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?
Starting out at a slightly slow clip, The Never-Open Desert Diner is a clever story about the lives of the people who choose to live away from modern life. Their link to the outside world is Ben Jones. As a narrator, Ben is clever and observant. As a protagonist, he seems to be lacking. While the perfect protag is often just as annoying and often borders a “Mary-Sue,” Ben has a tendency to go when he should stop and stop when he should keep moving. This make him frustrating but not horribly so. (Besides the peeing on houses, and peeping at naked cello players.) The internal conflict of trying to be a good man and yet, having some sort of hero complex leading him to try and defend Claire, our mystery woman can confuse the reader but I think it shows a human side to this literary character.
I wouldn’t really consider this a mystery novel, so much as I would call it a humanity piece. I really felt like the characters were whole, each with a backstory that understandably brought them out to that stretch of desert. I would recommend this to people looking for something a little different but very well written. You might not like the ending but like life, some stories end in unexpected ways. With a diverse cast of characters, and a worthwhile 295 pages, The Never-Open Desert Diner, is luckily getting a second push from Crowne Publishing and I have to thank Blogging For Books for getting this one out to me to review.
James Anderson was born in Seattle, Washington and raised in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. He received his undergraduate degree in American Studies from Reed College in Portland, Oregon, and his Masters Degree in Creative Writing from Pine Manor College in Boston Massachusetts.
In 1974, while still an undergraduate, Anderson founded Breitenbush Books, a book publisher specializing in literature and general interest trade titles. From 1974 to 1991 Anderson served as publisher and executive editor. Breitenbush received many awards for its books, including three Western States Book Awards, juried by Robert Penn Warren, Elizabeth Hardwick, N. Scott Momaday, Jonathan Galassi, Jorie Graham, Denise Levertov, William Kittredge and others. Notable authors published include Mary Barnard, Bruce Berger, Clyde Rice, Naomi Shihab Nye, Michael Simms, William Greenway, John Stoltenberg, Sam Hamill and Gary Miranda.
From 1995 to 2002 Anderson co-produced documentary films, including Tara’s Daughters, narrated by Susan Sarandon. The film, which won Best Documentary at the New York Film Festival, chronicled the plight of Tibetan women refugees as carriers of Tibetan culture in the diaspora.