"Lost in Las Vegas"

 

 

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"Lost in Las Vegas"

                 by Monty Joynes


In the second novel in the Booker Series, published in 1998, the character lost in Las Vegas is a remarkable young Pueblo man, a spiritual prodigy and National Champion Fancy Dancer, who has been corrupted by the glamour of show business. His tribal elders call upon their spiritual brother, an Anglo man who was the principal character in NAKED INTO THE NIGHT, to go to Las Vegas in an attempt to restore the young potential leader to his tribe. The mission seems impossible given the mistrust Indians hold for Anglo do-gooders and wannabes. Anglo must face the animosity of Dancer and the proprietary interests of the two Folies Bergiere showgirls who manipulate him. In the process, both Indian and Anglo must sort out their destinies, which requires that they risk life itself in the Valley of Fire.

 

Booker, as Anglo, lives on a Pueblo Indian reservation as a chosen son and the close friend of Joseph, the tribal holy man. The traditional elders need to pass the spiritual mantle of their small tribe to the next generation, but their choice and ceremonial dancing prodigy, Ramon Ortiz (named White Wing), has won the world championship as a Fancy Dancer at the Foxwoods powwow and has been seduced by money and fame to pervert the Pueblo spirituality of his dance on the Las Vegas showroom stage.

In a sacred kachinas ceremony, Anglo is chosen to go to Las Vegas in an attempt to restore the prodigal son. As Winn Conover in a previous life, Anglo (Booker) had been a junket player at the strip casinos. Although White Wing is obligated by tribal courtesy to share his apartment with Anglo, he has no intention of paying attention to him. White Wing has already been treated to a makeover by Tropicana showgirls Debbie and Sue, who have recruited him for their after-show escort scam. White Wing abuses alcohol, gambles heavily, and counts coup on rich white women who lust for the body of the dancing wonder.

Anglo soon comes to odds with White Wing, and the showgirls attempt to drive the troublesome meddler out of Vegas. Anglo as Booker suffers for his initial failures in a long night of lamentations at Red Rock Canyon. Employing a more intuitive tact, Anglo is able to explain the purpose of his mission to Las Vegas to the showgirls. The women do not agree to help him, but he is no longer ostracized from their company. Anglo slowly shares Pueblo culture with the women as he and White Wing sing Pueblo songs, and White Wing dances ceremony on an after-show late night picnic to Red Rock Canyon.

With the high anxiety neutralized, Anglo asks White Wing to assist him in a vision quest, a life and death ordeal to achieve spiritual clarity. As they prepare for the five-day experience, Sue and Debbie assist with transportation and promise to be stand-by rescuers. The site for the vision quest is Valley of Fire State Park, a place of sacred rites for centuries before Park Rangers sabotaged Indian gatherings. Anglo and White Wing must sneak into the park to select and prepare the vision quest site.

The exciting climax of the vision quest ordeal involves the danger of death from naked exposure to the desert wilderness for both men. Sue and Debbie fear the worst. The destinies of Booker and White Wing merge in the crucible of the Valley of Fire.


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"Lost in Las Vegas" Reviews

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LOST IN LAS VEGAS continues the story of NAKED INTO THE NIGHT.  After a profound, likely authentic, visionary kiva ritual, the Anglo’s adopted Pueblo tribe elders select him to rescue a young Indian man who is a prodigy of traditional dancing, and a potential successor to leadership, from the lifestyle of a performer in a Las Vegas resort hotel.  The contrast, between the consciousness that the Pueblo traditions propagate and the brilliant distractions of Vegas life, could hardly be more dramatic.  It makes for high drama, genuine spiritual struggle with illusion of various kinds, and excellent reading.”

                                                           The Independent Press Book Review

“White Wing, the extraordinary dancer whose body is a vessel for all that is sacred to his struggling Pueblo tribe, spurns Native prophecy, turns his back on his spiritual destiny, and disappears into the City of Neon Light.  Anglo, the adopted white brother of the tribe, is sent by the Elders to bring him back.  The book is the story of that attempt, a sequel to Joynes’s NAKED INTO THE NIGHT, itself the tale of a man lost and found.  Joynes’s knowledge of Native ways, down to the very nuances of ritual and communication, is remarkably displayed throughout, unveiling a world seldom seen or experienced in such detail.”

                                                                       NAPRA REVIEW

“A key to the book’s success is in its ability to get across a strong sense of place.  The characters mingle and make their choices in the wide spiritual frontier that stretches between the sacred space within a Pueblo kiva and the stages of Las Vegas casinos.  Joynes seems familiar with both environments.  The device of portraying two characters meeting on a bridge between two realities is inspired and effective and could have been disastrous if used by a less skillful writer.  Joynes never allows his characters to become melodramatic stereotypes.  The character of “Anglo” may be a little too good to be true, expressing the wishful thinking of an author with an outsider’s affinity to native culture, but the author seems to make a sincere attempt to respect and portray the essence of that culture.

In the end I feel that LOST IN LAS VEGAS is a laudable accomplishment by an author with the facility to play convincing characters against an authentic sense of place and to come up with an original and inspiring story.  The strengths of the book are ultimately those of any good book:  It is well written.”

                                                                       AHP Perspective

 

“Joynes has a remarkable grasp of Indian history and current life.  Few have the insights into Indian affairs that he possesses.  I am amazed how accurately he presents modern Indians in their typical settings.”

                                       Ted Zuern, S.J., Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions

 

Amazon Customer Review

“Great find!  This is the second book in Monty Joynes's series about Anglo (aka Booker Washington), a white man who has meandered his way into the spiritual center of a contracting Pueblo Indian community. 

I discovered LOST IN LAS VEGAS after stumbling across the initial work, NAKED INTO THE NIGHT, in my local college library. I was quite impressed, all the more so because I discovered half way through reading it that the author lived in my relatively obscure mountain town!  I found him in the phone directory, gave him a call, and after a half-hour conversation, immediately went out and bought the other two books. I was not disappointed! 

LOST IN LAS VEGAS takes Anglo, who has by now earned a place of controversial respect among elders of his adopted Pueblo tribe, on the onerous task of retrieving a lost young Indian leader who is squandering his special dancing talents in the irreverent casinos of Nevada's gambling capitol. With characteristic sangfroid and guileless generosity, Anglo eventually wins the trust of the cynical dancer and even the high-class prostitutes who control him.  Anglo assists Dancer on an extraordinary vision quest in the desert outside Las Vegas, which realigns the young man with his Native roots. While the outcome is predictable, the journey is uplifting and often spellbinding. This is my favorite of the three works published so far.

 All the books in Monty Joynes' series belong in the category of what might be called spiritual or allegorical fiction.  Although the stories are obviously imaginary, they evoke perennial truths and awaken an intuitive sense of the sublime.  I am really surprised these works have not received greater popular acclaim.   Perhaps they'll be the sleepers of the year.”

 

 

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