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

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  188 ratings  ·  22 reviews
August 2, 1991, Twentynine Palms, California: a troubled Marine who has recently returned from the Gulf War savagely murders two young girls. One girl was about to turn sixteen, the other twenty-one.

Exquisitely and inexorably, Deanne Stillman uses this tragedy as a prism through which she explores not only the murders and the families involved but a rootless culture of fat
Paperback, 288 pages
Published March 26th 2002 by Harper Paperbacks (first published 2001)
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Aug 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a superior book of the 'true crime' genre, and closer to the approach of Truman Capote or James Ellroy rather than Ann Rule. Rule's books recount an enthralling murder case, and basically it's, 'just the facts', and the other two authors try to capture a bit more of the 'emotional fall-out'of the atrocity. And, this is what Deanne Stillman has beautifully accomplished.

Much has been made about how the author presents the Mojave desert as a major ingredient in this bloody and senseless do
Jul 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I had been visiting Twentynine Palms for many years before I read this book. It made a big impression on me, I think Stillman loves the desert.
Geoffrey Gelb
Dec 02, 2015 rated it it was ok
It was AWFUL!!! I think it might have given me a small stroke just from reading it past page 100. It took me three times longer than a normal book its size simply because it is written in such a confusing manner. Painfully plodding. Skipping around without any need, and done clumsily! The whole point of the story is lost in a tale, or tales of drug abuse, alcohol abuse, sexual abuse, etc. etc. It seems as though the author's mind has suffered and succumbed to her own drug abuse! (Sorry but where ...more
Jan 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: true-crime
Terrible murder set in an out-of-the-way corner of America. It's as much about the weird, alienated culture of the Mojave desert as it is about the lives and deaths of Rosie, Mandi and their killer. The author zigzags all over this story, taking you back two generations for the deep underpinnings, then fast-forwarding to now, then weebling to ten years ago and wobbling to last week. She also uses a lot of out-of-control run-on sentences. But it's a memorable story that ultimately all comes toget ...more
Jan 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book, technically a “true crime” book, is not perfect. It’s a bit wordy and overexplained in places. But it has stuck with me since I read it (about 6 months ago) for its insights into how women (usually abused women) work hard to make new lives for themselves—living “at the edge” in so many ways—and why their efforts are so often unsuccessful.
Apr 18, 2008 rated it did not like it
The author paints an unattractive portrait of people who call the Morongo Basin home. She fails to recognize the beauty of the desert and the quality of good people who live there. Oh, and then there is the fact that this story is full of half truths and victim blaming. Kind of annoying when you actually lived through the events sort of described in this book. MISS YOU MANDY!
Elizabeth Hesseltine
Feb 27, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: bt, couldn-t-finish
I read parts One and Two, but couldn't go on. It felt like every man beat his wife, every woman was a victim, and there was way too much description about the natural beauty of the area. I also though the story jumped around too much. ...more
Feb 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A haunting and evocative journey to strange and recognizable terrain, 29 Palms is a fascinating and chilling read. This was another book where I was completely engrossed by the characters - the conscientious research makes this book stand above other true-crime reads.
Nov 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Gritty, down in the dumps realism by Deanne Stillman in her depiction of life of these two families who were involved in this crime.
Sep 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
I have to say I love true crime, a dirty vice, and the descriptions ofthe mojave were good. I like the idea of the desesrt as a grim oven --and that out there history doesn't matter, space does ...more
Pam Koenig
Jan 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
The beginning of the book is loaded with too much minutiae regarding the desert and local settings. Once you got past over 50 pages, you got to the heart of the story which bounced back & forth between the trial and the the crime. Even more interesting than the crime was the disregard of service officials in enlisting those with criminal backgrounds just to make quotas and then not investigating charges against the serviceman that might have stopped the crime before it started.
Jul 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An excellent, well researched, true story. I couldn't put the book down. ...more
Aug 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Genuinely gripping. Loved how it was structured. Amazing details! The desert is its own character here.
Brian Carrigan
Nov 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
very sad very good
May 10, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: crime, nonfiction
In the notes at the end of this book, Stillman mentions many of the other novels, works of nonfiction, essays, and films that informed her development of Twentynine Palms: Shot in the Heart by Mikal Gilmore (Gary's brother), Baudrillard's weird blatherings about the American desert, and the diminutive progenitor of the whole true crime genre, eclipsed many times over and since by later efforts -- In Cold Blood.

Certainly Stillman aspires to these ranks, and her effort is at times lyrical, prophet
Aug 22, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: truecrime
As a fan of both the high desert and true crime, this book was a can't miss. Just as an aside about the genre of "true crime": Really, true crime is a bit of a misnomer. Parts of any true crime story are fictionalized due to the inevitable problems of sourcing a recent crime. Additionally, I don't see how you can write a true crime story without shifting focus between the perpretator, the victim and the setting. All three help reveal whatever "truth" that can be learned from the description of a ...more
Casey Kelsen
Oct 25, 2012 rated it did not like it
This book started out slow but I kept with it.It was nice to read about places that I know.At one point it just lost me.I missed the part about the murder and I diddnt skip any pages.I could not follow the story line any more.Had to move on to something else.
Janice Barlow
Jul 21, 2014 rated it liked it
Started out strong but jumped around way too much. Glamorized the drugged life of people down and out in the desert and the promiscuous lifestyle of the teenagers trapped in bad situations. Too much desert talk and not enough about the actual crime
Marla Sommer
Apr 18, 2010 rated it it was ok
Ok. I'm beginning to think living in the desert causes your brain to fry. Think Glass Castles, now this. ...more
Kimberly Forbes
Feb 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
As a friend of Amanda's (Mandy) there was a lot more that could have been put into this. RIP MANDY ALWAUS REMEMBERED NEVER FORGOTTEN ...more
Kurt Kamm
Jun 18, 2013 rated it liked it
True story version of Hazardous Material
Jun 16, 2011 rated it it was ok
Wrong approach to this story, and wrenchingly overwritten.
Patricia Dreyfus
rated it it was amazing
Jul 28, 2020
Lorraine Stockdale
rated it really liked it
Jan 25, 2021
Penne Richards
rated it really liked it
Jun 29, 2014
Jason Gallagher
rated it it was amazing
Jan 24, 2020
rated it really liked it
Apr 01, 2011
rated it it was ok
Feb 20, 2012
Gerry Keirnan
rated it really liked it
Mar 12, 2015
Kristen Montgomery Breh
rated it really liked it
Nov 15, 2020
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Deanne Stillman is a widely published, critically acclaimed writer. Her books of narrative nonfiction are place-based stories of war and peace in the modern and historical West.

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