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Reviews of The Never-Open Desert Diner by James Anderson

The Never-Open Desert Diner

by James Anderson

The Never-Open Desert Diner by James Anderson X
The Never-Open Desert Diner by James Anderson
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2016, 304 pages

    Paperback:
    Nov 2016, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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About this Book

Book Summary

A singularly compelling debut novel, about a desert where people go to escape their past, and a truck driver who finds himself at risk when he falls in love with a mysterious woman.

Ben Jones lives a quiet, hardscrabble life, working as a trucker on Route 117, a little-travelled road in a remote region of the Utah desert which serves as a haven for fugitives and others looking to hide from the world. For many of the desert's inhabitants, Ben's visits are their only contact with the outside world, and the only landmark worth noting is a once-famous roadside diner that hasn't opened in years.

Ben's routine is turned upside down when he stumbles across a beautiful woman named Claire playing a cello in an abandoned housing development. He can tell that she's fleeing something in her past - a dark secret that pushed her to the end of the earth - but despite his better judgment he is inexorably drawn to her.

As Ben and Claire fall in love, specters from her past begin to resurface, with serious and life-threatening consequences not only for them both, but for others who have made this desert their sanctuary. Dangerous men come looking for her, and as they turn Route 117 upside down in their search, the long-buried secrets of those who've laid claim to this desert come to light, bringing Ben and the other locals into deadly conflict with Claire's pursuers. Ultimately, the answers they all seek are connected to the desert's greatest mystery - what really happened all those years ago at the never-open desert diner?

In this unforgettable story of love and loss, Ben learns the enduring truth that some violent crimes renew themselves across generations. At turns funny, heartbreaking and thrilling, The Never-Open Desert Diner powerfully evokes an unforgettable setting and introduces readers to a cast of characters who will linger long after the last page.

1

A red sun was balanced on the horizon when I arrived at The Well-Known Desert Diner. Sunrise shadows were draped around its corners. A full white moon was still visible in the dawn sky. I parked my tractor-trailer rig along the outer perimeter of the gravel parking lot. The "closed" sign hung on the front door. To the left of the door, as if in mourning for Superman, stood a black metal and glass phone booth. Inside was a real phone with a rotary dial that clicked out the ten white numbers. Unlike the phones in the movies, this one worked—if you had enough nickels.

Curiosity usually wasn't a problem for me. I treated it like a sleeping junkyard dog. As a general rule I didn't hop the fence. Jagged scars on my backside reminded me of the few times I had violated that rule. Just because you can't see the dog doesn't mean it isn't out there. Sure, I look through the fence once in a while. What I see and think I keep to myself.

On that Monday morning in...

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!
Introduction

Ben Jones lives a quiet life working as a trucker in a beautiful and desolate region of the Utah desert, that has become a haven for fugitives and others looking to hide from the world. But when he meets Claire, a mysterious woman playing a cello in an abandoned housing development, he is drawn into a love affair that has serious and life-threatening consequences, not only for both of them but for others who have made this desert their sanctuary. Their passion reignites a decades-old tragedy at a roadside cafe known by the locals as The Never-Open Desert Diner, embroiling Ben in the aftermath of a horrific crime that threatens to destroy everything that matters to him.

In this remarkable story of ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

At first the book reminded me of Fannie Flagg's writing, with its quirky characters, light humor and ability to portray life in a specific region of the country. But, as the plot progressed it becomes darker and more complex than any of Flagg's offerings, retaining the aforementioned characteristics while adding unexpected facets, creating a truly unforgettable novel. It starts out as a light-hearted romp but by the conclusion, morphs into something entirely different...continued

Full Review (677 words)

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(Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Media Reviews

Marilyn Stasio, New York Times Book Review
High, dry and severely beautiful...Anderson is one fine storyteller.

The Huffington Post
James Anderson and his premiere novel are a serendipity that will make a mark on your brain in the most positive way.

Kirkus Reviews
The great tradition of hard-boiled crime novels finds new and promising territory in the Utah desert

Library Journal
Anderson, the founder and former publisher of Breitenbush Books, writes with a lyrical style and allows the plot to unfold in a manner as seductive as the desert itself. Readers who revel in fiction set in the Southwest will want to join his protagonist for the ride.

Publishers Weekly
Just as important as the mysteries of human entanglement are the desert's brilliant light, torrential downpours, and vast night sky.

Author Blurb CJ Box, New York Times Bestselling author of Badlands
James Anderson has written a striking debut novel - lyrical, whimsical, atmospheric and skillfully rendered.

Author Blurb Colum McCann, National Book Award-winning author of Let the Great World Spin
James Anderson's first novel works on elements of mirage - a mystery novel with literary shimmers. In the end it is all there, apparent in the high heat of the desert: a great story, well-told, funny, daring, smart and deeply affecting.

Reader Reviews

gillian amory

feel the heat
Great atmosphere, language.
Nancy J

Memorable One-Liners
A well-located setting for colorful characters and creative "getting-by" and the noir type narrative kept me turning the pages in this debut novel. I jotted down some of those great one-liners as I went along.

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Beyond the Book

Flash Floods

Flash flooding is a constant concern in The Never-Open Desert Diner.

A flash flood is a sudden release of water that inundates an area, and is differentiated from a normal flood by its duration; by definition, a flash flood lasts less than six hours. Although they can occur under a wide variety of circumstances they're especially dangerous when they happen in a desert such as those in the American West. Rain in the desert is infrequent but when it falls it's generally torrential – several inches at once - and highly localized, meaning it may only be precipitating in a relatively small area. As the water collects it flows quickly downhill along channels that previous floods have cut in the sandstone – riverbeds or canyons that...

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