Wasn't there somewhere in the book where you talk about how excessive money is seen as the equivalent of a sin?

Yeah, it's seen as hard-and-fast evidence that you don't have your values sorted out right. It's a given on a Navajo reservation that you've got to help relatives in need. The unemployment rate is staggering, so if you've got a lot of money, that's pretty clear evidence that you're not taking care of your family. Don't you wish our philosophy was a little more like that?

Understand that a lot of the Navajos have been assimilated. You can find Navajos that are just as greedy as the average stockbroker--this is not going to make me popular with stockbrokers, but you know what I mean. Navajos are human beings, and they see the world around them, which is the United States of America with its consumer culture, and they think, "Golly, I'd like to have that kind of truck too."

In their Origin story, their emergence into this world from the last one, the first man was also a witch. He was a dichotomy of good and evil. When he got up on this world, he realized he'd left his medicine bag behind, which was full of his witchcraft stuff. He sent a heron, one of the diving birds, down to the previous world, which was destroyed by a flood, and told him to recover his bag. The name of the bag was, 'the way to make money.' Isn't that loaded with meaning? The way to get rich, that's what he wanted to bring up to this world. He did too, didn't he?

There was a story a while ago about Indian basketball players. The thing was that although they are quite good, not one can break out into the NBA because to be that individualistic is not encouraged.

I'll give you a great story. I was talking to a fella I know before the last Navajo Tribal Fair; they have a rodeo connected with it. I said, "Hayes, is your brother going to win the belt this year?" I think he was bronco riding--and he's good at it. He'd won the top prize the last two times, I think.

My friend said, "I don't think he'll enter this year. And if he does, he won't win."

I said, "What do you mean?"

He said, "He's been winning too much."

See what I mean? It's somebody else's turn to win. Makes it hard to make them what we would call "ambitious."

I can't let you go without asking if you're working on another book with Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee.

I have another Chee-Leaphorn book coming out in May. The name I gave it was "The Golden Calf." In the book, the Golden Calf is a lost gold mine. In the West we've got a whole bunch of legendary lost mines. The book is about a wealthy fellow who is obsessed with the idea of finding this lost mine. He's got all the money in the world. He's been a lease broker--oil and petroleum leases. He's a bachelor who meets this young woman, falls in love with her, and they marry. Meanwhile, a swindler approaches him, asking him to sell the location of the Golden Calf. I worked up a plot that puts him in the strange position. It's ambiguous, but he doesn't really know he's making a choice between worshiping the Golden Calf and loving his wife, but he is.

Anyway, alas, alas, my publisher didn't like the name very much--although I loved it--and it turned out they already had in production a book called The Golden Something or other, so they changed the name.

What's the title?

It's called "The Wailing Wind." I thought I did a pretty good job of it. But again, I like to feel like I'm doing some moral, ethical good with some of these things.

What is the moral or ethical lesson of this book?

Reminding people that if you worship gold more than love, you're going to be disappointed, right? At least I think so.