BETWEEN TWO DESERTS: An Award-Winning Novel Returns to Print

Neither Slush Nor Bankruptcy Nor Death… 

At the height of the first Palestinian uprising, author Germaine Shames went to Jerusalem a journalist and came back a novelist. Her carefully measured column inches (aptly called “hard news”) could never capture the region’s complex moral climate and the questions posed in equal parts by its beauty and brutality. In rebellion, Shames cut her press card to shreds with a cuticle scissors and wrote her first novel, Between Two Deserts.

Between Two Deserts cover Then began a 12-year quest to land a publisher.

Shames’ first break came in 1998, when her home state of Arizona awarded Between Two Deserts its Literary Fellowship in Fiction. Able at last to attract a top-tier agent, Shames broke out the champagne, fully expecting Knopf or William Morrow to pounce on so painstakingly polished a gem. Thirty-three unsuccessful submissions later, her agent conceded defeat and wished her well.

Sobered, the author turned to the small presses. After a veritable barrage of submissions, she heard from a growing publishing house then much in the news for its high-caliber list—one of very few houses that she had not yet queried. Shames’ new publisher, MacAdam/Cage, having just acquired a competitor’s backlist, inherited crate-loads of unread manuscripts. Between Two Deserts had lain at the bottom of one of those crates for three years.

Between Two Deserts was chosen to lead the MacAdam/Cage Fall 2002 list.Jerusalem Street

And then disaster struck: the novel’s publisher plummeted into debt and litigation. The painfully drawn-out decline and fall of this once exemplary enterprise ended with the untimely death of publisher David Poindexter in 2013.

For a long time Shames mourned Poindexter’s passing, not only the man but also his dream. The publisher died fighting to preserve what is most precious in publishing—the love of a good read. Shames mulled each obituary for some redeeming footnote to his literary martyrdom but in the end had simply to accept that the man who had risked so much and given so many authors their first break could not have tried any harder.

Then her thoughts turned to Between Two Deserts, the debut novel Poindexter had resurrected from the bottom of a crate, had believed in.

We at Pale Fire Press believe in second chances. Against all odds, Between Two Deserts has reached a small but passionate readership. We aim to expand that readership and, at last, to give an overlooked gem a chance to fulfill its promise.


“Shames, a former Middle East correspondent, handles the complexities of Eve’s visit to war-torn Jerusalem with a subtlety seldom seen in this genre. She is careful not to pass judgment on either side of the political equation as she skillfully intertwines the lives of this diverse cast of characters to produce a tightly executed, emotion-filled work.”  Publisher’s Weekly 

“(The novelist) creates the intense atmosphere of an unstable world with grace and a sort of lyric power.”  National Public Radio

“One might expect the journalist and novelist to approach this story quite differently, but in Between Two Deserts, foreign correspondent Germaine Shames has realized a combination of these crafts, lucidly capturing those immutable qualities that speak to our souls.”  Rain Taxi

“In Jerusalem where rhetoric and revenge rule, Shames shows us humanity and insight.”  Bloomsbury Review

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