The Geography of The U. P. Trail



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Zane Grey's epic romance about the construction of the Union Pacific Railroad was published in 1918 to mixed reviews. While it rated the top selling book of the year, one critic said it was bogged down in the "outworn machinery of movie romance" with "preposterous" adventures "strung together so mechanically upon so obvious a thread" (Boynton, 191"8, p.179). To most Zane Grey fans, though, this is one of his best books. Dr. Joe Wheeler wrote: "The U. P. Trail is generally considered to be one of the finest Westerns ever written; it is probably Grey's most successful epic. lt would be difficult to capture more effectively the spirit of the great Union Pacific project . . ." (1975, p. 165). Dr. Carlton Jackson not only saw the public reception of The U. P. Trailas a great success for Grey, but also as a turning point in his life: "Before !918, Grey had regarded his western novels and short stories as 'stepping stones to a higher plane of literature.'. . . The success of The U. P. Trail, however, led to his decision to stay solely in westerns and adventure stories . . ." (1989, p. 54). Dr. Arthur Kimball had a higher opinion of the book's romance than the critic mentioned above and called the heroine, Allie Lee, Grey's champion of "love's transcendent power" (1993, p. 99). The book also gained praise from a civil engineer who said Grey "wrote the truth . . . " (Doty, 1930, p. 52).