Deanne Stillman is a widely published, critically acclaimed writer. Her books include Blood Brothers, Desert Reckoning (winner of the Spur and LA Press Club Awards for nonfiction), and Mustang, a Los Angeles Times “best book of the year.” In addition, she wrote the cult classic, Twentynine Palms, a Los Angeles Times bestseller that Hunter Thompson called “A strange and brilliant story by an important American writer.” She writes the “Letter from the West” column for the Los Angeles Review of Books and is a member of the core faculty at the UC Riverside-Palm Desert MFA Low Residency Creative Writing Program.
It is against the backdrop of these two competing visions of land and space that Donald Kueck - a desert hermit who loved animals and hated civilization - took his last stand, gunning down beloved deputy sheriff Steven Sorensen when he approached his trailer at high noon on a scorching summer day. As the sound of rifle fire echoed across the Mojave, Kueck took off into the desert he knew so well, kicking off the biggest manhunt in modern California history until he was finally killed in a Wagnerian firestorm under a full moon as nuns at a nearby convent watched and prayed.
This manhunt was the subject of a widely praised article by Deanne Stillman, first published in Rolling Stone, a finalist for a PEN Center USA journalism award, and included in the anthology Best American Crime Writing 2006. In Desert Reckoning she continues her desert beat and uses Kueck's story as a point of departure to further explore our relationship to place and the wars that are playing out on our homeland. In addition, Stillman also delves into the hidden history of Los Angeles County, and traces the paths of two men on a collision course that could only end in the modern Wild West. Why did a brilliant, self-taught rocket scientist who just wanted to be left alone go off the rails when a cop showed up? What role did the California prison system play in this drama? What happens to people when the American dream is stripped away? And what is it like for the men who are sworn to protect and serve?