Tag Archive | Zane Grey

Researching the West…

Research is a big part of the writing process, it’s one that I enjoy immensely. I’ve been researching the people who lived out here in this extraordinarily unique area, the Arizona Strip. People like Jim Emett, Jacob Hamblin, and Lot Smith, just to name a few. They were true cowboys, mountain men, and adventurers of the old west. They lived lives like Daniel Boone and Davey Crockett, they were true to life characters that John Wayne would have played in his best movies. All three of these men were marshals, ranchers, farmers, trailblazers, oh yeah, and polygamists. I’ll tell you more about each of them soonish.

The late 1800’s and early 1900’s was a time of rugged survival out here. Many didn’t make it, but those who did left their mark and a few heroic stories behind to let us know how life was in those days. This rich history is both exciting and intriguing to me as I learn more.

Like I said research is a part of writing that I enjoy, actually I haven’t found any part of writing yet that I don’t enjoy. Learning about these incredible people helps me bring my characters to life, it gives them depth and a fictional history that’s based on the real history of here. I can’t go back in time and experience what they did, but I can study their lives and experience it that way. The books I’m writing now are in present day, but the ones I’m planning on writing next are going to be back in the late 1800’s. I’m sure I’m not the only writer that plans two to three books ahead… it’s just a very normal thing for me now.

Kanab UT – The Cowboy Town

Kanab UT, ever since the first time I visited this awesome place I’ve called it The Cowboy Town. There have been some amazing real and fictional cowboys roaming the streets of Kanab and the surrounding areas throughout its history. They filmed loads of old western movies there, and around there, there’s even a museum with some of the old movie sets out back to show off the history of that era. The local restaurants have signed photos of the actors who frequented their establishments hanging on the walls, well, Nedra’s does anyways. If you go to Kanab you have to go to Nedra’s and the museum, they’ll both give you some necessary history and culture of the Cowboy Town.

Kanab is also another stop along the Honeymoon trail, which I’ve been writing about lately. The fella I mentioned in my last post, Jim Emett, (that was a guide to Zane Grey), was the marshal of Kanab for a while before he went to Lees Ferry to work there. I’m learning more and more about Jim Emett, he was quite an amazing person, the kind of person legends are made of.

Because of my interest in the area, its history and Jim Emett, I’m reading Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey, (I usually stick with Louis L’Amour) I found out that Zane Grey wrote about the areas I’ve been living in and visiting and described them in some detail in this book and a couple of other books. It’s been an interesting read so far, it’s fiction of course, and he doesn’t have too many good things to say about the Mormons and their system of plural marriage but the descriptions of the area are good. He did make at least two visits out to this area, but only met a few Mormons and never lived the religion, or as far as I know experienced it except from an outside looking in with a prejudice perspective, so his point of view on that is spurious. (I think the rest of the story needs to be told on the plural marriage issue, lots has been told on one side, it’s time for the other side to emerge.) I do love his descriptors of Pipe Springs, Lees Ferry, the Grand Canyon, and the surrounding areas, though. He used the experiences he had in this wondrous place to create an amazing setting for his book.

In my books I try to infuse my characters with the real life experiences that have been so inspiring to me, both out here and back home in Georgia and Tennessee. I think a writer should write about what they know or have experienced, it fills the story with life.  It also gives the writer some pretty great adventures…

Every year in Kanab they have what the locals call Cowboy Days. I’ve watched as the wagon train came in from the long ride. It was wonderful to watch and experience, actually going out on the trail and doing that must be so incredible, I can only imagine… The link below will show you what things are like during those Cowboy Days.


The trail ride:


A few pictures from my adventures…

Lees Ferry – Another stop along the Honeymoon Trail…

Not too far from the Vermillion Cliffs there’s another spot on the Honeymoon Trail, that I’ve visited, it’s called Lees Ferry. Another beautiful oasis in the middle of the desert, it’s called Lees Ferry because there was a ferry there that allowed pioneers, cowboys, Native Americans, mountain men, and even a writer or two to cross the wild Colorado River there – and the man who manned the ferry first was John D. Lee, ergo Lees Ferry.

The area was settled by Mormon families who of course were polygamous. The third man in charge of the Lees Ferry and the Lonely Dell Ranch, where the families lived, was Jim Emett. The reason I mention him is that he was a guide to Zane Grey when he was out that way hunting mountain lions. It was said that Zane Grey admired him and wrote about him both figuratively and literally. I thought that bit of information was cool… it set my mind to pondering what things would have been like when Jim Emett guided Zane Grey out into the vast wilderness and what sort of conversations they might have had…

Lees Ferry is now a part of Glen Canyon National Park and will always be preserved for everyone to enjoy and learn about. The history, the beauty, and the hardships are all there to inform and haunt visitors, permanently. Lees Ferry is honestly one of those places you really need to experience in person to get the grandeur of the whole thing. It’s truly breathtaking…

I try my best to capture the natural beauty that is all around here, in my books. I also try through my characters to show a bit of the history of the area, the plural marriage aspect, (in a positive way, because just like monogamous marriage, it’s not all bad), and the respect the people here have for the land and each other.

A snippet from my book New Parish, for you:

“Sarah sat listening to them without really listening, she peered out the wide panoramic windows of the plane. The scene below was amazing and filled with the exquisite desert landscape she was falling in love with. The rich colored mesas, the prairies filled with sage brush, cactus, and so much more than Sarah had imagined would be there, it was all becoming a part of her new life. This excited Sarah, it gave her something to explore and learn about while she was contemplating the next part of her life…”












The links below will show you more, if you’re interested:

National Park page:


Loads of history and information about this beautiful place: