cover image The Never-Open Desert Diner

The Never-Open Desert Diner

James Anderson. Pleasure Boat Studio/Caravel, $25 (288p) ISBN 978-0-912887-10-4

Anderson distills the heat and shimmering haze of the Utah desert into his fine first novel. Ben Jones, the owner and sole employee of Ben’s Desert Moon Delivery Service, travels up and down Utah Highway 117, making deliveries to the few locals and occasionally getting paid. Ben has come to know many of the area’s stranger residents, including Walt Butterfield, the owner of the Well-Known Desert Diner, and itinerant preacher John, who spends much of his time walking up and down 117 lugging a 10-ft. wooden cross. None of these intrigue Ben as much as the naked woman he finds miming playing a cello without a bow or strings, in a house hidden from the highway. Crimes weave in and out of this modern western, but they take a backseat to the tentative relationship that grows between Ben and Claire, the naked air cellist. Just as important as the mysteries of human entanglement are the desert’s brilliant light, torrential downpours, and vast night sky. [em](Feb.) [/em]