Sometimes you pick up a book you know nothing about, read a few sentences and are immediately hooked. Such is the case of The Never Open Desert Diner by James Anderson. This is Anderson's first novel and it is a great one. This "new" author has created a distinctive world populated with absorbing characters. It is a place you will greatly enjoy visiting and will hope for many further travels there.
The hero of the story is Ben Jones, an independent truck driver along Highway 117. It is a fairly desolate route but Ben knows every mile by heart. He likes his job and he likes his customers. Sadly he is not generating enough money to pay the bills and the loss of his truck looms ahead of him.
One of the people Ben knows along his route is Walt Butterfield, the owner operator of what the locals now call "The Never Open Desert Diner". The place is kept prepared for business but Walt rarely hangs out the "Open" sign. There is a tragic story behind this but few know as much as Ben does.
On one of his runs Ben encounters a mysterious woman named Claire. She is hiding from something or someone, and her only companion is a cello. Ben is fascinated by her and his feelings draw him into a dangerous situation. Claire means him no harm but just knowing her places him in jeopardy.
Anderson's writes with a style that is totally refreshing. It is not because of grandiose words or phrases but rather because of its simple directness. He is also very talented at describing places and situations, while making the Utah landscape come to life. His words are so rich you can see it, feel it, even smell it. When the book has ended the reader has a sense he has traveled to this part of the country and stayed awhile.
There is also genius in Anderson's ability to create characters who stay with you. They creep into your brain and settle in for a lengthy visit. Jones becomes someone you know, like and want to be around. He is not heroic in the general sense but he is a hero. He is flawed but consistent; a realist with heavy doses of idealism mixed into his psyche.
The romance between Ben and Claire goes from gentle friendship to passionate romance at just the right tempo. If it were rushed it would have been fake; if it had been too slow it would have been disappointing. Believe me it is just right.
You have not read a book like The Never Open Desert Diner in a long time, if ever. Once you open its pages you will know you are in for something surprisingly enjoyable. James Anderson and his premiere novel are a serendipity that will make a mark on your brain in the most positive way.
The Never Open Desert Diner is published by Caravel Books. It contains 288 pages and sells for $25.00.