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by Peter Rock

Pub Date: April 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-385-48598-0
Publisher: Anchor

A lonely old man with plenty of answers fixates on a lively young woman filled with questions, with the usual tragic results, in this forced debut from Utah-born Rock. Situated smack on the border between holier-than-thou Mormon country and anything-goes Nevada, the drama begins when an elderly ace blackjack dealer in Wendover meets Charlotte, the niece of a former lover, who's seeking information and experience that will take her well beyond her narrow Mormon upbringing. What starts as a cribbage game ends as full-blown obsession, since the dealer is vain enough to believe that what Charlotte must desire is a man who's seen it all: himself. Unfortunately for him, her search has both spiritual and physical dimensions, and involves the decipherment of mysterious signs she discovers in the nearby desert; she ultimately decides that a young would-be race-car driver, Keith, has more to offer than a cribbage board and takes said Keith along to Vegas. There, Charlotte gets a taste of the wide world when she's seduced by a voracious chorus girl, then goes off with Keith and a wild drug-runner, who enlists their help in his addled plan to scare his hometown into thinking aliens are landing in their alfalfa fields. After that debacle, she and Keith hit the road again. The odd pair alight in Salt Lake City, where Charlotte awaits her epiphany. When it comes, unexpectedly, in the form of the blackjack dealer, who has kept track of her wherever she's gone, it proves to be a trial by fire from which only the old man walks away unscathed. The vivid vignettes of life in Nevada and Utah notwithstanding, this is a saga with an uncertain focus, some unlikely connections, and a lot, at the end, left unexplained.