If Zane Grey is synonymous in your mind with plot-heavy cowboy stories, The Man of the Forest might change your thinking.
Taking shelter from a rain storm in the Arizona mountains, Milt Dale overhears outlaws plotting to kidnap Helen Reyner so their boss, Beasley, can get the Auchincloss ranch to which she is heir. Milt decides to save her. He doesn’t know she’s also being stalked by an Eastern scumbag named Riggs.
With the aid of a quartet of Mormons, Milt rescues Helen and her younger sister, Bo, and keep them safe in his forest hideaway until Auchincloss comes for them. Bo falls for a handsome Texas cowboy, and Helen falls for Milt.
The requisite number of narrow escapes, show-downs and shoot-’em-ups occur before the story reaches its happy ending.
Grey uses the story to explore the virtue and destructiveness of a solitary life. Milt instructs Helen in the code of the lawless American frontier. He shows her the impulse for self-preservation in herself.
Helen teaches Milt that “work that does not help others is not a real man’s work.” By the end of the novel, Milt accepts Helen’s civilized values and saves her happiness just as he saved her life.
The Man of the Forest
by Zane Grey
New York: Harper & Brothers, 1919
1920 #1 bestseller
Project Gutenberg Ebook No. 3457
© 2010 Linda Gorton Aragoni