Waters, Frank (Joseph) 1902-1995

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WATERS, Frank (Joseph) 1902-1995

PERSONAL: Born July 25, 1902, in Colorado Springs, CO; died June 3, 1995, in Taos, NM; son of Frank Jonathan and May Ione (Dozier) Waters; married Lois Mosely, July 2, 1944 (divorced, December 21, 1946); married Jane Somervell, January 4, 1947 (divorced, August 26, 1955); married Rose Marie Woodell, November 11, 1961 (divorced, December, 1965); married Barbara A. Hayes, December 12, 1979. Education: Attended Colorado College, 1922-25.

CAREER: Southern California Telephone Co., engineer in Los Angeles, Riverside, and Imperial Valley, CA, 1926-35; U.S. Government, Office of Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs, Washington, DC, chief content officer, 1943-46; El Crepusculo (Spanish-English newspaper), Taos, NM, editor, 1949-51; Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM, information consultant, 1952-56; C. V. Whitney Motion Picture Co., Los Angeles, writer, 1957. Writer-in-residence, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, winter, 1966; director, New Mexico Arts Commission, 1966-68. Military service: U.S. Army, 1942-43; prepared training films on weapons.

MEMBER: Phi Kappa Phi.

AWARDS, HONORS: Silver medal, Commonwealth Club of California, 1942, for The Man Who Killed the Deer; Rockefeller grant, 1970; Western Heritage Award, 1972, for Pike's Peak: A Mining Saga; award for achievement in literature, New Mexico Arts Commission, 1975. D.Litt. from University of Albuquerque, 1973, Colorado State University, 1973, New Mexico State University, 1976, University of New Mexico, 1978, Colorado College, 1978, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, 1981, and University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, 1982.



Fever Pitch, Liveright (New York, NY), 1930, published as The Lizard Woman, Thorp Springs Press (Austin, TX), 1984.

The Wild Earth's Nobility (first novel in the "Colorado Trilogy") Liveright (New York, NY), 1935.

Below Grass Roots (second novel in the "Colorado Trilogy") Liveright (New York, NY), 1937.

The Dust within the Rock (third novel in the "Colorado Trilogy") Liveright (New York, NY), 1940.

People of the Valley, Farrar & Rinehart (New York, >NY), 1941.

The Man Who Killed the Deer, Farrar & Rinehart (New York, NY), 1942.

(With Houston Branch) River Lady, Farrar & Rinehart (New York, NY), 1942.

The Yogi of Cockroach Court, Rinehart (New York, NY), 1947.

(With Houston Branch) Diamond Head, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1948.

The Woman at Otowi Crossing, Swallow Press (Denver, CO), 1966, revised edition, Sage (Athens, OH), 1988.

Pike's Peak: A Mining Saga (contains The Wild Earth'sNobility, Below Grass Roots, and The Dust within the Rock), Sage (Chicago, IL), 1971.

Flight from Fiesta, Rydal Press (Santa Fe, NM), 1986.


Midas of the Rockies: The Story of Stratton andCripple Creek, Covici, Friede (New York, NY), 1937.

The Colorado, Rinehart (New York, NY), 1946.

Masked Gods: Navaho and Pueblo Ceremonialism, University of New Mexico Press (Albuquerque, NM), 1950.

The Earp Brothers of Tombstone: The Story of Mrs.Virgil Earp, Potter (New York, NY), 1960.

Book of the Hopi, Viking (New York, NY), 1963.

Robert Gilruth: Engineering Space Exploration, Encyclopaedia Britannica Press (Chicago, IL), 1963.

Leon Gaspard, Northland Press (Flagstaff, AZ), 1964, revised edition, Northland Press (Flagstaff, AZ), 1981.

Pumpkin Seed Point, Sage (Chicago, IL), 1969.

To Possess the Land: A Biography of Arthur RochfordManby, Sage (Chicago, IL), 1974.

Mexico Mystique: The Coming Sixth World of Consciousness, Sage (Chicago, IL), 1975.

Mountain Dialogues, Swallow Press (Athens, OH), 1981.

Brave Are My People, Clear Light (Santa Fe, NM), 1993.

Of Time and Change: A Memoir, MacMurray & Beck (Denver, CO), 1998.


(Editor) Rocks and Minerals, 1971.

(Editor, with Charles L. Adams) W. Y. Evans-Wentz, Chuchama and Sacred Mountains 1981.

Frank Waters: A Retrospective Anthology, edited by Charles L. Adams, 1985.

(Editor) Eternal Desert, photographs by David Muench, 1990.

A Frank Waters Reader: A Southwestern Life in Writing, edited by Thomas J. Lyon, Swallow Press (Athens, OH), 2000.

Contributor of book reviews to Saturday Review, 1950-56; contributor of short stories and articles to Yale Review, North American Review, Holiday, and other periodicals. Waters's books have been published in French, Dutch, Swedish, Japanese, and German.

ADAPTATIONS: River Lady was filmed by Universal-International, 1949; an operatic version of The Woman at Otowi Crossing was staged by the Opera Theater of St. Louis, St. Louis, MO, music by Stephen Paulus, lyrics by Joan Vail Thorne, 1995.

SIDELIGHTS: Frank Waters is best remembered for novels and nonfiction works concerning Native Americans and the American Southwest. His novels People of the Valley and The Man Who Killed the Deer are considered to be, according to Martin Bucco in Twentieth-Century Western Writers, "western classics."

Writinginthe Dictionary of Literary Biography, Donald A. Barclay noted that the inspiration for The Lizard Woman occurred while Waters took a trip on horseback in 1926 into Baja California. Barclay stated, "Waters's careful attention to the details of desert plants, animals, and geography make the journey an entirely believable adventure, but the presence of the Lizard Woman (who is neither man nor woman) takes the story beyond the boundaries of a Jack London man-against-nature-style adventure." Within a few years Waters visited Taos, New Mexico, where he met several writers and artists such as Mable and Tony Luhan, Dorthy Brett, Leon Gaspard, Nicolai Fechin, and D. H. and Frieda Lawrence. It was Tony Luhan who taught Waters about Pueblo Indian life. Shortly thereafter, Waters began writing The Wild Earth's Nobility, the first book in his 1,500 page "Colorado Trilogy." After settling in Taos, he published the final volume of the trilogy. People of the Valley followed The Dust within the Rock, the story of Maria de Valle, a ninety-year-old Hispanic Indian matriarch in New Mexico's isolated Mora Valley. "The novel," remarked Barclay, "is a first-rate piece of cultural anthropology; Waters knew well the Hispanics of the northern New Mexico mountains, having lived there long enough to have been invited to a secret ceremony of the Penitentes, the nickname for the Brothers of Our Father Jesus Nazarite, a small lay Catholic religious society." According to R. D. Minnich in Library Journal, Waters "captures these simple people, their customs and their mores, in a quiet yet moving style." Margaret Wallace found in the New York Times that People of the Valley displayed "a certain familiar Steinbeck quality—earthy, ribald, honest, sharply observed and profoundly human."

Based on a true story, Waters's The Man Who Killed the Deer tells of Martiniano, a young Pueblo Indian boy who runs into trouble when he kills a deer while hunting on forbidden government land. Martiniano must also resolve his inner conflicts brought about by his exposure to both the white and Indian cultures. Considered Waters's "greatest achievement in fiction," The Man Who Killed the Deer, noted reviewer Milton Rugoff in Books, is a novel that has "the ring of authenticity and a sympathy entirely without condescension." "Waters," Margaret Wallace explained in the New York Times, "has told a story as naive as a folk tale, but one which, like many folk tales, is freighted with a burden of racial philosophy." Saturday Review of Literature critic Burton Rascoe called The Man Who Killed the Deer "by far the finest novel of American Indian life I have ever read." As Barclay added, "Waters uses italics to express the collective consciousness of the tribe, a technique that gives the words the feeling of disembodied speech drifting across the plaza of the pueblo and through the doors and windows of the dwelling."

Waters's nonfiction work Masked Gods: Navaho and Pueblo Ceremonialism, according to Barclay, "covers the history of four hundred years of conquest endured by the Indians of the [Southwest] . . . describes Indian religious ceremonies . . . and draws comparisons between Indian—especially Navaho—religion and Buddhism." After spending four years on the Hopi Reservation in Arizona, Waters published Book of the Hopi, described by Barclay as a "Hopi Bible." The book includes creation myths, stories of previous worlds, and prophecies. According to Barclay, Waters's "position is that cultures should learn from, rather than submit to, one another."

The last of Waters's works published before his death was Brave Are My People, a collection of biographical sketches of twenty American Indian leaders. Published posthumously was Waters's Of Time and Change: A Memoir, a collection of ten essays with a focus on the writers he knew in the 1930s and 1940s. Joyce Sparrow, writing in Library Journal, called the book "essential for academic libraries with collections featuring Native American Writers and literature of the New West." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly stated that Waters's "earthy, straightforward style delves deep into the ancient heritage of this land and the fascinating characters who gave it its artistic and spiritual repute."



Bucco, Martin, Frank Waters, Steck Vaughn (Austin, TX), 1969.

Cracroft, Richard H., editor, Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 212: Twentieth-Century American Western Writers, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1999.

Lyon, Thomas J., Frank Waters, Twayne (New York, NY), 1973.

Milton, John R., editor, Conversations with Frank Waters, Swallow Press, 1971.

Tanner, Terence A., Frank Waters: A Bibliography, Meyer (Glenwood, IL), 1983.

Twentieth-Century Western Writers, second edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1991.


Booklist, February 15, 1941, p. 271; July 15, 1942, p. 443.

Bookmark, May, 1942, p. 17.

Books, November 14, 1937, p. 6; November 21, 1937, p. 10; January 21, 1940, p. 4; February 9, 1941, p. 8; June 14, 1942, p. 10.

Boston Transcript, January 20, 1940, p. 1; March 15, 1941, p. 2.

Choice, February, 1999, Q. Grigg, review of Of Time and Change: A Memoir, p. 1048.

Library Journal, January 15, 1941, p. 80; September 1, 1998, Joyce Sparrow, review of Of Time and Change, pp. 182-183; October 15, 2000, Cynde Bloom Lahey, review of A Frank Waters Reader: A Southwestern Life in Writing, p. 72.

New Republic, February 5, 1940, p. 102; March 17, 1941, p. 382.

New Yorker, February 8, 1941, p. 65; June 13, 1942, p. 71.

New York Times, November 28, 1937, p. 7; January 23, 1938, p. 18; January 28, 1940, p. 7; February 9, 1941, p. 6; June 14, 1942, p. 6.

Publishers Weekly, September 14, 1998, review of OfTime and Change, p. 59.

Saturday Review of Literature, January 20, 1940, p. 21; May 17, 1941, p. 8.

School Library Journal, September 1, 1998, Joyce Sparrow, review of Of Time and Change, p. 182.

Time, November 15, 1937, p. 96; June 13, 1942, p. 9.

Wisconsin Library Bulletin, June, 1940, p. 112.



Los Angeles Times, June 8, 1995, p. A26.

New York Times, June 6, 1995, p. B18.*