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

. 2012. 320p. 978-1-56858-860-3. 26.
Journalist Stillman (Mustang: The Saga of the Wild Horse in the American West) here expands her original Rolling Stone article “The Great Mojave Manhunt” into a book that recounts the fatal clash in 2003 between California lawman Stephen Sorensen and deranged desert hermit Donald Kueck. When Sheriff Sorensen investigated a complaint about a squatter, he inexplicably trespassed on Kueck’s property, sparking a deadly confrontation that resulted in Sorenson’s murder and Kueck’s flight into the desert he loved. A massive manhunt in hostile, unforgiving terrain ensued. Much of the book profiles Sorenson and Kueck and covers their lives up to the tragic convergence that ended in the desert bloodbath. Stillman’s research on both men is impressive, but, in the end, the complicated Kueck is the more interesting, provocative character. Particularly poignant, Stillman’s telling of the tragic life of Kueck’s talented son, whose death from a drug overdose was a factor in the downward trajectory of Kueck’s life. ­
VERDICT This compelling portrait of a senseless but strangely inevitable human tragedy is certain to mesmerize readers of books such as Maureen Orth’s Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace, and the Largest Failed Manhunt in U.S. History.

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