OUTLAW: The True Story of Claude Dallas by Jeff Long

OUTLAW: The True Story of Claude Dallas

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In January 1981 two Idaho game wardens were shot to death by a young loner/trapper named Claude Dallas; here, Long reconstructs the before-during-and-after of the crime--in a narrative that never quite decides whether it wants to be a novelization, a factual report, or a pseudo-poetic essay on the supposed values of the Old West. Long begins with the shooting itself: Dallas, in his self-made camp, is confronted by the wardens, who know that he's been violating the game-season laws; warden Bill Pogue, instead of citing Dallas (a notorious scofflaw) with the usual ticket, tries to arrest him and take him in; mutual threats lead to the drawing of guns and mayhem, (""In the following instant, the dream of the old West, the legends and machismo and mean truths caught them tight."") Then, after following Dallas in his cover-up attempts and flight from Idaho, Long goes back to fill in the killer's life-story--from Ohio youth (reading Zane Grey) to apprentice-cowboy days out West; from draft-evasion arrest (""the sky caved in and he was toppled further than any dreamer should have to fall"") to buckaroo unemployment to his 1976 choice of the trapper/mountain-man lifestyle. (""The past, the wilderness, the candle flame of adventure. . . once again he braided them into the rope of fantasies he had begun as a child."") Next comes a briefer profile of Pogue: a gruff but sensitive ""mountain man at heart,"" he ""would cite his own mother"" for a game violation. And finally Long returns to the 1981-82 manhunt for fugitive Dallas (in unriveting detail), followed by the trial for first-degree murder: Dallas' self-defense plea; conflicting testimony (from Dallas and an eyewitness); pro-Dallas feeling in the community (""Dallas had stood for much of what they stood for""); long jury deliberations resulting in a conviction for voluntary manslaughter. . . and a 30-year sentence. Long fills out this thin scenario with purplish prose, quotes from local interviews, and confused commentary (sometimes foolishly romanticized) about the killing as a stirring remnant of Old West days. But, though inflated and unilluminated here, the story itself is modestly intriguing.

Pub Date: Jan. 30th, 1984
Publisher: Morrow