Donald Kueck was a Mojave Desert hermit who had a way with bobcats, snakes, ravens and squirrels. He was also paranoid, doped up and lethal — “Dr. Dolittle with an assault rifle,” as author Deanne Stillman puts it. In 2003, Kueck gunned down a deputy sheriff outside his trailer for no apparent reason — though the men may have recognized each other from a road-rage encounter years earlier. The killing touched off a week-long manhunt that pitted the wily desert rat against an array of local and federal cops and their high-tech fire-power and tracking gadgetry.
Stillman’s book about the case, Desert Reckoning: A Town Sheriff, a Mojave Hermit, and the Biggest Manhunt in Modern California History, isn’t a simple true-crime shoot-em-up; it’s a grab-bag of local history, frontier lore, desert ecology and insights into what still draws Western dreamers to the harsher stretches of Los Angeles County. After a book on wild horses and one on a berserk marine in Twentynine Palms, this is Stillman’s third work of literary non-fiction focusing on desert mayhem.
“The books are all about war and peace and the frontier and the modern West, and the land is the main character in all of them,” she says.
Stillman will sign and discuss Desert Reckoning at the Tattered Cover, 2526 East Colfax Avenue, tonight at 7:30 pm. For more information, go to www.tatteredcover.com.
Mon., July 30, 7:30 p.m., 2012