Biographer appeals for Zane Grey stories and memorabilia

BIOGRAPHY: Vicki Hastrich is in the process of gathering research for her next book, on American Western novelist Zane Grey.
BIOGRAPHY: Vicki Hastrich is in the process of gathering research for her next book, on American Western novelist Zane Grey.

A Sydney based writer and historian is planning to visit Port Lincoln in early May to gather information on the American millionaire, Western novelist and big game fisherman Zane Grey. 

Vicki Hastrich is writing a biography on the celebrity, focusing on his travels to Australia, where he visited Port Lincoln in 1939 to fish for great white sharks. 

After his visit, the 67 year old promised a return the next summer with a yacht to host a party, however he suddenly died later that same year of a heart attack. 

Ms Hastrich said she has been researching "bits and pieces" on Mr Grey over the years, however now had the time to focus on piecing together his life. 

"I came across it quite by accident at the mention of the Zane Grey Caravan Park (in NSW)...I knew he was a writer of Western novels, but I followed my curiosity and discovered he'd come to Australia," she said. 

"He was genuinely interested in the seas and fishing, and back then not much was really known about what was in the ocean."

Ms Hastrich said the story of Mr Grey visiting Australia was the main focus of the book, and that his ill-health and waning celebrity status later in his life had been a curious aspect to the story leading up to his death in 1939. 

"He was once supposedly this macho fishing man, but was a waning celebrity by (his visit)...it was arduous fishing out in the gulf, and I think he really wasn't well," she said.

"It's a fascinating story, there's so many different aspects to it...there have been other American biographies written about him over the years but none of them mention his trips to Australia."

She is looking to track down possible resources to view on her visit, and is looking for people to talk to from Port Lincoln who may have stories, memorabilia, or even recollection of his celebrity appearance to the small fishing town. 

Ms Hastrich is working in conjunction with the Port Lincoln Library to assist in the collaboration of information and to give people a place to come forward if they have stories of the celebrity. 

"Grey's visit must have been quite an extraordinary event for the town, and there must be many folks whose parents and grandparents had interactions with him," she said. 

Anyone with photos or other material should contact the library on 8621 2345 or email Ms Hastrich directly at vhastrich@iprimus.com.au.