A handful of recs from the master’s massive catalog
Ann Rule passed away Sunday at age 83 — and while it seems her death is the result of a coronary event of some sort, you wonder whether that’s related to the charges of elder abuse and fraud leveled at her sons. That sordid story is worth digging into, along with the 2011 kerfuffle in which Rick Swart’s Seattle Weekly cover piece charged Rule with “sloppy storytelling” and undue influence in her coverage of the Liysa Northon case…while failing to mention his engagement to Ms. Northon, then incarcerated for the murder of her husband.
Reading about Rule is, in some ways, more rewarding than reading Rule herself. Her prose is classic true-crime pulp, melodramatic and kludgy by turns, and her ascension to the Mt. Rushmore of her genre made her more confident…and her editors more diffident.
But becoming THE Ann Rule got her access. People told her things, returned her calls, sent her tips. She had a knack for finding good stories, ones her turgid writing style (usually) wouldn’t eclipse. She worked hard; her books came out on a punishing Woody Allen schedule — so if her passing got you thinking about checking out her work, you might have gulped at her author list on Goodreads. Where to start?
At the beginning, with The Stranger Beside Me.
A little self-important, takes a while to get going, but a classic in the genre.
This one’s a better watch than a read; the only full-length version I could find on YouTube, below, is apparently subtitled in Polish, but you get used to it. Perfect casting of Farrah Fawcett as Diane Downs, who is a chilling personage; surprisingly well-done commentary on the cultural-expectation garbage moms have had to deal with for decades, though this is the one time it probably did law-enforcement’s job for it.
Too Late To Say Goodbye
Yes, “the Rob-Lowe-movie murderous-dentist one.” We read Too Late for Virtual True-Crime Book Club back in the day, and I seem to recall us having a lot of fun at the expense of the overwrought locutions. The story’s a corker, though.
A Fever In The Heart (Crime Files #3)
All the Crime Files books blur together for me, but not in a bad way; each one has at least one compelling story, and they read faster than Rule’s single-case books. I listed Fever because I remember reading it right after finishing Stranger one summer, but any of them will hit the “bring to the beach, leave at the beach house” spot.