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A Book Runs Through It

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Posted on Jul 16, 2012

By Deanne Stillman

(Page 2)

Finally, a third book that emerged from this manhunt was “The Lonesome Gods” by Louis L’Amour. Along with the entire L’Amour oeuvre, this work led Bruce Chase to join the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. As a young boy, Chase had played cowboys and Indians in the Virginia woods. He also read L’Amour, and one day followed the footsteps of the Sackett brothers, the L’Amour characters who headed west and became lawmen. Years later, he found himself on the SWAT team that participated in the hunt for Kueck. Months after it was over, we talked about L’Amour and he unpacked his collection of books by the master, stored in cartons in his garage. He was excited to have rediscovered his favorite, “The Lonesome Gods.” I understood the feeling; I too was a big fan of this book—perhaps L’Amour’s greatest—and we marveled at the parallels between the story it told and the weeklong manhunt for Kueck. It’s a gripping tale of good and evil and takes place in the California desert just beyond reach of Los Angeles. The story provides context for never-ending battles, placing men in pursuit of outlaws in a venerated line. “They were loyal to the last fiber of their being,” L’Amour wrote, “and strong with the knowledge that … there must be law.” But behind it all, there were higher forces, gods who were ignored and disrespected in the desert wastes, waiting for man to come to his senses. 

And so there we have our summer reading list, composed of books with echoes that are loud and clear. Knowing of their impact may help to dispel a fashionable notion that books no longer matter. Now it’s time for full disclosure: I include myself among the ranks of those whose lives were transformed by books. Actually, make that a poem. I love the desert and it had me at “Eldorado,” the Edgar Allan Poe lyric that my father read to me when I was a little girl in Ohio. I came west because of it, and at this point in my life, one thing is very clear: In the beginning was the Word and, well, I’ll just leave it at that.     


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