Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your email address or mobile phone number.
Desert Reckoning: A Town Sheriff, a Mojave Hermit, and the Biggest Manhunt in Modern California History Hardcover – July 3, 2012
See the Best Books of the Month
Want to know our Editors' picks for the best books of the month? Browse Best Books of the Month, featuring our favorite new books in more than a dozen categories.
Frequently Bought Together
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
Winner of the 2013 Spur Award for Best Western Nonfiction Contemporary
Winner of the 2013 LA Press Club Award for best general nonfiction
"One of the greatest gifts of this book is how Deanne Stillman is able to open our hearts to people we might otherwise judge or dismiss...One can’t help but be filled with gratitude and awe toward Deanne Stillman her clear eye, the depth of her research, her brave and compassionate imagination. She takes us on a journey as full of desolation and grandeur as the desert itself."
Gayle Brandeis, Los Angeles Review of Books
"A must-read for the summer."
Few writers capture the rhythm and brutality of the American Southwest quite like Deanne Stillman .[a] fascinating new book .Stillman writes with such clarity, insight, and exquisite detail, one feels the chap of the heat and inhospitality of the desert on each page. Simply put, this is crime reporting at its very best and by an author [who] is at the top of her game. Meticulously researched, beautifully written, Desert Reckoning is a true achievement and a modern masterpiece.”
Larry Cox, King Features Syndicate
[The Mojave Desert] now has its own poet laureate in Deanne Stillman .[Desert Reckoning] is the most powerful and important writing about the place and its denizens since Mary Austin’s classic The Land of Little Rain .The dark tale she returns with is one of aching heartbreak and haunting beauty. It is about the terror and beauty of the GreatAmerican Desert, and of the shadowy landscape of the human soul .This fiery-hot mosaic of the book sizzles from its opening pages. Its finely drawn characters and taut narrative emerge from the ancient deserts of our dreams and make real our fears. Deanne Stillman is a literary shaman who has conjured a violent and potent vision of our disturbing life and timesa vision without judgment, but filled with empathy and wonder. This is not natural history, nor is it true crime. It is something entirely new that Stillman has created from deep within the sun-blasted heart of the American dream.”
Jon Shumaker, Tucson Weekly
Stillman is a great writer, and one of the few who fully capture the sparse culture [of] our California deserts .She has enormous sympathy for everyone involved, and yet never lapses into sentimentality or melodrama. The text rocks along like a good novel.”
Tom Lutz, LA Review of Books on KCRW
Desert Reckoning is a compelling literary work.”
David Steinberg, Albuquerque Journal
Desert Reckoning is an evocative, richly textured narrative that places the reader squarely amid the ranchers, outlaw bikers, and dropouts who eke out an existence in the unforgiving heat and isolation of the Mojave Desert .Desert Reckoning is written in lovely lyrical prose. It renders beautifully the lives of the lost and marginalized souls who take refuge in the desert.”
Joseph Barbato, Red Weather Review
[C]ritically acclaimed writer Deanne Stillman weaves an eloquent elegy of strange and twisted characters .A talented writer of literary nonfiction, Stillman writes beautifully about the Mojave, and once again makes it a character in the story.”
Colleen O'Connor, Denver Post
This a real life desert noir written in prose as taut as Raymond Chandler .Stillman’s book reads like a thriller.”
Jeffrey St. Clair, Counterpunch
Stillman has a novelist’s flair for colorful explanation.”
Rob Hardy, Commercial Dispatch
A page turner.”
Kevin Roderick, LA Observed
It’s all too rare these days that a book keeps me awake at night, racing through its pages yet not wanting it to endbut that’s what happened with Desert Reckoning.”
Anneli Rufus, Stuck blog of Psychology Today
"Stillman...is the voice writing about the Mojave Desert, a place where serenity and violence wrestle for domination unto eternity."
Nancy Rommelmann, The Oregonian
With a reporter’s eye for detail, a novelist’s sense of pace and no fear of inserting her own voice into the action, Deanne Stillman takes us through the history of Kueck’s deranged anger and the massive effort to take him down .When the smoke clears, we are left only with Stillman’s vivid images of cold violence in the hot wilderness of an American desert.”
Mysterious and terrifying.”
Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Magazine
[V]ibrant .[Stillman] does an admirable job building a full portrait of this beleaguered landscape .The result is lyrical and intense .A dynamic synthesis of Western saga, true-crime thriller and California-based transformation narrative.”
Stillman explores, with exquisite detail, the broken families and failed strivings of her two protagonists .Stillman skillfully excavates the vividly drawn landscape to reveal the desert’s mystical spirit and history of human striving .Through the lens of a griping true crime story, this beautifully written, humane book preserves the history of a remarkable and very American place and its people.”
Deanne Stillman’s Desert Reckoning is a modern-day corrido, a protest ballad of lost lives and broken dreams set in the vast Mojave, one of California’s most delicate and volatile regions, a too-often-forgotten landscape beyond the surf, the stars, and the palm trees. The rhythms, beats, and chords of Stillman’s writingbrutal, haunting, and heartbreakingbear witness to the lives of lonely hermits and desperate tweakers, outlaw bikers and tenacious cops, in prose that shimmers and aches so beautifully that it splits your soul and shakes loose your skin, leaving you speechless and yearning for more and more. With this book, Deanne Stillman proves once again why she is one of the most powerful chroniclers of the modern American West.”
Alex Espinoza, author of Still Water Saints
Deanne Stillman does for the lonely heart’ of the desert behind Los Angeles what Raymond Chandler did for the shabby glamour of the city’s garden suburbs. You can hear dreams being broken in every sentence of Desert Reckoning. In Stillman’s propulsive, often hallucinatory account, a brutal crime and its strange aftermath expose the terrors and beauties that still inhabit the empty places that lie at the end the city’s freeways.”
D. J. Waldie, author of Notes from Los Angeles: Where We Are Now
Desert Reckoning is a major achievement. Fusing truth with the insight of a talented novelist’s imagination, Deanne Stillman has created a masterpiece of empathy and understanding for those so often least afforded it. Nothing here is simply rendered. Stillman’s vision of society’s outcasts, the lost souls who take their final stand in the badlands of California’s deserts, demonstrates a remarkable sense of humanity and compassion. I haven’t read something this good, and so beautifully written, in a long, long time."
James Brown, author of The Los Angeles Diaries, and This River
Deanne Stillman is the Raymond Chandler of the New West, a hell of a writer who leaves no cacti unturned, no long-dried gulch unexamined, and no abandoned settlement left be in her latest gritty, implausible-yet-too-real story. The tale told in Desert Reckoning will quickly join the same vein of Western anti-hero epics such as Willie Boy and Tiburcio Vasquez.”
Gustavo Arellano, author of Orange County and the syndicated column, ¡Ask a Mexican!
Norm Stamper, Seattle Chief of Police (retired) and author of Breaking Rank
“Deanne Stillman’s meticulously researched book takes us behind the scenes of real police work and into the hearts and minds of two men. In her spellbinding account of the murder and the massive manhunt, she leaves no doubt as to the consequences of how we raise our children, particularly our sons.”
Jo-Ann Mapson, author of Finding Casey and Solomon's Oak
“Deanne Stillman’s work is gritty and unflinching, yet filled with humanity.”
About the Author
Deanne Stillman is a widely published, critically acclaimed writer. Her books include Mustang: The Saga of the Wild Horse in the American West, a Los Angeles Times "Best Book 2008," and winner of the California Book Award silver medal for nonfiction, and Twentynine Palms: A True Story of Murder, Marines, and the Mojave, a Los Angeles Times "Best Book 2001" which Hunter Thompson called "A strange and brilliant story by an important American writer." Now a cult classic, it's out in a new, updated edition with a foreword by T. Jefferson Parker and preface by Charles Bowden. Desert Reckoning is based on her Rolling Stone article, "Mojave Manhunt," a finalist for a PEN journalism award. She writes the "Letter from the West" column for www.truthdig.com and is a member of the core faculty at the UC-Riverside-Palm Desert Low Residency MFA Creative Writing Program.
More About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
The author has expanded her "Rolling Stone" article about a cop killed in the Mojave Desert into a book.
To accomplish this, there is some florid writing. For me, the book succeeds more as a portrait of a small town in Los Angeles County a decade ago than as a murder mystery.
The book bounces around tremendously on the time frame--can jump back or forwards 10 years. This is not uncommon and, as always, I advocate a chronological approach as easier on the reader.
Still, all in all, a pretty good read.
The major exception I have is her documentation as to where the alleged killer was during the week he evaded capture. She cites rumors that he hid out in a massive network of tunnels under the desert. But although the author sat in the killer's home, she apparently never wandered out back and attempted to verify the reality of those tunnels. Some evidence on that issue--whether for or against the rumors--would have vastly strengthened the book.
On page 64, "the perimeter of Edwards Air Force Base, launching pad for the space shuttle"... When? Never!!! The space shuttle LANDED there on many occasions, but never was launched from there!
Page 88, "Over time, his gerrymandered way of living...." NO! She should have used the term jury-rigged.
Page 117--1/3 of the way down the page, "...two centuries later..." She should have written "decades".
Page 151-152--Her "desert survival-water needs/skills" discussion is ludicrous. These are all over the top comments; very unrealistic!
Page 178--"That Ken Kesey wrote about in the Electric Kool Aid Acid Test....." You should probably let Tom Wolfe know about that. HE was the author of that particular book that, yes, spoke about Ken to some extent, but Tom wrote the book.
Ms. Stillman tries to write a riveting tale about the essence of the wacky and wonderful Wild West in the near and now, but reader be forewarned that you might be misled by some of the fraudulent storyline. If you're looking for a dramatic non-fiction masterpiece that also addresses the dynamics of the New West check out Last Rampage by James Clarke. An older story from the late 1970s, but is a gripping, horrific, and intimately researched masterpiece.
Except for law enforcement and the military, Stillman writes that the Mojave is the most heavily armed region in the country. The inhabitants there in their desert bunkers are fond of their rights, "quoting the Second Amendment and search-and-seizure law like scripture, but in the end always destroyed by that American urge to go out like Custer." Donald Kueck was born in Alabama in 1950 to a family steeped in law enforcement and military service. Kueck, however, went out to Southern California in the hippie wave, married, had a son, and then disappeared into the desert.Read more ›
I love her psychological grasp of the characters. This requires a certain amount of living, much insight, and a mature, non-judgemental evaluation of human nature. Especially I enjoy her lyrical writing. Only a passionate observer of the physical as well as human landscape could promote a passion in the reader to know more. A certain discernment in the reader will reward with a deeper journey. There are layers of the mystical here.
Finally, I would compare Stillman's story to my favorite TV show, Criminal Minds. The two share a richness of script and variety of thought that is out of the ordinary. Plenty of the psychological thriller, of course! In fact, I hope Ms. Stillman's agent has worked on getting the show's attention. I would like to SEE Desert Reckoning, also.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The author spent too much time engaging in conjecture, suppositions, theories, and just plain guesses about the two principle characters. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Ray L. Trussell
Saturday, August 2, 2003, dawned another blazingly hot summer day in the Antelope Valley. At noon, for reasons known only to himself, Deputy Sheriff Steve Sorensen, on his day... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Burton Falk
Sorry - she is not an excellent writer.
Very much disliked her writing skills.
Too much wandering and not enough of the straight facts. Read more
Quite a good book. I have a penchant for murder/mayhem true crime stories, and this one fits perfectly. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Tom Williams, Anchorage, Alaska
Sometimes magazine articles are transformed into outstanding full-length books. "Desert Reckoning," which Deanne Stillman initially wrote as an article for Rolling Stone, isn't one... Read morePublished 23 months ago by Jack de L.A.
Not quite sociological current-events nonfiction, not quite about a police manhunt, not quite about the odd Mojave "fringe" culture of dropouts and freaks, this book comes... Read morePublished on January 7, 2014 by P. Childers
I read avidly anything about the Mojave Desert, one of my favorite places in the world. This one concerns the area I think of as the "near Mojave," the westernmost part of... Read morePublished on December 12, 2013 by Gary
I read avidly anything about the Mojave Desert, one of my favorite places in the world. Ms. Stillman's book accurately creates the locale of what I think of as the "near... Read morePublished on December 12, 2013 by Gary