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Books Chat

Ann Rule

The following is an edited transcript of the chat with Ann Rule conducted on Tuesday, January 12, 1999.


Ann Rule: Hello to you all!

Question: Hi Ann. I just finished "Dead by Sunset." Gave me chills.

Ann Rule: Most of my "people" are good for chills!

Question: Hello happy to hear you have another book for me to read!

Ann Rule: Well, I have three books to write this year. Just finished a chapter in one.

Question: I am currently reading the Ted Bundy story

Ann Rule: The Ted Bundy book, "Stranger Beside Me," has been updated - in 1989 it has 100 more pages than when I first wrote it, BTW.

Question: What true story was your novel "Possession" based on?

Ann Rule: I can't tell you the exact true story "Possession" was based on. That is why I made it fiction. But it happened in Oregon about 20 years ago.

Question: Ann: What type of books do you read for your own pleasure?

Ann Rule: I love Anne Tyler's novels. Fannie Flagg. Garrison Keilor and ALL biographies, and I love medical books of miraculous cures!

Question: Have you changed your mind about writing a book about the cadet murders in Texas?

Ann Rule: Yes, there were too many people with their hands out for money in the cadet case. I don't work that way. And too many people were telling all the secrets in it to the papers. I don't like high profile cases.

Question: Ann, do you have an opinion about Jeffrey MacDonald's guilt or innocence?

Ann Rule: I think McDonald is guilty.

Question: I recently read your newsletter on your web site and it was very interesting to read the updates on the people in your books.

Ann Rule: I'm glad you liked the updates on my web page.

Question: Ann, where is Diane Downs today?

Ann Rule: Diane is in prison in Chowchilla, CA.

Question: Have you read "Fatal Justice?" Is it possible some of the evidence was suppressed?

Ann Rule: I have not read "Fatal Justice," but I have read voluminous excerpts. The investigation of the scene may well have been bungled. That doesn't change my mind. I think evidence might have been lost in the McDonald case, or more likely, contaminated.

Question: Ann.. do you think you'll ever write anything about JonBenet Ramsey?

Ann Rule: No, no JonBenet. I don't like the high profile cases. And there are eight writers in Boulder now, just waiting to write. What new will there be to tell? Anyone here could write a book!

Question: Yes Ann...but yours would be the best and most accurate!!

Ann Rule: No. I don't want to get into the JonBenet frenzy. Nor did I want to write an OJ book. I don't want readers to know the ending when they begin the book!

Question: I wondered if you have studied psychology...because part of the attraction of your books, is the depth to which you 'study' the people involved...

Ann Rule: Yes, I've studied a great deal of psychology at the University of Washington, and I also have read hundreds of psychological reports on as many cases.

Question: Have you ever thought of writing your own book about the Green River murders?

Ann Rule: I will write a Green River book--but only when someone has been convicted.

Question: Ann: Do you think a Green River conviction will ever happen?

Ann Rule: I save all manner of stuff on the serial murder cases in Washington -- in a closet I need for my towels and sheets. I'll be ready when there is an arrest.

Question: Ann, what do you make of so many children turning to killing now...are there any stories there?

Ann Rule: I think that kids see way too much violence on TV, movies, etc. They get insulated to it, and don't realize, perhaps, that killing is forever, and it's not like in the movies where actors get up to play in other movies.

Question: Do you personally interview the people you write about?

Ann Rule: Yes, I talk to almost every killer I write about - unless, like Brad Cunningham in "Dead by Sunset," they serve as their own attorneys, and testify for days and days. I can see them in court.

Question: You said that you are working on three books, what are they going to be about?

Ann Rule: One book, "A Rage to Kill," is a collection of 14 of my best short pieces, including the horrifying bus crash in Seattle the day after Thanksgiving. The next is the James Garner case in Colorado - where he is accused of shooting his wife and in-laws, and the last is a Washington case of another murderous husband. The other titles are "Bad Together" and "Empty Promises."

Question: Do you have an update on Sara Gordon and her children, from "Dead by Sunset?"

Ann Rule: Sara Gordon and her three boys are fine. The boys are all taller than Sara now. The oldest son has started college. Brad's sons have NO contact with him!

Question: Ann, you have been gifted with a clear mind and an ability to see the facts as they unfold. But I feel that you have compassion for the victims and that motivates you greatly. Is that so?

Ann Rule: Thank you. I care a great deal about the people I write about.

Question: The boy that killed his entire family in Michigan recently, went before the judge for his bail hearing and pleaded with the judge to let him out before trial so he could "see a bit of the world" before he did his time!!! He is eighteen. I just do not comprehend. I hope you do write about one of these kids some day, Ann.

Ann Rule: I hestitate to write about murderous teens. I think it is so discouraging that I avoid it!

Question: Ann, will you ever investigate the Homolka-Bernardos spree in Canada?

Ann Rule: No Holmoka-Bernardo. It is way too grisly for me. I hate torture murders!

Question: Ann: What is your opinion of the death penalty?

Ann Rule: I am for the death penalty when it involves sadistic sociopaths who will surely get out one day and kill again!

Question: How do you keep cynicism away from the front door? I knew many officers who became very jaded.

Ann Rule: I am not a cynic because I find at least three dozen heroes for every bad guy or gal I have to write about. The good in humanity always comes out wayyyyy ahead!

Question: Ann, do you plan more books about true crimes in the South? I live in Georgia.

Ann Rule: I hope to see Georgia again one day, yes.

Question: Hi Ann...I'd be interested to know if you know how the surviving children of Diane Downs are doing? I thought that was a particularly chilling case.

Ann Rule: Diane's kids are doing great, but they're Fred and Joanne Hugi's kids now. Christie is 23 or 24, and graduated from college. Danny started college this year and is on the swim team, despite being a paraplegic from where his mother shot him.

Question: Ann, I am from Kansas and grew up near the Greens. Did you find the community helpful or close-mouthed?

Ann Rule: The Kansas community was unbelievably warm and helpful. I love that area!

Question: Did Cheryl Keeton's estate ever collect on the huge civil judgment against Brad Cunningham?

Ann Rule: I don't know about the finances of Cheryl's kids. But I'm sure that Bob McNannay, her one-time stepfather is handling it all well. They're a great family!

Question: Susan Smith reminded me so much of her.

Ann Rule: When I heard about Susan Smith, I thought of Diane - only Diane Downs killed her children to get a lover back 10 years before Susan did.

Question: I love to read murder stories because I try to find out what drove that person to actually kill another human being. How did you come to write about murder as opposed to any other subject, Ann?

Ann Rule: I write about murder because I too cannot imagine how people could be so cruel - and I want to find out WHY?

Question: Ann...glad to hear's killing their kids to impress a boyfriend is beyond belief

Ann Rule: I agree. Kids first. Boyfriends come later. <g>

Question: Ann: Some commentators say that Aileen Wuornos was the first female serial killer. Do you agree with that assessment?

Ann Rule: I think Aileen Wuornos is the ONLY female I've ever researched who may well be a true serial killer. The others have all killed for money - or for "love" as they define it. Aileen may well have killed to Kill.

Question: Ann I always tried to meet you when you did your book signings in the Seattle area, in fact before I moved away I saw you at a book store in Tukwila. Do you ever go out of the northwest for book signing tours, if so, when is your next one scheduled?

Ann Rule: I do sign books all over the country. This year, I've been to California, Oregon, Phoenix, Kansas City, Denver, Minneapolis, New York, Chicago. You get the picture! I'll be out there next year, too.

Question: Do you ever do book signing tours in Canada?

Ann Rule: Yes, I was in Toronto, Vancouver, and Victoria - several times.

Question: Have you ever gotten an answer to your quest for "Why" that ever made sense to you?

Ann Rule: The WHY of murder seems to me to have many reasons. I think early childhood abuse may well kill a little conscience. I think there is a genetic predisposition for violence in some cases, and I think there may well be some brain malfunction that cuts off the connection between conscience and action.

Question: Have you ever done any research in the San Juan Islands?

Ann Rule: I love the San Juans, and there are a couple of cases up there that I'm looking at. They haven't been solved yet, though.

Question: Ann, what did you feel when Bundy was executed?

Ann Rule: I felt sick when Ted was executed - but I would not have stopped it if I could. He was going to get out, and he would have killed again and again and again.

Question: Is it true that most serial killers are of above average, some even genius level intelligence?

Ann Rule: Most serial killers are smart, because the dumb guys with the same impulses get caught early on. Does that make sense?

Question: Ann: Are there any murder cases that you know of where the Internet played a key role?

Ann Rule: Yes, I'm working on a book about murder where the Internet had a part. That's "Empty Promises."

Question: Will you ever be able to tell us what happened in the basement in "Everything She Ever Wanted?"

Ann Rule: Yes, I know what happened in the basement in "Everything." I went back to that basement with Tom.

Question: What happened to the property or possessions belonging to Scurlock?

Ann Rule: All of Scurlock's property went to his family. They came up right away and checked it out.

Question: Ann, do you ever get depressed talking to all these crazy, sadistic people?

Ann Rule: No, I don't get depressed. There are too many great readers AND good people who help solve crimes.

Question: Ann: What do you make of the public interest in the true crime genre?

Ann Rule: My readers are very gentle people. They just want to know WHY? They are not the kind of people who slow down to look at an accident.

Question: What was Tom like at that time?

Ann Rule: Tom is a very nice man. He is now head of prison ministry in Georgia. He got snookered by Pat, the most manipulative woman I've ever written about. He was in love, and he believed her. She set him up by sending him to his father's house, and then calling his father. She made sure they both had guns.

Question: Which prison is Pat in now, Ann?

Ann Rule: Pat's in Atlanta - but she gets out in two months!!! Pat's moving home with The Colonel, 86, and his new wife, Boppo's younger sister.

Question: Do you think anyone will decide to write a book on the cadet murder case?

Ann Rule: There have been a couple of quickie cadet murder paperbacks.

Question: Ann: Do you think Americans are more fascinated with true crimes than, let's say, ten years ago?

Ann Rule: True crime interest is down a little. It hit its peak about four years ago, but there were just too many quickie books, full of blood and grisly details.

Question: How long did it take you to research "The End of the Dream? There were so many locations and lots of moving around.

Ann Rule: "The End of the Dream" took me about 18 months to research and write.

Question: How long does it usually take to research and write a book?

Ann Rule: Most books are about that long - 18 months. Some take longer. I work on several in several stages at once.

Question: And what "inspires" you to write that book?

Ann Rule: I write books where the characters fascinate me and make me want to know more.

Question: I'd like to see you more on television in an advisory capacity.

Ann Rule: One day, I'll go back to TV. I'm going to be in Court TV tomorrow at 6:30 EST, and again in March.

Question: Do you think Pat was slowly poisoning her daughter?

Ann Rule: Yes, I think Pat poisoned Susan. Absolutely.

Question: One of the most satisfying aspects of your books is the exposure of the people who hate to be so naked in the light of your view.

Ann Rule: I guess I really enjoy exposing the murderous fakers. But they sure get mad at me!

Question: Have you been, or will you ever be on "Larry King?"

Ann Rule: I've been on "Larry King" a couple of times. Hope he'll have me back. I was terrified of him the first time. But he was really nice.

Question: Ann...You will NEVER stop getting asked about the RAMSEY case, because people want to know! And so they ask the best. One more time. What are your thoughts, and did you see/hear anything while in Boulder that changed your way of thinking?

Ann Rule: I think JonBenet was killed by her parents. I suspect the father was molesting her and she threatened to tell. I think her mother helped cover it up. Very sad.

Question: Ann, I must ask you this. I have always been curious. How in god's name did that father coerce his sister-in-law and daughter to kill his wife?

Ann Rule: Cinnamon was so young, and David and Patty brainwashed her for more than a year - "If You Really Loved Me." Anyone can be brainwashed if there's enough time. See my book, "Possession," for the details of that phenomenon.

Question: Having worked with and known Ted Bundy, do you think you could explain to people what to watch out for in a co-worker? How does one identify a serial killer before it's too late?

Ann Rule: No, people like Ted can fool you completely. I'd been a cop, had all that psychology - but his mask was perfect. I say that long acquaintance can help you know someone. But you can never be really sure. Scary.

Question: Ann, how do you distance yourself from being involved emotionaly when researching these horrendous murders!

Ann Rule: I can't always distance myself. If I am not emotionally involved, I think my books would be less interesting.

Question: Ann: In retrospect, though, could you pick out clues from Ted's behavior that he was dangerous?

Ann Rule: The only clue about Ted was this: He NEVER talked about sex with me. Most of the cops I knew always brought that subject up! But, for Ted, sex was a very dangerous subject!

Question: I am curious. What leads you to believe that John Ramsey killed his daughter?

Ann Rule: I reach that conclusion by deductive reasoning. Who else? The brother was too slight to ever hurt her that much. I don't think Patsy would be involved in molesting her. That would be very unusual. I used to wonder about Santa but they never could place him inside the house. So who else?

Question: Was there evidence that she had been molested? Being the devil's advocate here; maybe the crime scene was too contaminated to lend many clues.

Ann Rule: If we argue about JonBenet, this will all head right into Boulder. How about if we do it on a separate occasion?

Question: I still get a chill when I recall him (Bundy) walking you to your car at night, to see you were safe!!

Ann Rule: I get a chill too. But I was safe with Ted. For one, he knew me. For another, I wasn't his type.

Question: The sad thing is that so many crimes like these never reach the courts

Ann Rule: That's true. There IS such a thing as a perfect murder. Lots of them.

Question: Any theories on why America has so many serial killers?

Ann Rule: I think most countries have serial murderers. Not just us. Look at the UK, and Germany. In countries with insurrections, you don't know where all the bodies came from. You might never know.

Question: Ann, have you ever heard of Richard Grissom, a murderer in Kansas City about seven years ago?

Ann Rule: Yes, I wrote a little about Grissom in my book "Bitter Harvest." The prosecutor who sent Debora Gren to prison also convicted Grissom. Grissom was a very dangerous man.

Question: Why mostly white men?

Ann Rule: There are more white men in America. Hence, more white serial killers.

Question: Why does it seem like the Pacific Northwest has more serial killers than other areas?

Ann Rule: Serial killers look for a geographic solution to their obsession. They eventually run to the sea. You will find more of them in all states that are on coasts, I think.

Question: Ann: What do you think about Henry Lee Lucas?

Ann Rule: I think Henry Lee was vastly overrated as a killer. Too dumb. <g>

Question: Do you ever do guest lectures at colleges? I'm in the criminal justice department and have two organizations that might be able to come up with a small stipend.

Ann Rule: I used to do a lot of lectures at colleges and such. Now, I stick to law enforcement groups. This year, at least. With three books to write, and two trials to go to, I'm running out of time.

Question: What about Karla Faye Tucker? Do you think she deserved the death penalty?

Ann Rule: I felt bad about Karla Faye, and I wonder why. Was it because she looked so sweet? But her crime was horrific. But, in the end, I decided that it was o.k. If she had truly found God, she's o.k. If she was lying, she deserved the death penalty.

Question: Are you on Court TV about a particular case Ann?

Ann Rule: Tomorrow, I'm on Court TV about my career, I think. In March, they are doing the greatest trials of the century and it will be about the Ted trials.

Question: Ann: Do you watch the "Profiler" series on TV? What's your opinion of that show?

Ann Rule: I think the "Profiler" is what TV thinks a profiler is. I don't watch. The shows about real cops were Hill Street Blues and Barney Miller. NYPD is pretty good too, but more soap opery than life!

Question: Do you watch "Millennium," Ann?

Ann Rule: No, I don't watch "Millenium" either. I am a very non-science fiction, non-fantasy gal. I heard once that means I'm a latent schizophrenic. I can spell it, but I can't see to type. . .

Question: Very interesting you mention those two shows, I've heard the same thing; (the Barney Miller was surprising).

Ann Rule: I've spent so much time in homicide units, and Barney Miller is right on!!!

Question: If a person goes bizzerk, like J MacDonald...I fail to understand why they do not show remorse...these types of murders seem so spontaneous, why the claim of innocence?

Ann Rule: People without conscience have no remorse. Of all the things I've had to accept in my career, that is still the most difficult!

Question: What do you speak about to law enforcement groups?

Ann Rule: I have three main seminars: High Profile Offenders, Serial Murder, and Women Who Kill, and I throw in a little about my early days in writing too.

Question: Any comments on Charlie Manson?

Ann Rule: I'm not up on the Manson murders--no more than anyone else who read "Helter Skelter." I think some of the girls may be unbrainwashed by now.

Question: Ann: At last report, I believe the violent crime rate was decreasing in the U.S. Any idea why that might be?

Ann Rule: Gee, I hope crime is decreasing - murder at least - because we're working harder to take care of little kids so they don't grow up to be killers.

Question: I wish that you would come to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario and do a book signing :)

Ann Rule: I was born a Michigander, you know. Raised up there too.

Question: Do women killers kill for different reasons than men?

Ann Rule: I will come back here and visit again. Women kill for love and for money. They plan it more carefully and they tend to kill people who trust them, depend on them, and who are related to them.

Question: Ann: Instead of writing about specific cases, do you ever intend to write a book discussing your general ideas about murder?

Ann Rule: I hope one day to write an autobiography. In there, I can give my opinions on EVERYTHING!

Question: Ann: Thank you for so politely and diligently answering all questions!

Ann Rule: If I've missed some questions, do check out my webpage, and be sure you go to all the pages!

Question: Where does "The End of the Dream" take place?

Ann Rule: The End of the Dream action starts in Reston, Virginia, goes through Vegas, and ends up in the Northwest.

Question: This was my first on-line chat with a celeb...

Ann Rule: This is my first too. But we'll all have to come back at least once a month to talk about Crime and Murder. Like a nice sewing circle!

Question: I believe there will come a time when those murdered will see you and thank you for speaking for them.

Ann Rule: I hope so too. I feel very close to the victims I have to write about. I feel as if I know them. I've worked with victims' families for over 20 years now. They are so brave.

Question: Thank you Ann!!!

Ann Rule: I love you guys. And forgive me for the questions that went by so fast that I missed them.

Question: Have you worked on victims' rights legislation?

Ann Rule: Thank you so much for being here. I'm going out for chinese, now. Yes, I have worked for victims rights In fact, I testified before Congress about that - with John Walsh.

Question: Hope you get to your email cause we will be thanking you for this there!

Ann Rule: And I'd love to read it. Please say I don't have to answer right away. Thanks all. I have to run now, but I'll be back after the broccoli-beef and a few weeks. You can write to me, and we will talk again. It sure did go fast. Bye. It's so hard to go, but I'm really going now....

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