Desert Reckoning: A Town Sheriff, a Mojave Hermit, and the Biggest Manhunt in Modern California History

Deanne Stillman. Nation, $26 (320p) ISBN 978-1-56858-608-3
Stillman (Twentynine Palms) uses a face-off in 2003 between a brilliant, paranoid, drug-abusing hermit and a former surfer–turned–law enforcement officer, and the subsequent seven-day manhunt, to frame a much larger story of the Mojave’s Antelope Valley. Based on her Rolling Stone article “The Great Mojave Manhunt,” Stillman explores, with exquisite detail, the broken families and failed strivings of her two protagonists: hermit Donald Kueck and the murdered sheriff, Steve Sorenson. In her gentle hands, Kueck and Sorenson emerge as tragic figures who traveled radically different paths, but found their lives and deaths in the desert. The details of the manhunt for Kueck are interspersed with Stillman’s imaginings about his seven days on the run, with the desert sometimes becoming the main character. Was Kueck concealed in the hidden tunnels of the Mojave? How did he get water? Stillman skillfully excavates the vividly drawn landscape to reveal the desert’s mystical spirit and history of human striving. Soon, Stillman speculates, the building of the High Desert Corridor, a highway scheduled for completion in 2020, will “drive the remaining castaways deeper into the desert... desperados displaced one more time.” Through the lens of a gripping true crime story, this beautifully written, humane book preserves the history of a remarkable and very American place and its people. Agent: TK. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/07/2012
Release date: 07/01/2012
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-1-56858-691-5
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