Pearl Zane Gray was born on January 31, 1872 in Zanesville, Ohio. He spent his growing up years there under the tutelage of two very different men-his father, Lewis Gray and Old Muddy Miser, a fisherman. His father was authoritarian and worked his sons hard and in a way that would be considered to be abusive today. His firm belief was that it was necessary to work hard and learn dentistry like him in order to be successful. When Gray caught his son writing, he threw the story away. Then he berated his son for indulging himself in an activity which would never support him. Meanwhile, Old Muddy Miser taught Pearl the joy of recreation — particularly fishing. He told Gray that he would someday fish big sea fish.
Lewis Gray, however, saw his son as a dentist. Lewis felt that dentistry was the only way that Zane would be financially solvent. Interesting, Lewis made some type of a decision which resulted in the loss of his savings. The family teetered on poverty. It became necessary to leave Zanesville for Columbus, Ohio. Zane learned some of the basics of dentistry from his father. But then new laws required passing college courses in dentistry.
Gray was more interested in sport than dentistry, and was on the baseball team at the University of Pennsylvania. When he graduated, he moved to New York City to practice dentistry, to be near publishing houses, and changed his name to Zane Grey. He was fascinated by The House of the Seven Gables and followed Hawthorne's definition of a "romance" listed in its' preface in his writing. His novels tended to be loosely based on events or people that he knew. His first three novels were set in the Ohio area. The fourth one was a departure from form that wasn't published until later. After that point, because of tours that he took in the West and Southwest, he changed the setting of his novels to that area. While set in the West, they still were very much the Romances that he loved.
Grey had an active social life while in New York. He met Lina Roth on August 28, 1900 while on a train. Eleven years younger than Grey, they courted for over 4 years. Grey saw himself as a man about town and hesitated to relinquish his freedom. It was only after his father's death that he began to be open to the idea of marriage.
He married Lina (Dolly) Roth in November 1904. They went on a cross country trip for their honeymoon. It was his first exposure to the areas which would dominate his writing. Dolly was an important part of his writing process, providing stability and encouragement during the bleak periods of depression that he had throughout his life. The big sea fishing that Old Muddy Miser predicted became a huge part of his life and also helped to lift his mood. His love for fishing and the outdoors led to a lucrative side career writing for nature magazines. He was often able to finance his fishing and adventure trips through funds that outdoors magazines gave him in exchange for pieces that he wrote about his travels.
Grey's books made excellent movies and his relationship with silent pictures began in 1916. When the talkies started, he became disillusioned with filmmaking. However, his novels were still in demand onscreen. In 1918 the Grey family moved to California, eventually settling in Altadena. The Greys also owned a home on Catalina. He enjoyed the deep sea fishing that was available. Grey remained in California until his death on October 23, 1939.