Monday, November 12, 2018

"A Light in the Desert" by Anne Montgomery


REVIEW and INTERVIEW
A Light in the Desert
by Anne Montgomery

A Light in the Desert by Anne Montgomery

Author Anne Montgomery stops by for an interview and to share an excerpt from her latest novel, A Light in the Desert. You can also read my review.
For another book by this author, please check out my blog post on The Scent of Rain.

Description
As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots - the Children of Light - who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil as local and state police, FBI investigators, and a horde of reporters arrive on the scene. As the search for the saboteurs heats up and the authorities question members of the cult, they uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born deep in the wilderness.

Excerpt
1
Kelly Garcia sat cross-legged before the dusty grave, a cluster of blood-red bougainvillea in her lap. She finished the last orange wedge and, remembering the compost heap, stuffed the peel inside the front pocket of her faded sundress, the fabric of which strained to cover her bulging belly.
It wasn’t the first time Kelly had visited the graves of the tiny ones. The metal crosses, which had finally replaced the crumbling wooden ones, marked the graves of Maria and Gregorita Amabisca, infants born in the Gila River Valley not long after the turn of the century, neither of whom had survived even one month in the living world. Where were the infants’ little spirits now? Had they gone? Or did they spend their days here, hiding behind the old gravestones and scattered creosote bushes? Were they tiny, elf-like creatures, darting about like butterflies but always just out of sight? Or had they, as the Children explained, been lifted off to Paradise?
She felt the baby move. Would her child live long enough to grow up or would God take the baby to heaven instead? If the child was born with a face like hers, perhaps floating in the clouds with the angels would be better. Angels, she knew, must certainly be kinder than people.
She reached over and touched the polished pink granite stone covering her father’s grave. Money was scarce, but when the uniformed men showed up, they said her father had been a war hero. They handed her mother a folded American flag and made sure Bryan Kelly received a proper burial and a proper grave marker. Now his tarnished Silver Star, attached to its red, white and blue ribbon, rested in a velvet box under her bed.
She traced the letters spelling out her father’s surname. Her last name was no longer Kelly. His quirky sense of humor had rendered her Kelly Kelly, but after he stuck the gun in his mouth, her mother had insisted that Kelly Kelly was not a proper name, blaming the appellation on her father’s Irishness, and demanding she take the name of her stepfather.
A hot breeze from the flat, sparsely cultivated land south of the cemetery lifted dust and grit, blowing Kelly’s ink-black hair away from her damaged face. Her father always smiled when saying her name. Kelly Kelly made a happy sound, he said, like bird song or a cricket’s chirp. All she had left of him now were the medal, the grave, and the odd blue eyes that struggled against her dark features. The long straight hair, which she wore in a thick braid, was a gift from her mother’s Maricopa ancestors. Her face? No one was sure where that had come from.
Kelly looked up. The sun was sinking down behind the mountains, shooting streaks of color across the Sonoran Desert sky and dying the clouds pink and purple like Easter eggs.
Suddenly, she realized she was late for dinner. The Children of the Light did everything on schedule, so she had to hurry. She picked up the bougainvillea branches that would grace the communal dining table and pushed herself off the ground. Momentarily losing her balance, she clutched the branches tightly and felt a thorn prick her finger. She wished the baby would come soon. She was tired of feeling awkward. So as not to stain her dress, she quickly sucked on the blood that oozed from the wound, then turned and walked up the dirt road that wound back to the compound.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]


Praise for the Book
“There is a lot going on throughout the book; never a dull moment. As a result, when I picked up this book the pages just flew by and before I knew it, I was turning the last page. The characters in the book present a wide variety to its reader. They are mostly well developed, though I would have liked to see a little more depth to Billy & Kelly.” ~ Bookish Indulgenges with b00k r3vi3ws
“This is a very emotional tale that explores a variety of social issues ranging from mental illness to child abuse. It is very well done, well developed characters and scenery as well as a fast moving plot.” ~ Margaret Millmore
“... each character is well developed and the story eventually will find a point where all the plot lines seem to join and converge on the right track. I have one final note and that is be sure to read the Dedication as the struggles Ramm has may be more real for the reader.” ~ Shawn
A Light in the Desert is a fictional story based on the true event of the derailing of the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a train that travels between New Orleans, Louisiana and Los Angles, California, on October 9, 1995 in Hyder, Arizona. [It is] a character driven novel imbued with social commentary. A Light in the Desert is a great read. If you’re looking for a great story about human nature, pick A Light in the Desert up today.” ~ Rabid Readers Reviews
“Overall I enjoyed the novel and would recommend people interested in emotionally driven tales that doesn't require romantic undertones to read it!” ~ Dylan Hiler

My Review
I received this book in return for an honest review.


By Lynda Dickson
We follow the stories of three people running away from their lives: Kelly suffers from Moebius syndrome, is pregnant with her stepfather’s child, and is taken in by the Children of Light, a cult headed by Elect Sun; Jason is haunted by demons from his past as is fast heading for a breakdown; Billy is running from his abusive father Buck and plans to derail a train to gain notoriety. This action will set in motion a series of events no one could have foreseen. And we will be introduced to two new characters, the sheriff and a reporter, both out to seek the truth.
The book on partially based on real events and is told from the points of view of numerous characters. As all of their stories are slowly revealed, we come to learn more about them and how their lives intertwine. By the end, all of the plotlines are cleverly tied together. The author is adept at bringing the sights, sounds, and smells of the Arizona desert to life with her words. There are a number of religious references in the book. I especially enjoyed the chapter in which an old drifter comes across the Madonna in the desert. This ties in nicely with the title of the book, with Jesus also making an appearance.
An engaging and thought-provoking read.
Warnings: coarse language, sexual references, rape, violence, mental illness.

Interview With the Author
Author Anne Montgomery stops by today to discuss her latest novel, A Light in the Desert.
What inspired you to write a crime novel?
I write about subjects in the news that interest me. (I’m a news junkie.) In the case of A Light in the Desert, the cold-case sabotage of the Amtrak Sunset Limited in the Arizona desert was big news nationwide. But it’s the people impacted by crimes and unusual circumstances that interest me most. For example, Jason Ramm, the protagonist, is suffering from a rare form of mental illness called the Jerusalem Syndrome. The Children of Light live off the land and were waiting for the end times, when the crime occurred in their backyard. In both cases, I read about these subjects in the news and was inspired to tell their stories.
Were any of the characters or events inspired by your own life?
Jason Ramm’s character is modeled on a dear deceased friend of mine who did two tours in Vietnam as a Green Beret. While he was not a sniper, many of Ramm’s memories are taken from stories he told me about his time in the service. Also, my friend struggled mightily with Post Traumatic Stress and guilt from events that occurred during the war. Like Ramm, he desperately searched for peace and forgiveness. The character of Kate Butler is clearly me. I was a TV sports reporter and anchor for five stations at both the local and national levels, until, one day, when I was pushing 40, I suddenly became unemployable in that field. Like Kate, I had a shelf-life stamped on my forehead. I was no longer pretty enough to be in front of a camera. It was a difficult transition.
What would you like readers to take away from reading your book?
While my books are fiction, they are based in fact. I work very hard to make sure I get the factual parts right. For example, my most recent book, The Scent of Rain, details the life of a teenage girl fleeing the horrors of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a cult of polygamists who believe it’s OK for old men to marry young girls. I interviewed a woman who twice escaped from the FLDS, and a doctor who worked with the cultists, and I went to Colorado City, Arizona to observe them. So, I’d like my readers to know that, even though they are reading a fictional story, they will learn things along the way.
Thanks so much for stopping by today and giving us a further insight into you book.

About the Author
Anne Montgomery
Anne Butler Montgomery has worked as a television sportscaster, newspaper and magazine writer, teacher, amateur baseball umpire, and high school football referee. Her first TV job came at WRBL-TV in Columbus, Georgia, and led to positions at WROC-TV in Rochester, New York, KTSP-TV in Phoenix, Arizona, and ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut, where she anchored the Emmy and ACE award winning SportsCenter. She finished her on camera broadcasting career with a two-year stint as the studio host for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. Montgomery was a freelance and/or staff reporter for six publications, writing sports, features, movie reviews, and archeological pieces. Her novels include: The Scent of Rain, Nothing But Echoes, and A Light in the Desert. Montgomery teaches journalism at South Mountain High School in Phoenix, is a foster mom to three sons, and is an Arizona Interscholastic Association football referee and crew chief. When she can, she indulges in her passions: rock collecting, football officiating, scuba diving, and playing her guitar.

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