#zane While Dolly managed Grey's career and raised their three children, including son Romer Zane Grey, over the next two decades Grey often spent months away from the family. He fished, wrote, and spent time with his many mistresses. While Dolly knew of his behavior, she seemed to view it as his handicap rather than a choice. Throughout their life together, he highly valued her management of his career and their family, and her solid emotional support. In addition to her considerable editorial skills, she had good business sense and handled all his contract negotiations with publishers, agents, and movie studios. All his income was split fifty-fifty with her; from her "share", she covered all family expenses. Their considerable correspondence shows evidence of his lasting love for her despite his infidelities and personal emotional turmoil.
The Greys moved to California in 1918. In 1920 they settled in Altadena, California, where Grey bought a prominent mansion on East Mariposa Street, known locally as "Millionaire's Row". Designed by architects Myron Hunt and Elmer Grey (no relation to the author), the 1907 Mediterranean-style house is acclaimed as the first fireproof home in Altadena, built entirely of reinforced concrete as prescribed by the first owner's wife. Grey summed up his feelings for the city: "In Altadena, I have found those qualities that make life worth living."
In Altadena Grey also spent time with his mistress Brenda Montenegro. The two met while hiking Eaton Canyon. Of her he wrote,
I saw her flowing raven mane against the rocks of the canyon. I have seen the red skin of the Navajo, and the olive of the Spaniards, but her...her skin looked as if her Creator had in that instant molded her just for me. I thought it was an apparition. She seemed to be the embodiment of the West I portray in my books, open and wild.
With the help of Dolly's proofreading and copy editing, Grey gradually improved his writing. His first magazine article, "A Day on the Delaware", a human-interest story about a Grey brothers fishing expedition, was published in the May 1902 issue of Recreation magazine. Elated by selling the article, Grey offered reprints to patients in his waiting room. In writing, Grey found temporary escape from the harshness of his life and his demons. "Realism is death to me. I cannot stand life as it is." By this time, he had given up baseball.
Grey read Owen Wister's great Western novel The Virginian. After studying its style and structure in detail, he decided to write a full-length work. Grey had difficulties in writing his first novel, Betty Zane (1903). When it was rejected by Harper & Brothers, he lapsed into despair. The novel dramatized the heroism of an ancestor who had saved Fort Henry. He self-published it, perhaps with funds provided by his wife Dolly or his brother R. C.'s wealthy girlfriend Reba Smith. From the beginning, vivid description was the strongest aspect of his writing.
After attending a lecture in New York in 1907 by Charles Jesse "Buffalo" Jones, western hunter and guide who had co-founded Garden City, Kansas, Grey arranged for a mountain lion-hunting trip to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. He brought along a camera to document his trips and prove his adventures. He also began the habit of taking copious notes, not only of scenery and activities but of dialogue. His first two trips were arduous, but Grey learned much from his compatriot adventurers. He gained the confidence to write convincingly about the American West, its characters, and its landscape. Treacherous river crossings, unpredictable beasts, bone-chilling cold, searing heat, parching thirst, bad water, irascible tempers, and heroic cooperation all became real to him. He wrote, "Surely, of all the gifts that have come to me from contact with the West, this one of sheer love of wildness, beauty, color, grandeur, has been the greatest, the most significant for my work."
Upon returning home in 1909, Grey wrote a new novel, The Last of the Plainsmen, describing the adventures of Buffalo Jones. Harper's editor Ripley Hitchcock rejected it, the fourth work in a row. He told Grey, "I do not see anything in this to convince me you can write either narrative or fiction." Grey wrote dejectedly,
I don't know which way to turn. I cannot decide what to write next. That which I desire to write does not seem to be what the editors want... I am full of stories and zeal and fire... yet I am inhibited by doubt, by fear that my feeling for life is false.
The book was later published by the American magazine, Outing, which provided Grey some satisfaction. Grey next wrote a series of magazine articles and juvenile novels.
With the birth of his first child pending, Grey felt compelled to complete his next novel, The Heritage of the Desert. He wrote it in four months in 1910. It quickly became a bestseller. Grey took his next work to Hitchcock again; this time Harper published his work, a historical romance in which Mormon characters were of central importance. Grey continued to write popular novels about Manifest Destiny, the conquest of the Old West, and the behavior of men in elemental conditions.
Two years later Grey produced his best-known book, Riders of the Purple Sage (1912), his all-time best-seller, and one of the most successful Western novels of all. Hitchcock rejected it, but Grey took his manuscript directly to the vice president of Harper, who accepted it. As Zane Grey had become a household name, after that Harper eagerly received all his manuscripts. Other publishers caught on to the commercial potential of the Western novel. Max Brand and Ernest Haycox were among the most notable of other writers of Westerns. Grey's publishers paired his novels with some of the best illustrators of the time, including N. C. Wyeth, Frank Schoonover, Douglas Duer, Herbert W. Dunton, W. H. D. Koerner, and Charles Russell.
Grey had the time and money to engage in his first and greatest passion: fishing. From 1918 until 1932, he was a regular contributor to Outdoor Life magazine. As one of its first celebrity writers, he began to popularize big-game fishing. Several times he went deep-sea fishing in Florida to relax and to write in solitude. Although he commented that "the sea, from which all life springs, has been equally with the desert my teacher and religion", Grey was unable to write a great sea novel. He felt the sea soothed his moods, reduced his depressions, and gained him the opportunity to harvest deeper thoughts:
The lure of the sea is some strange magic that makes men love what they fear. The solitude of the desert is more intimate than that of the sea. Death on the shifting barren sands seems less insupportable to the imagination than death out on the boundless ocean, in the awful, windy emptiness. Man's bones yearn for dust.
Over the years, Grey spent part of his time traveling and the rest of the year wrote novels and articles. Unlike writers who could write every day, Grey would have dry spells and then sudden bursts of energy, in which he could write as much as 100,000 words in a month. He encountered fans in most places. He kept a cabin on the lower Rogue River in Oregon. Other excursions took him to Washington state and Wyoming.
From 1923 to 1930, he spent a few weeks a year at his cabin on the Mogollon Rim, in Central Arizona. After years of abandonment and decay, the cabin was restored in 1966 by Bill Goettl, a Phoenix air conditioning magnate. He opened it to the public as a free-of-charge museum. The Dude Fire destroyed the cabin in 1990. It was later reconstructed 25 miles away in the town of Payson.
During the 1930s, Grey continued to write, but the Great Depression hurt the publishing industry. His sales fell off, and he found it more difficult to sell serializations. He had avoided making investments that would have been affected by the stock market crash of 1929, and continued to earn royalty income, so he did better than many financially. Nearly half of the film adaptations of his novels were made in the 1930s.
From 1925 to his death in 1939, Grey traveled more and further from his family. He became interested in exploring unspoiled lands, particularly the islands of South Pacific, New Zealand and Australia. He thought Arizona was beginning to be overrun by tourists and speculators. Near the end of his life, Grey looked into the future and wrote:
The so-called civilization of man and his works shall perish from the earth, while the shifting sands, the red looming walls, the purple sage, and the towering monuments, the vast brooding range show no perceptible change.