A Candle for San Simon

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A Candle for San Simón


Daniels ... presents an accomplished first novel uncompromising in its depiction of gang savagery and dramatization of how far individuals will go to try to repair their damaged souls ... Daniels' restrained yet powerful father-and-son saga will appeal to Don Winslow fans.

─Carol Haggas, Booklist, August 1, 2020 (Starred Review)

Daniels's asides are delicately woven into the greater tapestry of his work, easily mistaken for the familiar crassness of his characters. But his words beg you to stop, re-read, and rethink what you have just read. They are words of power, of anger, but they are also of deep acknowledgement that must be, in turn, acknowledged by American readers.

─Erin H. Davis, American Book Review, Volume 42, Number 5, July/August 2021, pp. 28-29

Exploring themes of love, betrayal, redemption, and survival, A Candle for San Simón is an unflinching thriller.

─Bianca Bowers, Foreword Reviews, September / October 2020

A Candle for San Simón is a story about crossing borders. Not just the physical kind; from one country to the next, but also that treacherous borderline from one drink to disaster, from lawful to lawless, and from commitment to betrayal.

Kelly Daniels builds his story with vivid language and a drumbeat rhythm that lets us know, in no uncertain terms, that once some borders are crossed you can never go back over again.

─Carrie Knowles, Author of Inevitable Past

Full of dark truth and moments of extraordinary light, this powerful novel offers redemption with a cost.

─Laura Catherine Brown, Author of Made by Mary

"Daniels embraces his characters, no matter how low they go, and they do go low. It takes storytelling chops to follow characters into hell - just ask Beckett, or Dostoyevsky, or Dickens."


"Weaving together an unlikely love story between a renegade father and his estranged son with a narrative filled with heart-stopping suspense, A Candle for San Simón represents a remarkable fiction debut."

─Leslie Horvitz,
author of Synbio

"Beautifully written, Daniels takes the reader on an edgy trek into a dark night of the soul where the failed are immortalized and the living disappear into obscurity."

─Jim Ringel,
author of 49 Buddhas: Lama Rinzen in the Hell Realm

"The novel is wonderful—totally convincing in its renditions of both place and characters, impressive in scope, design, invention, and handsomely written. It's unpredictable and complex. Three cheers."

─Stuart Dybek
MacArthur Fellow and author of Paper Lantern

"The atmosphere of place—Guatemala—is so thick that it becomes another character in the story. The internal discord of the characters and their conflicts drive the plot, and because the conflicts are dramatically engaging, the plot moves with great forward energy."

─Robert Eversz,
author of Shooting Elvis

Max Caruthers, a born-again Christian with a hard-living past, travels to Guatemala to track down his father Norman, who wants to drink away his remaining days undisturbed in the little bar that serves as home. But Norman has fallen into debt with the local gangster and chief-of-police, Chucho Cruz, who has other plans for the gringo bus driver. Up north in California, Vicki Valle, the former girlfriend of a recently assassinated L.A. gang leader, is deported over a triviality back to Tijuana. She schemes to bring the drug-running skills she has learned back to her roots in El Salvador. When she arrives there she meets Norman, who is delivering a busload of Mayan girls, destined to lives of prostitution in the United States. Vicki catches a ride back to Panajachel, Guatemala with Caruthers, just in time for his reunion with Max. When Max, Norman, Vicki, and Max's girlfriend Karma are involved in a gun-running operation that ends in a deadly shootout, the survivors take different paths. The Central American setting of the book with its themes of morality, survival, betrayal, and abandonment expands the storytelling tradition of Graham Greene.