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Desert Reckoning: A Town Sheriff, a Mojave Hermit, and the Biggest Manhunt in Modern California History Hardcover – Bargain Price, July 3, 2012
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"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."
Larry Cox, King Features Syndicate
“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.”
“Desert Reckoning is a compelling literary work.”
“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.”
“[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.”
“It’s all too rare these days that a book keeps me awake at night, racing through its pages yet not wanting it to end—but that’s what happened with Desert Reckoning.”
"Stillman...is the voice writing about the Mojave Desert, a place where serenity and violence wrestle for domination unto eternity."
“[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.”
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.
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
I was expecting a true crime type recounting of this horrible incident. What I got was an author who, to my mind, is overly impressed with her "literary" skills and seeks... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Big Joe
The author spent too much time engaging in conjecture, suppositions, theories, and just plain guesses about the two principle characters. Read morePublished 9 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 15 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 23 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 on March 7, 2014 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