I miss Ben Jones and his hardscrabble life in the harsh and beautiful Central Utah desert. For what seems too brief a period, I entered his world of fiercely independent characters with contradictions, delusions, and longings in an environment that only partly accommodates them. Jones encounters them all on their own ground with a mix of surprise, curiosity, some cringing, and ultimately a deep appreciation and respect.
In Anderson’s debut novel, Jones is a short-haul trucker along Highway 117 making deliveries to customers who jealously guard their secrets. Only desert insiders are permitted a view of what counts for daily lives – a hideaway for two brothers with a criminal past, a beautiful woman who plays an “air cello” on a first encounter, and a self-identified savior who carries a cross, literally. And then there’s the never-open desert diner, a masterful noir creation that tantalizes and then horrifies with its own dark past.
Anderson is a master story-teller who has created an evocative tale that is at once a diversion from our troubled times and a tonic that reveals a prevailing human resilience. His first novel leaves readers anxious for his second.