Samantha Schwenck
Steve Rieman. Credit: Samantha Schwenck

The desert environment that has shaped and colored the music created here has similarly affected High Desert resident and author Steve Rieman—a fact which his new novel, The Searching Three, beautifully illustrates.

Rieman moved to Joshua Tree with his family when he was 5. Pappy and Harriet’s was his home away from home; he remembers sitting on Pappy’s knee as a child.

In his youth, Rieman became a skate rat, listening to punk rock and metal. He was part of the desert subculture that attended generator parties at places like the Nude Bowl, outside of Desert Hot Springs, where bands like Decon, Unsound and Crackpot played. He was there in 1995 when the surrounding hills caught fire.

“Brian Maloney was playing with Herb Lineau, Brant Bjork and Billy Cordell … and an orange glow appeared in the hills right behind them. Within minutes, bands were throwing gear into their cars, and people were running to safety. Charlie Ellis had a Ford Ranger that burnt to a crisp!” he remembers.

Rieman recalls the first time he heard the music of Kyuss.

“I was in a rock house off Sunfair (Road) in Joshua Tree, and they blew me away,” he says. “Every now and then, you hear a band, and you know they are meant for something great … and Kyuss was that band. When Josh Homme went on to form Queens of the Stone Age, I loved the music.

“It had been awhile since I had checked into the music they were making. Recently, I have loaded six QOTSA albums into my truck’s CD player, and they have been on constant rotation for more than three weeks. I still haven’t begun to tire of them. Josh is amazing, and when it comes to his vocals, he has no inhibitions. Everything he does is just beautiful.”

Rieman’s first works as a writer were poems, an art form he continues to pursue today. He has accumulated a collection of poems spanning 20 years, going back to a time when his head was in a very different place. He’s working on publishing a poetry collection, and has enlisted the help of photographer Samantha Schwenck, another child of our desert-rock music scene.

“She is going to create photographic art to go with each poem,” Rieman says. “It will be a beautiful collection of pictures and poems that reflect some of the darker periods of my life, as well as transformations that took place as I made important life changes.”

As a writer, Rieman was greatly influenced by the literature of Carlos Castaneda and the teachings of Yaqui sorcerer Don Juan. As an aspiring novelist, Rieman set out to explore the controversial notion that we are spiritual beings capable of tapping into universal energy—and that when our perception is altered by psychoactive drugs, the secrets of the universe can be made available to us.

“My first passion was poetry. A friend of mine knew a movie producer and told him about me. He suggested that I write a screenplay, which I did. Then I decided to turn it into a novel, based on real-life experiences. I love the film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and Oliver Stone’s film The Doors. Who doesn’t love that scene (in which) they are tripping in the sand dunes of the desert? Those stories are relevant, because they are drawn from real life.”

The resulting novel, The Searching Three, focuses on the reunion of three longtime friends who have drifted apart thanks to the growing demands of adulthood. Brad travels to New Mexico for work—and when he sees the raw desert landscape, he feels its intense energy. He suddenly longs for a spiritual awakening, so Brad contacts his two best friends, Jason and Nick, and talks them into taking a weekend trip to the New Mexico desert.

The main character eventually reveals his connection to the desert’s real music scene. Through detailed recollections of shows gone by, he celebrates the creative talents and unique venues that have made our desert a landmark. Rieman boldly reveals the paths many of us like-minded “searchers” have embarked upon in secret desert spots, far away from reality. He takes readers on a mind-bending adventure, offering a look into the hallucinogenic effects of a peyote-induced trip. Even without the peyote, the read brings about a feeling of euphoria.

The Searching Three is available on Expand your mind and open your heart to a beautiful author straight out of our desert.

Read more from Robin Linn—and view pictures from shows at the Nude Bowl—at

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