No Place for a Puritan: The Literature of California’s Deserts

The first literary anthology of California’s fabled deserts

Feared and romanticized throughout the ages, the desert has a hold on our imagination that is never more evident than in the literature it has inspired. From Mary Austin’s meditations in The Land of Little Rain to Joan Didion’s acerbic cast of characters in Play It As It Lays, the desert’s seemingly barren landscapes have provided rich ground for writers to explore.

These explorations have been collected for the first time in No Place for a Puritan. In this anthology are stories that thrill, frighten, sadden, and inspire: a man foolishly and arrogantly collecting live rattlesnakes; a lone woman striving to make a home in a remote desert canyon; a drug-addled journalist’s drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas; a Japanese American family coping with incarceration during World War II; and one man’s developing friendship with General Patton in a military training camp. There are tales of spiritual and scientific discoveries and of the cities blossoming in the farthest corners of the California desert.

Including the works of local writers—Susan Straight, Gayle Brandeis, Juan Felipe Herrera, Ruth Nolan, and others—as well as household names such as John Steinbeck, Aldous Huxley, Hunter S. Thompson, Jon Krakauer, Rebecca Solnit, and Barry Lopez, No Place for a Puritan is a collection that disturbs and enchants.

Note: Due to an editorial error, text was omitted from the excerpt from William Luvaas’s Welcome to Saint Angel. The full excerpt is available to read online here.


“With voices as varied and untamed, as resilient and beautiful, as the landscape itself, this anthology maps another misunderstood and too often overlooked region of our state.”—Alex Espinoza, author of Still Water Saints


“A thrilling and necessary collection.”—Marisa Silver, author of The God of War

About the Editor

Ruth NolanRuth Nolan is a poet and writer whose works have appeared in many literary magazines and anthologies, including Inlandia: A Literary Journey through California's Inland Empire, which was published by Heyday. A former wildland firefighter for the BLM California Desert District, she holds her B.A. in English from California State University, San Bernardino, and M.A. in English/Creative Writing from Northern Arizona University. She is Associate Professor of English at College of the Desert and lives in Palm Desert.