Monday, February 02, 2009

Fred Grove dead

Western and mystery writer Fred Grove is dead. I haven't seen this in public, even though he died last September. I heard this news from Jim Doherty at the Rara-Avis e-mail list. I asked him whether I could use his post as an obit, but he didn't respond, so I'll be using it only in part.

Grove was born as Frederick Herridge in 1913 (he must've been one of the oldest pulp-related writers alive!) and his mother was part Osage, part Sioux. His father had been a cowboy and a rancher and his grand-grand-father from his mother's side had been Francis Parkman's guide when Parkman was travelling across the Nothern America (and later on wrote The Oregon Trail, 1849).

Grove was the winner of five Spur Awards from Western Writers of America, three for novels and two for short stories. He started out in the pulps in the early fifties - his first short story (that I know of) was titled "The Hangrope Ghost" and it came out in .44 Western Magazine. His other publishing venues included Dime Western and Max Brand's Western.

Best-known as a western writer, Grove wrote at least four crime novels, all set in the 1920's, that grew out of a traumatic experience he had in childhood, says Doherty, and continues at length:

"On 9 March 1923, at the age of 9, while visiting relatives in Fairfax, OK, he was awakened by an explosion a few blocks away. It turned out to be a bomb planted in the home of William Smith and his Osage wife, Rita. The explosion killed both of the Smiths along with their live-in maid, Nettie Brookshire. This was the latest in a string of confirmed murders, along with a suspiciously high number of unexplained deaths, that were plaguing the Osage Tribe, whose oil wealth had made them the single wealthiest population group on the planet. Due to a group of unscrupulous men intent on obtaining their oil rights, they had, in a few short years, also become the population group suffering the highest murder rate on the planet. The case was ultimately solved by a team of FBI agents. It was the first really high-profile case ever investigated by the Bureau.

"Mr. Grove never forgot the experience. Years later, while working as a reporter, he met the former FBI agent who had been the lead investigator on the case, and collaborated with him on a non-fiction book about the Osage investigation. The book never sold, but Grove would put the material to use in his fiction."

Doherty describes some of Grove's novels:

"Grove's first novel, Flame of the Osage (1957; paperback original from Pyramid), was also his first fictionalization of the Osage Indian Murder Case. Nearly two decades later, he returned to the case for two more novels, Warrior Road (1974), about a an Osage Indian who takes it on himself to catch the murderers as a matter of family honor, and Drums Without Warriors (1976), about an FBI agent masquerading a a race horse trainer (horse racing was another big interest of Grove's) in order to investigate the murders under cover. His last novel, The Years of Fear (2002), essentially a rewrite of the unsold non-fiction book so that it read more like a novel, was his final fictional treatment of the Osage case, this time with the actual names of the characters used. When the book was published, Grove said it was his favorite and most personal novel."

I've read only one book by Grove, namely Buffalo Spring (Doubleday 1967), which is a pity, since I liked it a great deal. It was published as a cheap and poorly produced (and abridged) paperback in Finland, even though it's a serious novel, not some slapdash shoot-em-up. Grove pictured American Indians very sympathetically. (The Finnish paperback's title is Buffalolaakso and it came out in 1976, as Montana No. 107.)
Edit: Should've paid more attention. James Reasoner mentioned Grove's death in his blog - and I even commented on it! And here's yet another obit from an Arizona newspaper.


PONY said...

I,m glad you wrote an orbit on Fred Grove. I was so lucky that I new Fred Grove for more than ten years. I wrote him a personal letter a long time ago and that was the start of a long friendship. Twice I and my wife visited Fred and his family in Tucson and we also met his family and his friend.Fred and I corresponded for many years and when his sight failed, I called him and we had long talks on his books and everyday life.Fred was a a great person and a fine author. His works will live on.
One of his last published books was a collection of short stories: THE VANISHING RAIDERS.In this collection you find some of his greatest stories, published here for the first time. There is also a story about Fred and his horse of his childhood in this collection.Fred was one of the rare authors who wrote excellent short stories and novels alike. His works will live on as long as Westerns are read.
I recommend any book by Fred Grove.COMANCHE CAPTIVES and BUFFALO RUNNERS are musts for any Western buff.


Juri said...

Thanks, Pony, for your comments. Sounds like Fred Grove was a great man, besides being a good writer.