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True Story

November 09, 1986

Beginning a few months after Claude Dallas murdered two game wardens in 1981 and extending into 1984, I searched for why a cop-killer became a folk hero. The result was "Outlaw: The True Story of Claude Dallas."

What I found was that the brutal murders had distinctly divided opinion in the Idaho-Oregon-Nevada region. Some wanted to lynch Dallas. Others actively helped him to remain at large and, when captured, to escape. My facts have never been disputed, even in Calendar's reckless "Manhunt--How True?" (by Jennifer Leonard and David Johnston, Oct. 26).

Charging "alleged inaccuracies," their piece offered nothing but innuendo and outright fabrication about my book. The writers limited themselves to a handful of sources guaranteed to be negative about Dallas--members of one victim's family, a local sheriff and the author of a late-arriving "other" book about the incident.

My problem is not with their opinion of my book, but with Calendar's use of their opinion as proof of inaccuracy. In fact, not a single proof is offered.

When advised of remarks that "Outlaw" was fiction, my reply to Calendar was that the Dallas incident had provoked many versions and mine was simply one more, albeit better informed than most. Somehow that became, "my story tells it just as it is," which I never said.

I dug long and hard for my facts and stand by my story. Far from turning Dallas into a folk hero, I chronicled how the media, local community and, yes, lawmen, all shaped what has become a legend in the area.

Predictably, that legend grates on people who see a cop-killer growing larger-than-life by the day. I aimed to give an overview of this phenomenon. My mistake was in trusting Calendar to do the same. "Manhunt--How True?" failed the L.A. Times' fine journalistic standards.

In closing, allow me to correct Calendar. The two men gunned down by Dallas were not "the only game wardens in America ever slain in the line of duty." They were the first slain in Idaho. That is an inaccuracy. Not an opinion.


Boulder, Colo.

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