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The Books

Desert Reckoning: A Town Sheriff, a Mojave Hermit, and the Biggest Manhunt in Modern California History
Desert Reckoning: A Town Sheriff, a Mojave Hermit, and the Biggest Manhunt in Modern California History North of Los Angeles - the studios, the beaches, Rodeo Drive - lies a sparsely populated region that comprises fully one half of Los Angeles County. Sprawling across 2200 miles, this shadow side of Los Angeles is in the high Mojave Desert. Known as the Antelope Valley, it's a terrain of savage dignity, a vast amphitheatre of startling wonders that put on a show as the megalopolis burrows northward into the region's last frontier. Ranchers, cowboys, dreamers, dropouts, bikers, hikers, and felons have settled here - those who have chosen solitude over the trappings of contemporary life or simply have nowhere else to go. But in recent years their lives have been encroached upon by the creeping spread of subdivisions, funded by the once easy money of subprime America. McMansions - many empty now - gradually replaced Joshua trees; the desert - America's escape hatch - began to vanish as it became home to a latter-day exodus of pilgrims.

It is against the backdrop of these two competing visions of land and space that a desert hermit who loved animals and hated civilization took his last stand, gunning down a beloved deputy sheriff when he approached his trailer at high noon on a scorching summer day. As the sound of rifle fire echoed across the Mojave, the hermit 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.

Based on a widely praised Rolling Stone article, Deanne continues her desert beat in Desert Reckoning, using the hermit'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, she 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?

Mustang: The Saga of the Wild Horse in the American West
Mustang: The Sage of the Wild Horse in the American WestAn epic story that restores the horse to its rightful place in the history of the American West, and asks why we, a cowboy nation, have turned our backs on the mustang. It follows the wild horse from its evolutionary origins on this continent to its return with conquistadors to its bloody battles on the old frontier to its present plight as it fights for survival on the vanishing range. Along the way, you meet some of the great equine and human characters in American history, including Comanche, the gallant horse that survived the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Bugz, the survivor of the 1998 massacre of 34 wild horses outside Reno, and Wild Horse Annie, who fought for protections for mustangs and burros for twenty years, achieving a final victory in 1971 when Richard Nixon signed a federal law assigning them a home on the range - now being unravelled.

Twentynine Palms:
A True Story of Murder, Marines and the Mojave

Twentynine PalmsAugust 2, 1991, Twentynine Palms, California: a troubled Marine who has recently returned from the Gulf War savagely murders two young girls. One was about to turn sixteen, the other twenty-one. Exquisitely and inexorably, Deanne Stillman uses this tragedy as a prism through which she examines a rootless culture of fatherless families, shattered dreams, and relentless violence. She also traces the family histories of each murder victim back for generations, in one case to the Donner Party and the other to a shack in the Philippines. In haunting, vivid prose, she creates a far-reaching story of America itself, carrying us into the empty white heart of the Mojave, as we meet and come to know the modern nomads who turn to the West for salvation, only to be devoured by its false promise.

Joshua Tree: Desolation Tango
Joshue Tree: Desolation TangoFor Deanne Stillman, Joshua Tree National Park is a temple, stadium, birthplace of turkey tetrazzini, and the ultimate wireless connection. With crisp and impassioned narrative, she takes the reader through the park's ancient and modern history, its geology, flora, and fauna, including a talking cactus, wiseguy pictographs, and rocks in the shape of the late New York Yankees manager Billy Martin. Stunning photographs by Galen Hunt further accentuate the gorgeous landscape, highlighting the growing need to preserve this sacred and mysterious space where the streets have no names - but will soon if civilization continues its merry and heedless march.

all material © Deanne Stillman, 2002-2015