Ben Jones drives a truck in southern Utah. He’s damn near broke, about to lose his truck, and his best friend is Walt, an old guy who owns a diner that’s never open and barely speaks to him (think a grumpy Robert Duval).
Ben is a pretty normal blue collar guy, but with an occasional penchant for the philosophical:
Below that was a rising shiver of cold desperation. Things had to change. I wanted them to change. Like most people who said they wanted change, all I wanted was enough change to keep everything the same, only better.
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.
Walt is the owner of The Never Open Desert Diner, which author James Anderson places on Route 117, crossing route 191 near Price. Having lived in Utah and driven 191 down to Moab many times, I can only think Mr. Anderson is toying with us, as 117 and 191 don’t cross so far as I know. There is an old diner (my friend Thomas says it was the Sky Cafe Diner between Spanish Fork and Price, which might have been the inspiration?).
Except for that, Anderson gets southern Utah almost pitch perfect. The silence of the desert, it’s emptiness and it’s deadly beauty if you’re not prepared for it. The quick change from a clear sky to ominous clouds to a thundering, drenching rainstorm in a matter of minutes.
Never Open Diner starts pretty prosaically, but soon Ben is wandering into an abandoned house in the desert and stumbling upon a naked woman playing a cello with no strings. It feels like it’s about to become an urban fantasy (well rural fantasy) novel, but it actually never becomes unreal, just a fun ride involving a mysterious woman, a horrible event, a film producer and a stolen cello. There’s a great cast of characters, by turns intriguing, infuriating and enchanting.
It’s really good fun.
You can find more here: http://www.thehawaiiproject.com/book/The-Never-Open-Desert-Diner–by–James-Anderson–100720
(I received an advance reader copy of this book from the Library Thing Early Reviewers program)