#4 June 2015- The Never-Open Desert Diner & The Lost World of the Old Ones
So, what have I been reading since the last posting two years ago? Hard to remember, but I think I read through several series-- Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther books, Henning Mankell's Wallender books, and the Thomas Perry Butcher's Boy series. I'm sure there were many other books picked up and read or abandoned after 100 pages and magazines- Economist, Forbes, Car& Driver, Road & Track, etc. occupy way too much time.
But now I'm ready to report on two new books that have settled into my thoughts and reading time. James Anderson of Oregon and the Four Corners Region debuted with his novel "The Never-Open Desert Diner" early 2015. Ben Jones, a thirty-eight year old, unmarried over-the-road truck driver, is facing the loss of his business and leased truck to bankruptcy as he delivers boxes to one of the most desolate areas of the US-- Utah Highway 117 off US 191 between Price and Rockmuse UT, a ghost town when the coal mines closed. He mostly encounters desert "rats" living in isolation, desert preachers and 79 year old Walt Butterfield, the owner of the Diner and a collection of classic motorcycles that he rides across the desert and on the highways.
Ben meets Claire, a mysterious woman who is living in an abandoned tract house in a development that never developed as she silently plays a cello without strings in a bare living room. Suddenly Ben's life is changed as Claire's story intertwines with the horror of Walt's history and a mystery about a stolen, multi-million dollar cello.The book is a beautifully written presentation of life in the desert with clear evocations of death by dehydration, heat prostration and drowning in a previously dry arroyo balanced with loving depictions of the light of sunrise and sunset, the vegetation and geology and especially the people who live in such an environment.
The second book I want to highlight is David Roberts "The Lost World of the Old Ones:Discoveries in the Ancient Southwest." World-class mountain climber Roberts focuses on the Colorado Plateau in this followup to his earlier, cult-classic"In Search of the Old Ones"(1996) which led to his banning by BLM officials from a number of areas where his descriptions of sites led pot hunters and ruin desecrators to do their bad work. This book is very careful to avoid giving directions, GPS coordinates, etc. to bad actors but it does present updates on Robert's travels, explorations by climbing, hiking,and boating, discoveries of archaeologists and plenty of disagreements about what happened to Folsom people, the Ancient Puebloans/Anasazi, and the people of the Rio Grande. The book is by turns witty, angry and inciteful but it is never boring or overly academic. This is the book for anyone traveling, hiking, climbing the Colorado Plateau.