Rule, Ann 1935-
RULE, Ann 1935-
PERSONAL: Born October 22, 1935, in Lowell, MI; daughter of Chester R. (an athletics coach) and Sophie (a teacher) Stackhouse; married Bill Rule (a teacher and technical writer; divorced, 1972); children: Laura, Leslie, Andy, Mike, Bruce. Education: University of Washington, B.A., 1954; graduate study at University of Washington; received degree in police science. Hobbies and other interests: Gardening, walking, pets, collecting "way too many things."
CAREER: Writer. Has worked as a police officer in Seattle, WA, and as a caseworker for the Washington State Department of Public Assistance.
AWARDS, HONORS: Achievement Award, Pacific Northwest Writers Conference, 1991; two Anthony Awards, from Bouchercon; Peabody Award for mini-series Small Sacrifices; Readers' Choice Awards, Reader's Digest, 2003.
Beautiful Seattle, Beautiful America (Woodburn, OR), 1979, published as Beautiful America's Seattle, Beautiful America (Woodburn, OR), 1989.
The Stranger beside Me, Norton (New York, NY), 1980, revised twentieth anniversary edition, Norton (New York, NY), 2000.
Small Sacrifices: A True Story of Passion and Murder, New American Library (New York, NY), 1987.
If You Really Loved Me: A True Story of Desire and Murder, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1991.
Everything She Ever Wanted: A True Story of Obsessive Love, Murder, and Betrayal, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1992.
Dead by Sunset: Perfect Husband, Perfect Killer?, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1995.
Bitter Harvest: A Woman's Fury, a Mother's Sacrifice, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1997.
. . . And Never Let Her Go: Thomas Capano, the Deadly Seducer, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1999.
Every Breath You Take: A True Story of Obsessive Revenge and Murder, Free Press (New York, NY), 2001.
Heart Full of Lies: A True Story of Desire and Death, Free Press (New York, NY), 2003.
Without Pity: Ann Rule's Most Dangerous Killers, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Green River, Running Red: The Real Story of the Green River Killer, America's Deadliest Serial Murderer, Free Press (New York, NY), 2004.
"ANN RULE'S CRIME FILES" SERIES
A Rose for Her Grave and Other True Cases (also see below), Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1993.
You Belong to Me and Other True Cases, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1994.
A Fever in the Heart and Other True Cases, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1996.
In the Name of Love and Other True Cases, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1998.
The End of the Dream: The Golden Boy Who Never Grew Up and Other True Cases, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1999.
A Rage to Kill and Other True Cases, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1999.
Empty Promises and Other True Cases, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 2001.
Last Dance, Last Chance and Other True Cases, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Kiss Me, Kill Me, and Other True Cases, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 2004.
Also author of Ann Rule's Omnibus (contains A Rose for Her Grave, You Belong to Me, and A Fever in the Heart).
"TRUE CRIME ANNALS" SERIES; UNDER PSEUDONYM ANDY STACK
Lust Killer, New American Library (New York, NY), 1983.
Want-Ad Killer, New American Library (New York, NY), 1983.
The I-Five Killer, New American Library (New York, NY), 1984.
Possession (novel), Norton (New York, NY), 1983.
Contributor to various periodicals, including Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Ladies' Home Journal, Seattle Times, True Confessions, and True Detective.
ADAPTATIONS: An adaptation of Small Sacrifices: A True Story of Passion and Murder was broadcast on ABC-TV, 1989; Dead by Sunset, . . . And Never Let Her Go, and Small Sacrifices have been produced as television miniseries; Ann Rule Presents: The Stranger beside Me, a docudrama produced by the USA Network and based on Rule's book The Stranger beside Me, aired on March 21, 2003.
SIDELIGHTS: Ann Rule's writing has earned her a reputation as an expert on criminal behavior. She is the author of such best-selling books as The Stranger beside Me, Small Sacrifices: A True Story of Passion and Murder, and numerous other books which discuss the lives of notorious killers. In addition to lecturing on the subject of crime, she has provided testimony in court cases and has lent her expertise in order to help police agencies understand the behavior of psychopathic murderers. Although she has earned respect for the books published under her own name, some of her early work was done under the pseudonym Andy Stack. In the New York Times, Rule stated that publishers at the time "thought nobody would want to read a crime story written by a female."
Rule's interest in crime developed from a very early age. As a child, she spent time with her grandfather, a sheriff in Stanton, Michigan. "It fascinated me how grandpa could take a broken button or a blood drop and figure out who done it," she remarked in an interview with People. Rule attended the University of Washington, where she studied creative writing and criminology, and later became a police officer in Seattle. She lost her position on the force, however, when people found out about her extreme nearsightedness.
After her husband suspended his professional career to resume his education, Rule decided to provide for her family by writing stories about actual crimes. Through researching her pieces, Rule spent time with arson and homicide divisions of the police department, attended specialty classes in police science, and built a network of contacts with people involved in law enforcement throughout the Northwest.
In the early 1970s Rule worked on a suicide hot-line at the Seattle Crisis Center with a student intern named Ted Bundy. Of Bundy, Rule told People, "I used to think that if I were younger or my daughters were older, this would be the perfect man." Bundy was convicted of murder in 1978 and was ultimately implicated in the slaying of more than thirty-five women. Before Bundy's arrest and conviction, Rule was commissioned to write a book on a string of murders committed in the Northwest. The work was eventually published as The Stranger beside Me, an account of Bundy that earned critical acclaim due in part to Rule's association with the killer. In the New York Times Book Review Thomas Thompson remarked that the author "does have an extraordinary angle that makes The Stranger beside Me dramatic and, occasionally, as chilling as a bedroom window shattering at midnight."
During the initial investigation into the Seattle-area murders, as information about the killer became known, Rule became increasingly suspicious about Bundy's possible involvement and provided investigators with a tip that her associate might be the killer, but was relieved when the police did not follow up on her lead. Rule felt in some way duped by Bundy, however, when his guilt was confirmed; Bundy did not share the negative character traits associated with such notorious serial killers as Charles Manson, Richard Speck, and John Gacy. He was a handsome, educated, and charismatic individual with political aspirations. In The Stranger beside Me, Rule reports how Bundy moved to Salt Lake City, where he became a Mormon and studied to become a lawyer, then to Colorado and Florida. In each state, law enforcement officials were faced with investigations into gruesome murders that Bundy allegedly committed.
After Bundy was arrested for the murder of two members of the Chi Omega sorority at Florida State University, he chose to act as his own lawyer. Although he was given the opportunity to accept a seventy-five-year term of imprisonment, he chose to defend himself in a trial and was subsequently given the death penalty. Throughout The Stranger beside Me, Rule reports on how she and others were fooled by Bundy because he was successful at displaying the positive aspects of his character while hiding his negative traits. Of the time that she spent with Bundy at the crisis center, she wrote, as quoted by Thompson, "If, as many people believe today, Ted Bundy took lives, he also saved lives. I know he did, because I was there when he did it."
In Small Sacrifices, published in 1987, Rule relates the story of Diane Downs, a mother of three who claimed that she stopped her car on the highway to assist a "bushy-haired stranger" who had flagged her down. According to Downs, the stranger then proceeded to shoot her and her children. One of her children died, one was paralyzed, and one survived after having a stroke. In her book, Rule shows how police were wary about Downs's story from the time they first heard it. In the emergency room, Downs seemed more concerned about whether there were holes in her new car than she was about the condition of her children. Also, when one police officer heard that Downs had been shot, he predicted the location of her wound—in an area that would not cause fatal injury, indicating that the injury was self-inflicted. Rule also notes that authorities are usually suspicious when they hear victims speak of a bushy-haired stranger, identified by the police as a "BHS." Rule writes, as quoted by Carolyn Banks in the Washington Post: "The BHS is the guy who isn't there, the man the defendant claims is really responsible. . . . Of course, the BHS can never be produced in court." Downs was eventually tried and convicted of the crimes committed against her children.
Rule delves into Downs's past in Small Sacrifices, noting how Downs was the victim of considerable sexual abuse as a child. As a teenager, she slit her wrists in a failed suicide attempt. Rule relates that Downs entered into a destructive marital relationship in order to extricate herself from her difficult family situation and achieved happiness only after giving birth to a child. Downs later gave birth to a second infant, but then had an abortion to terminate a third pregnancy. Feeling guilty about the abortion, Downs decided to atone for her action by conceiving a fourth child. Instead of choosing her husband to father the child, though, she selected a coworker. "I picked somebody that was attractive . . . healthy . . . not abusive of drugs and alcohol, strong—bone structure—you know, the whole bit: a good specimen. It was really clinical," Downs said, as recorded in Small Sacrifices.
After watching a television show that focused on surrogate parenting, Downs convinced herself that she could make a living by providing other couples with babies. According to Rule, Downs had plans to begin a surrogate-parenting clinic of her own. Later, she entered into an affair with Lew Lewiston, a married man who was averse to the idea of fathering children. The prosecution charged that after Lewiston ended his relationship with Downs, she tried to kill her offspring to appease her former lover. Downs was convicted of the crime and sentenced to life plus fifty years of imprisonment. She escaped from jail in the early 1990s and was found ten days later at the home of Wayne Seifer, a psychiatric assistant and the spouse of one of Downs's fellow convicts. At the time of the breakout, Rule predicted that, based on her subject's pattern of behavior, Downs would seek out a suitable mate with the intention of getting pregnant during her time away from prison.
At the time of the escape, Rule knew that Downs had read Small Sacrifices and was not pleased with the way the author had portrayed her. In an interview with Publishers Weekly the author stated, "I'm not paranoid about my safety, but there are some people I won't write about: drug dealers, cults, motorcycle gangs and organized crime. I don't want someone I don't even know coming back at me." In People she revealed that she supports the death penalty in cases that involve serial killers, because too many of them are released from prison and end up repeating their pattern of crime.
Upon its release, Small Sacrifices was praised by several reviewers. Banks, for instance, noted that "Ann Rule is able to relate Diane Downs's crimes—as she did Ted Bundy's in her earlier The Stranger beside Me—with high tension. Rule has an instinct for suspense, knowing just what information to leak to the reader and when." And Eileen Ogintz of the Chicago Tribune acknowledged that "the book is superbly researched. It succeeds because Rule knew what details, eyewitness accounts and evidence to include—and what not to."
As she began to earn a living through her crime writing, Rule started to feel guilty about deriving an income from reporting on the misfortunes of others. A psychologist, however, convinced her that "what matters is how you feel about people," as recounted in her Publishers Weekly interview. His advice contributed to Rule's approach toward reporting on crime. "I get to know the victim so well that I can see and feel the pain that these people go through: the victim, the victim's family and the family of the perpetrator. Out of consideration for them, I often leave out as much as I include." In the New York Times, Rule also remarked to Robert Lindsey on how she has assisted authorities at the United States Justice Department in implementing a plan for tracking seemingly unrelated murders. Such work, she noted, "is kind of my vindication for profiting from other people's tragedies. I'd like to put myself out of the business of being a crime writer and go on to other things. Sadly, the serial murder keeps going on."
In the early 1990s Rule released If You Really Loved Me, which tells about the murder of Linda Brown, the fifth wife of David Arnold Brown, a man who amassed considerable wealth in the field of data retrieval. The Browns lived in Orange County, California, with their infant daughter, Krystal, Linda's seventeen-year-old sister, Patricia Bailey, and David's fourteen-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, Cinnamon. At the beginning of her book, Rule describes the homicide as it was originally interpreted by the police. According to Patricia Bailey, Cinnamon shot Linda and then fled from the house. Investigating officer Fred McLean discovered Cinnamon in a doghouse in the backyard, wearing a vomit-and urine-stained sweat suit—an indication that she had tried to commit suicide by swallowing pills. She also had a note: "Dear God, please forgive me. I didn't mean to hurt her," as quoted in the New York Times Book Review by critic Maggie Paley.
Cinnamon confessed to the murder but later admitted that she did not remember committing the crime. She was sentenced to a minimum of twenty-seven years of imprisonment, beginning in a juvenile detention facility. In the second section of the book, Rule presents facts concerning the investigation of the case. Authorities discovered that before the murder, David Brown continually manipulated family members by pretending to be gravely ill and seeking medical attention for bouts of depression. In order to win the devotion of his wife, daughters, and sister-in-law, he fed them promises, threatened them, and provided them with gifts. On a number of occasions, he also coerced the women who lived with him into having sexual relations with him.
Authorities became concerned upon discovering that Brown received more than $800,000 in insurance settlements after his wife's death. Additionally, he continued to share a residence with his sister-in-law, whom he married in 1986. Rule noted that as time passed, Brown visited Cinnamon less frequently. Cinnamon, meanwhile, was refused the opportunity to be paroled because she continued to attest that she had no memory of committing the murder. After hearing a secretly taped session between Brown and his daughter, as well as Cinnamon's own testimony as to what occurred on the day that her stepmother was murdered, authorities brought David Brown to trial, convicted him of the crime, and sentenced him to life in prison.
Robert Campbell of the Los Angeles Times Book Review felt that If You Really Loved Me could have been structured in order to provide readers with a greater sense of suspense. He did, however, praise Rule for her handling of the second half of her four-part book. Campbell felt that "Part Three, 'The Arrest and the Death List,' presents as gripping a plot and as complicated an investigation of a complex character as any imagined in fiction, and Part Four, 'The Trial,' wraps up the whole affair with a great deal of energy and skill." And Paley, although she wanted Rule to provide more insight into David Brown, remarked that Rule "writes of detectives, their procedures and temperaments in a flat, just-the-facts style that has quiet authority. She spins a narrative with the skill of these detectives, who must hold in their minds contradictory statements, observations and assessments and make sense—and a good case—out of them all." In the Toronto Globe and Mail Margaret Cannon called If You Really Loved Me "a harrowing story of how [investigators] were able to sift through the lies and fears of two teen-aged girls to bring a vicious killer to justice. Rule has a clear prose style that seldom slips into wordiness. . . . and she has a deft sense of humor."
Rule probes the case of another murderous husband in Dead by Sunset: Perfect Husband, Perfect Killer? Brad Cunningham was handsome, charismatic, successful, and violent with women. After the birth of three sons, Cunningham's fourth wife, Cheryl Keeton, a lawyer, left the abusive marriage and would not allow Cunningham to see the boys. Although Cunningham was the prime suspect in Keeton's murder when her badly beaten body was found in 1986, police could not connect him with the crime. Eventually Keeton's law firm hired an attorney so her estate could bring a wrongful death lawsuit against Cunningham. By the time the civil case began, Cunningham was married to his fifth wife. The jury returned a guilty verdict and assessed a huge judgment. The verdict in the civil case compelled the district attorney's office to indict Cunningham two years later—seven years after Keeton's murder; he was convicted in 1994 and sentenced to a minimum of twenty-two years in prison.
In Bitter Harvest: A Woman's Fury, a Mother's Sacrifice, Rule probed the case of Dr. Debora Green, a brilliant, well-to-do woman who was apparently devoted to her three children. When her husband left her for another woman, however, Green took her revenge in an unspeakable fashion: she set fire to their home, starting a blaze that resulted in the deaths of two of their three children. Arson investigators even believed that she had deliberately planned the blaze in such a way that would block the children's escape routes. Rule chronicles the unhappy marriage and the other failures that lurked beneath Green's apparent successes. Despite her formidable intellect, she had failed at her medical practice and become addicted to alcohol and drugs, as well as struggling with a serious weight problem. Before murdering her children, she had attempted to poison her husband. Bitter Harvest is an "outstanding chronicle of a crime investigation," according to Christine A. Moesch in Library Journal, and it is also a "riveting profile of a brilliant mind and empty soul." The reviewer for Publishers Weekly stated that Bitter Harvest is "another tension-filled, page-turning chronology and analysis of a psychopath in action."
Another apparently successful, respectable person who committed foul crimes is exposed in . . . And Never Let Her Go: Thomas Capano, the Deadly Seducer.Thomas Capano was an attorney with prestigious connections. He came from a respected family in Delaware, was married, and appeared to be leading an enviable life. In reality, he had numerous mistresses. One of them was Anne Marie Fahey, a secretary to the state's governor and a woman seventeen years his junior. This troubled, anorexic woman with a history of being abused became one of Capano's obsessions. Eventually she tried to end their relationship, but soon after that she was reported missing. In the investigation that followed, it was shown that Capano had murdered her and, with the help of his brothers, stuffed her body into a large cooler which he dumped into the Atlantic. He later tried to pin the blame for his crime on one of his other mistresses. . . . And Never Let Her Go is a "compassionate portrayal of the victim and a chilling portrayal of her killer," according to a Booklist reviewer, who went on to call the book a "true page-turner, a compelling rendering of a crime committed by a deeply troubled, egotistical sociopath." The disturbing story is, "in Rule's capable hands, the raw material for a modern-day tragedy," remarked a Publishers Weekly contributor.
Every Breath You Take: A True Story of Obsessive Revenge and Murder concerns the murder of Sheila Bellush, a wife and mother of six children. As a young woman, Bellush met and married Allen Blackthorne, a charming yet violent sociopath, but she left the marriage after enduring years of abuse. Though Black-thorne and Bellush both remarried, Blackthorne developed an obsessive need to punish his ex-wife for divorcing him. Having told her sister that she feared for her life, Bellush was later found murdered, surrounded by her young children. Police quickly arrested the killers-for-hire, and Blackthorne was prosecuted for the murder. "Rule presents the facts of a murder case with all the intrigue, suspense and characterization of an accomplished novelist," according to a Publishers Weekly critic. In Booklist Brad Hooper stated, "Rule excels at painting psychologically perceptive portraits of all the characters in this stranger-than-fiction but nevertheless real-life drama."
In Heart Full of Lies: A True Story of Desire and Death, Rule "meticulously documents the case of a woman who used domestic abuse as an excuse to kill her husband," wrote New York Times Book Review critic John D. Thomas. Rule examines the murder of Chris Northon, whose wife, Liysa Northon, claimed that she shot at and accidentally killed her abusive husband to protect herself from attack. Police investigating the crime found Norton's body wrapped up in a sleeping bag, with a well-placed bullet wound to the head. In Heart Full of Lies the author informs readers "about Northon and her desire to control the lives of those around her and about Chris, who worked desperately to keep his marriage afloat," observed Library Journal critic Danna Bell-Russel. "You can still see the cop in Rule: she interrogates witnesses, tracks down inconsistencies in stories, slogs through victims' letters and e-mails, analyzes forensic evidence, attends trials," wrote Booklist contributor Connie Fletcher.
In her interview with Publishers Weekly, Rule explained the appeal of her work to many readers. "Whenever I'm signing books, invariably someone comes up to me, usually a young mother trailing a small child or a grandmotherly looking woman, and says, 'Why do I love the books you write? What's wrong with me?' I always ask them what they would do if they found a spider in the bathtub. Nine times out of ten they tell me that they would remove the spider with a tissue and put it outside. I believe that the gentlest among us are the most fascinated by the cruelest. We simply cannot believe that anyone would hurt someone else."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Bestsellers 90, Volume 2, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1990.
Contemporary Popular Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1997.
Rule, Ann, Small Sacrifices: A True Story of Passion and Murder, New American Library (New York, NY), 1987.
Rule, Ann, The Stranger beside Me, Norton (New York, NY), 1980.
Booklist, September 1, 1995, Sue-Ellen Beauregard, review of Dead by Sunset: Perfect Husband, Perfect Killer?, p. 4; Sue-Ellen Beauregard, review of Bitter Harvest: A Woman's Fury, a Mother'sSacrifice, p. 666; October 1, 1999, review of . . . And Never Let Her Go: Thomas Capano, the Deadly Seducer, p. 307; December 15, 2000, David Pitt, review of Empty Promises and Other True Cases, p. 766; September 15, 2001, Brad Hooper, review of Every Breath You Take: A True Story of Obsession, Revenge and Murder, p. 163; October 1, 2003, Connie Fletcher, review of Heart Full of Lies: A True Story of Desire and Death, p. 274.
Chicago Tribune, May 11, 1987.
Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), May 25, 1991, p. C7.
Good Housekeeping, September, 1991, p. 42.
Houston Chronicle, March 31, 2001, Ann Hodges, review of . . . And Never Let Her Go (mini-series), p. 9.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 1995, p. 1172; January 1, 1998, review of Bitter Harvest, p. 41.
Kliatt, November, 1993, p. 36; November, 1994, p. 38; September, 1998, review of Bitter Harvest (audio version), p. 67.
Law Institute Journal, July, 1996, Morgana Keast, review of A Rose for Her Grave and Other True Cases, p. 78.
Library Journal, October 1, 1995, Christine A. Moesch, review of Dead by Sunset, p. 101; November 1, 1996, Sandra K. Lindheimer, review of A Fever in the Heart and Other True Cases, p. 91; February 1, 1998, Christine A. Moesch, review of Bitter Harvest, p. 100; March 15, 1998, Denise A. Garofalo, review of Bitter Harvest (audio version), p. 109; April 1, 2000, Gordon Blackwell, review of . . . And Never Let Her Go, p. 149; October 1, 2000, Michael Rogers, review of The Stranger beside Me, p. 153; February 1, 2004, Danna Bell-Russel, review of Heart Full of Lies (audiobook), p. 140.
Los Angeles Times, May 7, 1987.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, May 8, 1983; October 30, 1983; April 29, 1984; August 18, 1991, p. 9.
New Law Journal, May 31, 1996, review of Dead by Sunset, p. 811.
New Republic, March 28, 1981.
New York Times, February 21, 1984; July 11, 2001, Maureen Dowd, "The Lost Girls," p. A21.
New York Times Book Review, August 24, 1980; June 14, 1987; May 26, 1991, p. 12; January 3, 1993, p. 5; October 22, 1995, Walter Walker, review of Dead by Sunset, p. 38; March 15, 1998, Carolyn T. Hughes, review of Bitter Harvest, p. 26; December 21, 2003, John D. Thomas, "Books in Brief: Nonfiction," p. 20.
People, September 14, 1987; November 20, 1995, David Hiltbrand, review of Dead by Sunset (television miniseries), p. 17; January 26, 1998, J. D. Reed, review of Bitter Harvest, p. 35; January 1, 2000, review of . . . And Never Let Her Go, p. 41.
Publishers Weekly, May 3, 1991; October 25, 1993, p. 59; August 8, 1994, p. 418; September 4, 1995, review of Dead by Sunset, p. 56; December 22, 1997, review of Bitter Harvest, p. 49; August 9, 1999; September 20, 1999, review of . . . And Never Let Her Go, p. 66; April 1, 2002, review of Every Breath You Take (audiobook review), p. 31.
Saturday Review, August, 1980.
Savvy, August, 1987, p. 13.
Time, June 28, 2004, Andrea Sachs, "The Rule of Law," p. A10.
Virginian Pilot-Ledger Star, March 3, 1998, Charlene Cason, review of Bitter Harvest, p. E5.
Washington Post, May 13, 1987; March 12, 1998, Carolyn Banks, review of Bitter Harvest, p. C2; November 1, 1999, Jonathan Groner, "In Delaware, a Murder under the Microscope," p. C4.
Washington Post Book World, August 17, 1980; January 24, 1999, review of The End of the Dream: The Golden Boy Who Never Grew Up and Other True Cases, p. 12; September 5, 1999, review of. . . And Never Let Her Go, p. 5; October 17, 1999, Marie Arana, "Ann Rule: A Career in True Crime," p. 8, Ann Rule, "The Writing Life," p. 8; November 1, 1999, Jonathan Groner, review of. . . And Never Let Her Go, p. C4.
Women's Review of Books, June, 1998, Jeffrey Ann Goudie, review of Bitter Harvest, p. 26.
Writer, December, 2001, p. 66.
Writer's Digest, December, 1992, p. 27.
Ann Rule's Official Home Page,http://www.annrules.com/ (August 10, 2004).
Celebrity Café,http://www.thecelebritycafe.com/ (October 1, 2001), Dominick A. Miserandino, interview with Ann Rule.
Writers Review,http://www.writersreview.com/ (October 1, 2001), interview with Ann Rule.*