"Ted Bundy was to me like the younger brother I had lost...There can be no happy ending, but I have tried to explain what made Ted run, his good side, and the bleak compulsion that destroyed him." -Ann Rule, The Stranger Beside Me.
Ann Rule might be a famous crime reporter and writer, but when she was younger, she also worked at a suicide hotline. One of her closest friends was a young man who hoped to someday be a world-famous lawyer or maybe even a politician. He had high hopes for himself, but he was also compelled to rape and murder women. That man’s name was Ted Bundy.
In the novel by Ann Rule, Bundy’s life story gets a very unique treatment from one of the best crime authors of our generation. Rule discusses Bundy’s beginnings; growing up in Tacoma, Washington with a woman he thought was his sister, but who actually turned out to be his mother, who had given birth out of wedlock. In the 1940s when Ted was born, unwed mothers were heavily looked down upon. Upon hearing that his “sister” was in fact his mother, Ted
acted out; arranging kitchen knives on his mother’s pillow as she slept, and later in his life, killing neighborhood dogs. This obviously made way for much more grizzly crimes, as Ted would grow up to be one of the most notorious serial killers of our time.
Before Ann knew Ted as the “Ted” we all know to be a horrendous murderer of women, she knew him as simply: Ted, the man who was her dear friend and confidante when she herself was going through a rough period in her marriage. The significant age difference between them meant they shared a totally plutonic, brother-sister relationship, and Rule writes that though she would later come to find that Bundy was a killer, she always felt that he would never have harmed her. Locked away in the phone booths all night, comforting distressed callers, Rule writes that she never felt safer than she did with Ted Bundy.
The book is a frightening one, which gives new insights into the man behind the monster; Rule began the book before she knew it was her friend she was writing about, so this book about Bundy is unique in terms of true crime; it differs from every other book depicting Bundy’s crimes. The author is not writing about the monster she read about in police reports; the author is writing about her friend, whom she never really knew fully. Her writing is meticulous and detailed, sometimes horrifically so, especially when she is describing the nature of the murders and rapes which Bundy committed all over the United States in the 60s and 70s. It is also compassionate and full of raw emotion, when she writes of the fear she felt when she saw the artist-renderings of the notorious “Ted” on the news that had attacked numerous women while driving a Volkwagon Beatle; who sported a cast for fake injuries to lure women to their doom. She writes of her conflicted emotions, and the difficult task of informing the policemen she worked with that this man bore a striking resemblance to her friend named “Ted.”
This book is almost impossible to put down, and I recommend it for anyone who is interested in the Bundy case, or is merely a fan of Rule’s books. It is graphic at times, because Rule describes Bundy’s murders in detail; this book is not for the faint of heart, but it is for readers with a fascination with the darker aspects of humanity.
The book was written in 1980 and has been republished many times. The new editions contain a new forward by the author, as well as an update of events twenty years later.