Colonel Zane, during the siege of Fort Henry in the Revolution. All winter Grey labored over the book in a dingy flat. Upon completing it he drew the cover and inside illustrations. No publisher would accept Betty Zane and, after a wealthy patient offered to back it, Grey had it printed privately. Sales were nil, but in a visit to Zanesville in 1904 Grey grandly announced that he had given up dentistry to devote himself "exclusively to literature."
In 1905 Grey married Lina Roth of New York, whom he had met a few years earlier while he was canoeing down the Delaware in one of his escapes from dentistry. She had faith in her husband and a bit of money to boot, and he gave up his practice to write in a house overlooking the Delaware in Lackawaxen, Pa. There he wrote, hunted, fished and savored "the happiness that dwells in wilderness alone." R.C., by now a professional ballplayer, chipped in with an occasional dollar, and Zane later repaid him by making him his official secretary and constant fishing companion.
Grey followed up Betty Zane by writing a couple of other books about the Ohio frontier, The Spirit of the Border and The Last Trail, which the A. L. Burt Co. eventually published. They were flops. But Grey hung on, and in 1907 he went west with one Buffalo Jones, visiting the wilder parts of Utah and Arizona. Jones had a ranch on the rim of the Grand Canyon, where he was hybridizing black Galloway cattle with buffalo and calling the offspring cattalo, and in his spare time he liked to lasso mountain lions. Grey loved it all and, upon returning to the East, he wrote a book about Jones, The Last of the Plainsmen, which he took to Harper, a firm that had rebuffed him previously. Eagerly he awaited word and, hearing none, he visited the publishing house, where an editor coldly informed him, "I don't see anything in this to convince me that you can write either narrative or fiction." It was the bleakest moment in Grey's life. He was 36 years old, he had abandoned dentistry, his wife was pregnant with their first child and he had failed again. "When I staggered down the old stairway and out into Pearl Street I could not see," he later recalled. "I had to hold on to an iron post at the corner, and there I hung fighting such misery as I had never known. Something came to me there. They had all missed it. They did not know...and I went back to Lackawaxen to the smile and encouragement that never failed me."
He promptly wrote his first Western novel, The Heritage of the Desert. Harper yielded and published it in 1910—the year of the birth of his first son, Romer—and Grey thought he was at last on his way. Quickly he wrote Riders of the Purple Sage, but Harper rejected it as too "bulgy." Grey asked a vice-president of the firm to read the manuscript. He liked the novel, and so did his wife, who stayed up until 3 in the morning to finish it. The book was published, and Grey was permanently established. In 15 years Riders of the Purple Sage sold two million copies. Grey also turned out half a dozen juveniles, many of them dealing with his baseball experiences. In The Young Pitcher he wrote of the potato episode at Penn and drew himself as Ken Ward, the hero. His brother R.C., also called Reddy, was Reddy Ray, sparkplug of the team. In The Shortstop, Grey named the hero after Chase Alloway, a professional player he had known in Ohio. (In the Western The Lone Star Ranger Grey named one of the villains Chess Alloway.)
Although comfortably off, Grey continued to write feverishly. He could not abide waste of time. As a writer and as an angler Grey was a finisher, and he followed both callings to the hilt. "It is so easy to start anything, a fishing jaunt or a career," he wrote, "but it is an entirely different matter to finish. The men who fail to finish "in every walk of life, men who have had every opportunity...can be numbered by the millions." At top speed, Grey found he could write 100,000 words a month. He would pen himself up in his study, where he would sit in a Morris chair, writing in longhand on a lapboard, furiously chewing the top of a soft No. 1 pencil when a sentence failed him. He compiled notebooks of vivid phrases and expressions, and he often thumbed a worn copy of a book, Materials and Methods of Fiction by Clayton Hamilton. Grey's son Romer, now president of Zane Grey, Inc., says, "That was father's bible. It had a greater influence on his writing than any other work." Grey wrote only one draft of a book; he left the finishing of the manuscript to his wife. When not writing he fished. He knew a long stretch of the Delaware by memory. "I own nearly a thousand acres of land on it," he wrote. "I have fished it for ten years. I know every rapid, every eddy, almost, I might say, every stone from Callicoon to Port Jervis. This fifty-mile stretch of fast water I consider the finest bass ground that I have fished." In July, when the river was low, he would scout the water for big bass by going upstream and drifting face down on a raft. "I see the bottom everywhere, except in rough water. I see the rocks, the shelves, the caverns. I see where the big bass live. And I remember." When the time came to fish, Grey became part of the landscape; he trod the slippery stones "as if I were a stalking Indian. I knew that a glimpse of me, or a faint jar vibrating under the water, or an unnatural ripple on its surface, would be fatal to my enterprise." Not every visiting angler exalted the fishing; some referred to Lackawaxen Creek as the Lackanothing or Lackarotten.
With money coming in, Grey and R.C. began fishing in Florida. They went after bonefish, snook and tarpon. Grey was among the first to go after sailfish, and he scored so well that other fishermen flocked to the Gulf Stream. He was intrigued by wahoo, then seldom caught, reasoning that they could be taken because "all fish have to eat." He caught wahoo, and he helped put the Keys on the map. Wherever he went, he fished. On a trip to Mexico to gather material for a novel, his train chanced to pass by a jungle river, the Santa Rosa. Immediately Grey wondered. 'Where did that river go? How many waterfalls and rapids hastened its journey to the Gulf? What teeming life inhabited its rich banks? How wild was the prospect! It haunted me!" In time he made the trip in a flat-bottom boat. On a trip to Yucatan, he happened to hear of "the wild and lonely Alacranes Reef where lighthouse-keepers went insane from solitude, and where wonderful fishes inhabited the lagoons. That was enough for me. Forthwith I meant to go to Alacranes." Forthwith he did. There he met a little Englishman, Lord L., and "it was from him I got my type for Castleton, the Englishman, in The Light of Western Stars. I have been told that never was there an Englishman on earth like the one I portrayed in my novel. But my critics never fished with Lord L."
Grey never lost any time. On a fishing trip he was up before everyone at 4 in the morning, transcribing the adventures of the previous day. If fishing was slack, he worked on a book until breakfast. He wrote much of The Drift Fence and Robbers' Roost at sea, and he was so far ahead in production that Boulder Dam, which he wrote while off on a trip in the 1930s, was not published by Harper until 1963.
In 1914 Grey started going west each summer to Catalina, where he tried swordfishing. In his first year he spent 21 days at sea, trolling a total of 1,500 miles. Grey saw 19 swordfish and did not get one strike. Instead of becoming discouraged, he was pleased. "By this time," he wrote, "I had realized something of the difficult nature of the game, and I had begun to have an inkling of what sport it might be." On the 25th day Grey sighted a swordfish, which he hooked. But the fish broke away, and Grey was sick at heart. Next summer he was back again in Catalina. "I was crazy on swordfish," he admitted. To get his arms, hands and back into fighting trim, he rowed a boat for weeks on end. His patience and training were rewarded—he set a record by catching four swordfish in one day.
Between gathering material for novels, advising on movies and fishing. Grey began to visit Southern California so frequently that he moved his family to Los Angeles in 1918. Two years later he bought the small estate in Altadena that now serves as the headquarters of Zane Grey, Inc. Once established on the West Coast, Grey took up steelhead fishing in Oregon, and on a trip down the Rogue River he ran into a prospector who offered to sell his shack and land. Grey bought the place at Winkle Bar as offhandedly as he would buy a dozen new rods. He also owned some land and a small hunting lodge in Arizona. He shuttled from one place to another, writing, fishing, hunting, gathering material. "[The year] 1923 was typical of what I do in the way of work and play." he replied to an admirer who asked what a typical year was like. "The pleasant paradox, however, is that my play turns out to be valuable work. January and February I spent at Long Key, Florida, where I wrote, read, fished and wandered along the beach. The spring I spent with my family in Altadena, California, where I wrote and studied, and played with my family. Tennis is my favorite game. During this season I motored with Mrs. Grey down to San Diego, and across the mountains to El Centro and Yuma, through the wonderful desert land of Southern California. June found me at Avalon, Catalina Island, a place I have found as inspiring as Long Key, and infinitely different. Here I finished a novel, and then began my sword-fishing on the Pacific. My brother, R.C., and I roamed the sea searching for giant swordfish. Sometimes we ran a hundred miles in a day. The sea presents a marvelous contrast to the desert. It inspires, teaches, subdues, uplifts, appalls and remakes me. There I learned more of nature than on land. Birds and fishes, strange sea creatures, are always in evidence. In September I took Mr. [Jesse] Lasky and his [Paramount] staff to Arizona to pick out locations for the motion picture, The Vanishing American. Upon the return I parted with the Lasky outfit at the foot of Navajo Mountains.... I, with my guide Wetherill, with selected cowboys and horses, tried for the third time to reach Wild Horse Mesa. In October I went to my hunting lodge in the Tonto Basin, where the magnificent forests of green pine and silver spruce and golden aspen soothed my eyes after the long weeks on sea and desert. Here I hunted and rode the lonely leaf-covered trails, lay for hours on the Rim, listening to the bay of hounds, and spent many a pleasant evening round the camp-fire, listening to my men, the gaunt long-legged and lead-faced backwoodsmen of the Tonto Basin. November and December found me back again at Altadena, hard as nails, brown as an Indian, happy to be home with my family, keen for my study with its books and pictures, and for the long spell of writing calling me to its fulfillment."
Grey always had some new adventure going. A Norwegian named Sievert Nielsen, a sailor turned prospector, read Grey's novel Desert Gold and wrote to him under the misapprehension that the story of the lost treasure in the farfetched plot was true. Grey was so charmed with the letter that he invited Nielsen to see him. They became friends and together hiked across Death Valley for the thrill of it.
Grey's success at landing big fish prompted a correspondence with Captain Laurie Mitchell of Liverpool, Nova Scotia. Mitchell, who was to become one of Grey's fishing companions, was enthusiastic about giant bluefin tuna off Nova Scotia. He himself had landed only one—it happened to be a world-record 710 pounds—and had lost between 50 and 60 of the big fish. Other anglers had caught perhaps a total of 10. The fish were simply too tough for ordinary tackle. This was just the sort of challenge that appealed to Grey, who promptly began laying plans to fish in Nova Scotia. He reasoned that his sword-fish tackle would be adequate for the tuna, provided that the boat from which he was fishing was fast and maneuverable. He had two light skiffs built in Nova Scotia, and from Florida he ordered a special launch, 25 feet long and equipped with two engines capable of 18 miles an hour. The launch was so designed that at full speed it could turn on its own length. Grey installed Catalina fighting chairs in each boat.
Within a couple of weeks Grey proved his strategy to be right. He hooked three tuna and landed two, one of which was a world record 758 pounds and the largest fish of any kind ever caught on rod and reel.
Before leaving Nova Scotia, Grey fulfilled a boyhood dream by buying "a beautiful white ship with sails like wings to sail into tropic seas." The three-masted schooner, which he called Fisherman, held the record for the run from Halifax to New York. Grey scrupulously made certain she never had been used as a rumrunner; ever the teetotaler, he would not have a bootlegger's boat as a gift. He had Fisherman outfitted with all the tackle that "money could buy and ingenuity devise," and, with R.C. and Romer, he set sail for the Galàpagos, Cocos Island, the Gulf of Panama and the Pacific coast of Mexico. On this trip he caught a 135-pound Pacific sailfish, the first known to science, but otherwise fishing conditions were not good because of an abundance of sharks.
Broadbill swordfish remained Grey's great love. In 1926 at Catalina, he and his brother caught a total of 10, including Zane's world-record 582-pounder. In that same year R.C. caught five marlin, all more than 300 pounds. No other angler had then caught more than one 300-pound fish, and the 354-pounder taken by R.C. was a world record. It was a great, year for the brothers and, as Grey wrote, "Not the least pleasure in our success was to run back to Avalon with the red flag flying at the masthead, to blow a clarion blast from the boat's whistle, and to see the pier filled with excited spectators. Sometimes thousands of visitors massed at the end of the pier to see the swordfish weighed and photographed. On these occasions R.C. and I would have to stand the battery of hundreds of cameras and shake hands until we broke away from the pier."
Not everyone cheered Grey. He and R.C. broke early with members of the Catalina Tuna Club over Grey's choice of tackle. Although a light-tackle man in freshwater, Grey used very heavy tackle for big game fish. He argued that fish that broke off light tackle either became prey to sharks or died.
Grey accepted the invitation of the New Zealand government to investigate the big game fishing possibilities in that country. Captain Mitchell and R.C. went with him. They revolutionized local practices; instead of fishing with bait deep down, they took fish by trolling. Grey caught a world-record 450-pound striped marlin and a record 111-pound yellowtail, while Captain Mitchell set a record with a 976-pound black marlin. Grey's greatest pleasure, however, was finding copies of his Westerns in even the remotest homes he visited. "This was surely the sweetest and most moving of all the experiences I had; and it faced me again with the appalling responsibility of a novelist who in these modern days of materialism dares to foster idealism and love of nature, chivalry in men and chastity in women."
Back home, Grey had difficulties in Arizona. In 1930 the state passed game laws and established seasons, and Grey, accustomed to hunting bears whenever the mood was on him, was angered. He felt that he was entitled to hunt year round, because he had put Arizona on the map. When a warden refused to issue him a resident license Grey was "grossly insulted," and he gave up his lodge in the Tonto Basin. "In twelve years my whole bag of game has been five bears, three bucks and a few turkeys," he said. "I have written 15 novels with Arizona background. Personally it cost me $30,000 to get material for one book alone. To the Last Man. My many trips all over the state have cost me $100,000. So in every way I have not been exactly an undesirable visitor." He was so indignant he said he would never return and, as a parting shot, he said that the game commission and the Forest Service had sold out to "the commercial interest." As a case in point, he cited the north rim of the Grand Canyon as nothing more than a "tin-can gasoline joint." Grey felt strongly about the Grand Canyon, so much so that he could not bring himself to write about it. It was simply too marvelous to describe. Grey felt the same way about a book, Fishing from the Earliest Times, by William Radcliffe, an English scholar. Grey found the book so poetic, monumental, scientific and informative he did not feel equal to writing a review of it.
Fishing in the Pacific lured him more and more. He revisited New Zealand and Tahiti, where he caught his record 1,040-pound striped marlin. The fish was mutilated by sharks; had it not been, it would have weighed 200 pounds more. When the Australian government asked him to explore big game fishing there, Grey went to Australia and landed his record tiger shark off Sydney Heads. Always the unknown beckoned. He spent $40,000 for a steel-hulled schooner originally built for the Kaiser, and another $270,000 went into refurbishing the ship, which he named Fisherman II. His dream of dreams was to fish the waters of Christmas Island off Madagascar, where there were reports of sailfish 22 feet long. Equipped with six launches, Fisherman II embarked for Christmas Island on a round-the-world cruise. The ship was 195 feet long, but she had a narrow 28-foot beam and she rolled, even in a calm sea. Even Grey got sick. "We had so much trouble it was unbelievable," says his younger son, Loren. "We got as far as Totoya in the Fijis. The captain was ill. The chief engineer had appendicitis. We were there for over a month or more with costly repairs. Father finally called the trip off because of a pressing business matter with his publisher." Eventually Grey gave up on the ship, and she ended her days as a cannery tender for a West Coast tuna fleet.
While steelhead fishing in Oregon in 1937 Grey suffered a stroke. Romer and a guide carried him to a car and got him home, where he recuperated. Within a year he seemed recovered. He went to Australia to fish and then back to Altadena to write, before going on to Oregon for steel-head. There he insisted that Loren and three friends fish. "Not only all day, but every day in the week," says Loren, now a professor of education at San Fernando Valley State College. "We finally had a big fight with him and said we wanted to go home. If he wouldn't let us go home, would he at least let us go into town on weekends and live it up a little bit? He finally gave in, so we'd fish just five days a week."
Determined to make a complete recovery, Grey worked out with a rod in a fighting chair set on the porch of the west wing of his house. The line ran through pulleys and was attached to 75- and 100-pound weights near the east wing. Every day Grey would battle imaginary fish, pumping the rod perhaps 200 times before calling it quits. He was getting ready for the next expedition. It never came. On October 23, 1939 Zane Grey died. His workouts in the fighting chair apparently had been too much for him. He once wrote, in his younger days, "There is only one thing wrong with a fishing day—its staggering brevity. If a man spent all his days fishing, life would seem to be a swift dream." For Zane Grey, compulsive angler, the swift dream was over.