Sunset Pass (1928)

05 Jul

Sunset Pass - American Magazine

American Magazine, April – October 1928
Grosset and Dunlap, 1931

W. H. D. Koerner is one of the illustrators of Zane Grey novels. He illustrated all seven episodes of the American Magazine publication of the Sunset Pass story published in 1928 from April to October.

Trueman Rock returns to a town he has not seen for six years.

“At the end of the flagstone walk Rock hesitated and halted, as if surprised, even startled. Across the wide street stood a block of frame and brick buildings, with high weatherbeaten signs. It was a lazy scene. A group of cowboys occupied the corner; saddled horses were hitched to a rail; buckboards and wagons showed farther down the street; Mexicans in colourful garb sat in front of a saloon.

Memory stirred to the sight of the familiar corner. He had been in several bad gun fights in this town. The scene of one of them lay before him and a subtle change began to affect his pleasure in returning to Wagontongue. He left the station.

But he had not walked half a block before he came to another saloon, the familiar look of which and the barely decipherable name–Happy Days–acted like a blow in his face. He quickened his step, then, reacting to his characteristic spirit, he deliberately turned back to enter the saloon. The same place, the same bar, and the faded paintings; the same pool tables. Except for a barkeeper, the room was deserted. Rock asked for a drink.”

Trueman walks the halls of memory with the people of today discovering what he is made of, who his true love is and what needs to be done to protect those he cares for. A walk down memory lane with the faces of today in front of you will often challenge previous assumptions. So too with Trueman. Some of those I called my dearest friends have now become as strangers to me because our paths through life have become too dissimilar. Sadly, our changes have not been compatible.

Illustration from American Magazine by WDH Koerner

Illustration from American Magazine by WDH Koerner

Trueman Rock becomes enchanted with Thiry Preston and decides to ask for a job with Gage Preston. Gage Preston seems to be the money of the Wagontongue-Winslow area. His son Ash is considered a bad apple. Every one of Trueman’s old friends warn him against taking up work with the Prestons due to Ash’s reputation and beginning suspicions about the wealth of the family. Rock is struck with his love for Thiry and ignores the advice but keeps his eyes open for potential trouble.

Sunset Pass is based on a real life incident – like many of Zane Grey’s other stories. In real life we meet the Marley family of the Flagstaff-Winslow, Arizona area.

The Marley family had moved into the area from Texas. They had brought some cattle with them and these were let loose on the range (although the other ranchers there did not welcome them). Babbitt’s, Hart’s and Gibbon’s outfits ranged with theirs. Marley’s branched out into the slaughtering business and built a slaughterhouse just outside of Winslow. The Marley’s made one gigantic mistake. The amount of cattle slaughtered and shipped out was way out of their league. Rube Neill started investigating.

“February 1911, Rube Neill, Sheriff Joe Wood of Navajo County and Les Hart, learning that the Marleys were out gathering cattle, went down to Jack’s Canyon and concealed themselves among the rocks where they would have a good view of the corral and slaughterhouse.

It was nearly sundown when they saw Marley and his sons drive a herd of cattle into the corral of the slaughterhouse. They waited until they heard the sound of the kill, and went down.”

The Marley’s were caught red-handed. (PEC, 1966)

Trueman Rock worries about the implication of Thiry not telling anyone about what her family is doing. He fears that she will be thought guilty by association. With him being as besotted with Thiry as he is, Trueman does not want this to happen. When he discovers that others seem interested in what is going on at the Preston ranch, Rock knows that it is only a matter of time before all is revealed.


Sunset Pass on Gutenberg








Navajo county history

Prescott Evening Courier – Nov 1, 1966

The Coconino Sun from Flagstaff, Arizona,  November 1, 1912: Pages 7 and 11

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Posted by on 2014-07-05 in Books


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