George Washington, Frontiersman

Written by Zane Grey
Review by Steve Lewis

Zane Grey, one of America’s foremost writers of western fiction, died in 1939. This book, a fictionalized narrative of George Washington’s early life, and one of the last books he wrote, was first published in hardcover in 1994.

What caused the long delay? Carlton Johnson, who edited the manuscript for publication — which included adding several pages which had gone missing in the meantime — says that Harper, his long-time publisher, did not feel that the book lived up to the “Zane Grey image.”

Indeed, it most assuredly does not. Grey’s tendency to write of characters larger than life is tremendously subdued by having to write of people who actually lived. Whenever he can insert fictional characters — Red Burke, for example, the childhood bully who pestered George in his youth, and who plagued him throughout his early days — or interject possible (but not probable) other influences on George’s life — his early love for Sally Fairfax, who later introduced him to the young widow, Martha Custis — the book comes to life.

Otherwise, not. Grey’s love of the out-of-doors shines through bright and clear. When describing battles or political maneuvering, the novel is deadly dull.