He remembers racing down a desolate West Texas highway. He remembers a cop who pulled him over for speeding. He remembers a shotgun-brandishing cook chasing him out of a diner. And he remembers a life abandoned, but he cannot put together the jigsaw puzzle that explains where he is: blind, wanted by the law, and in the company of this invisible stranger.
In the desert town of Armbister, Texas where temperatures hover near 110 degrees, Paul's memory, intangible as a heat mirage, lies just beyond his reach, and God may be a coyote.
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'Still water runs deep' and in James Brush's first novel, A Place Without a Postcard, irony of the situation is the rushing deluge that pushes the reader to keep turning the pages. When Paul Reynolds chooses to leave his West Coast life and head east on his motorcycle, he stumbles upon Armbister, Texas, where town loyalty, scandal, and strangers don't mix. Everything about Paul says that he 'ain't from around Armbister' and it might be wise for him to get out of town. However, as the stars would have it, he discovers while in the local greasy spoon, Ernie's Joint, that he is wanted for the murder of the Johnny Law who had just issued him a ticket for speeding. Author James Brush pays meticulous attention to detail and cleverly mixes pop culture and classical analogies throughout the novel. Haven't we all seen this typical tactic for hunting down America's Most Wanted? ' A blowup of the California driver's license that had been pulled out of some database' appears on the television screen. 'Everyone from Ernie's Joint, staring the outside world in its eye, knew that the focus of its attention was sitting at Ernie's bar with a half-eaten burger.' Paul senses trouble. 'He felt the eyes of all four men shift with an audible Batman-swish pan from the TV set to him.' As the owner sizes him up 'like a hunk of ground beef', Paul realizes the need to get out of Dodge, or in this case, Armbister, as quickly as he can. What happens to Paul comes back to him in a series of flashbacks after he wakes up and discovers he is in incredible pain, blind and not in a hospital. Instead he has been rescued by The Stranger, aka Sergio, a recluse who lives in a shack without electricity and subsists on a diet of warm beer and canned beef stew. Sergio's only companion is his half dog/half coyote named Mercury. Ironically, Paul, a photographer who creates photos of UFOs for tabloid magazines, wants to see as much as Sergio does not want to be seen. A Place Without a Postcard weaves mystery with philosophy. The plot, so seemingly simple, is unveiled in a way that would normally be confusing, but it is not. I caught myself marveling at the impeccable imagery, laughing at the dry as desert wit, and wondering if James Brush is the John Milton of contemporary fiction. He has to be blind to empathize with his protagonist's agony, both physically and mentally. This is an absolute MUST READ. I became so absorbed in Brush's narrative that I hated to stop reading to make dinner for my husband. However, the next day, I had to rip the novel out of my husband's hands so that he would eat the dinner that I had cooked. So, James Brush, just like Naomi Judd on Star Search, I give you FIVE STARS! If I were you, I would get that screenplay ready.
This book is a great read;hard to put down and surprising until the end. The author has a breathtaking command of language and and a great sense of place.