"Dead Water Rites"



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    "Dead Water Rites"

             by Monty Joynes

Joseph, the tribal holy man of a small Pueblo tribe, has a vision. The water, which comes naturally from the earth and sky, the priceless compound of elements that forms and supports life, is dying.  In the dream, Joseph and his tribal priests were performing a funeral ceremony for a formerly living source of water.  What did the dream mean?   Was a long sacred spring going dry?  Was a holy lake threatened?  Did a river or stream cry out in need?  Water is not a commodity to traditional Indians.  Water is a spiritual element that is life itself.  For the Indians of the Southwest, water as rain for their crops of corn, beans, and squash has always meant life.  Mountain springs are holy shrines where feathered prayer sticks are placed in supplication.  All religious ceremony uses water as a sacramental medium.  Water is elemental to how Indians see themselves as human beings.

Booker, formerly known as Winn Conover, a white man who shares the work and vision of the tribe, is chosen to discover the true spiritual nature of the water in order to save it from the intrigues of encroaching land developers.  As he faces an ever-increasing threat to his people, their land, and their very way of life, the Anglo struggles to maintain the inner peace he has worked so hard to achieve in his search for meaning amid the indigenous peoples of the American Southwest. 

During Booker’s mission to defend tribal water rights, he encounters Cathia, a radical environmental activist, and a romance begins.  Sue and Debbie, the reformed Vegas showgirls from the two previous novels, mature in their new lives.  The developers plot to use the lure of a casino to undermine tribal water rights and secure the bribed cooperation of the tribal council as the critical vote arrives.  Joseph, priest and leader of the tribal traditionals, cannot participate in conflict, so the defense of the water must be spiritually achieved.  The climatic solution is both visionary and believable, as it involves all the major Indian characters in the series.

"Dead Water Rites" Reviews


“DEAD WATER RITES strikes like a lightning bolt at the heart of an issue critical to our survival.  Monty Joynes’s work is Spirit driven.”

                                           Red Leaf, Cherokee/Choctaw Elder


“As an Indian reader of DEAD WATER RITES, I am left with the feeling of having been well instructed not only to the potential catastrophe of a waterless West from the environmentalist point of view, but by one whose joint characters ‘Booker’ and ‘Anglo’ look with great insight into the real threat posed by thoughtless ‘progressives’ to the sacredness of water and life in general.”

                                                  Lloyd Kiva New, Cherokee Elder


“What Monty Joynes has accomplished in DEAD WATER RITES, his fourth book in the remarkable Booker series, is the rare joining of a page-turning story line, lively with action and memorable characters, together with a sustained poetic meditation on the power and glory of water in the world.  The spiritual vision, the outward and inner lives of the invincible Southwestern Indians, are beautifully summoned up and celebrated.  DEAD WATER RITES is a powerful story and a pure pleasure to read.”                                           

     George Garrett, Author and Critic


“Rare depth and thoroughness…and an intelligent openness to the possibility of vision.”     

  Henry Taylor, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet


“Joynes writes with integrity, understanding, and real respect.”

                                                                      Magical Blend


“Dead Water Rites is the fourth book in the Booker Series by Monty Joynes.  However, readers new to Joynes will understand its powerful message of man’s fate if he continues to rape the earth.

A white man known sometimes as Booker and sometimes as Anglo “searches for new identity and spiritual completeness among the Pueblo people.”  He learns how water is the very lifeblood of the People, and that they regard it as a “living being.”  A tribal elder sees the water drying up and dying, and trusts Booker with the mission of finding the source of the “sick water.”

If the water is truly dying, then the dead water rites will be performed, and life will cease to exist.  As he searches for the sick water, Booker also continues his journey of spiritual growth.  He meets a militant female environmentalist and begins learning of some of the politics involved in water rights.  He also learns that perhaps the celibate life isn’t right for him after all.

A group of land developers with the philosophy that “any day is a good day to make money” are also looking at the water.  They draw up a proposal for a gambling casino, replete with promises of economic security.  Buried in the fine print are the clauses handing over all water rights.

A former real estate developer himself, Booker recognizes the true impact of the casino on the People.  He explains this to the tribal elders, who say that they will “continue to pray and seek a vision.”  Booker and the young woman are seriously injured in a car accident, from which it takes months to recover.  The developers move ahead unhampered with their plans.

DEAD WATER RITES “is lucid and literary, an articulate and artful plea to cease our self-destructive exploitation of the environment and native people.”  Those who read it will gain a new respect for the liquid essential to all life on Earth, and a better understanding of those who seek to keep it alive.”

The Midwest Book Review


“This series is so powerfully and beautifully written.  It reads at times like pure poetry.  The reader cares about the characters and seeks to obtain the spiritual balance and peace found in their world.

The next in the series is eagerly anticipated!  Lloyd Kiva New, founder of the Institute of American Indian Arts, says of DEAD WATER RITES:  ‘All four books display an uncanny understanding of Indian ways in general and show special concerns for the sacredness of Pueblo tribes in particular.’

Other novels in the Booker series include NAKED INTO THE NIGHT, LOST IN LAS VEGAS, and SAVE THE GOOD SEED.  Although DEAD WATER RITES can be appreciated on its own merits, reading the whole series gives the reader the full spiritual experience intended by the author.”

                                                                   The Light Connection


I was introduced to your Booker series by a supporter of and volunteer for Hacienda de los Milagros, our lifetime animal sanctuary here in Chino Valley, AZ. The books, while "fiction," are something that everyone, especially what Annie Wilson-Schaef calls white minds, should read, and re-read. I just finished Dead Water Rites and feel it is one of the three most important books I have read, period. The others are Native Wisdom for White Minds, and Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. I wish that every school would require all students to read these three books.

Wynne Zaugg


I have just completed reading the Booker series for the fourth time (this time aloud to my companion--all four books). Since reading the series, which I thoroughly enjoyed at that time and each subsequent time, this time I am aware of my own spiritual growth gained during the interim that has so enhanced this reading beyond measure. I can only say, thank you for your insight and absolutely wonderful way with words and phrases. I often stopped and re-read a descriptive sentence over and over aloud, just to hear it again as well as to contemplate the beauty that it held. 

Some of us on this planet are truly gifted, and your use of story telling to share your "awareness" is reaching out to the world in a most delightful way. I, for one, am most grateful. 

Marilyn Outerbridge, AZ.










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last updated: May2014