Meeting in 1971 at a Seattle crisis clinic, Ann Rule and Ted Bundy developed a friendship and correspondence that would span the rest of his life. Rule had no idea that when they went their separate ways, their paths would cross again under shocking circumstances.
An unforgettable and haunting work of research, journalism, and personal memories, The Stranger Beside Me is “as dramatic and chilling as a bedroom window shattering at midnight” (The New York Times). – Good Reads
I have reached a milestone as a true crime junkie and murderino – I finally read The Stranger Beside Me.
I would personally place Ann Rule’s The Stranger Beside me as the most well known true crime book of all time (there’s some argument to be had for Helter Skelter, sure, okay). I’m so confident in this that I’m sure the majority of you already know what the book is about (if not, look right up there), but I will mention a few things I hadn’t realized.
Ann Rule was already an accomplished true crime writer for magazines and newspapers. She also had experience in law enforcement. When she got her book deal to write on a series of murders in Washington she had no idea that the killer would eventually be revealed to be her friend Ted Bundy. I knew before that she had met Bundy while working at the crisis hotline, but I wasn’t aware of how close they really were; giving the other a lift home from parties, staying in contact years after working together (He called her after being arrested, attempted to contact her after he escaped prison, and they wrote frequently), ect. This part was the truly eye-opening part for me; just how conflicted Ann was to be writing about a man who was actually her friend.
And this is what sets Ann Rule and this particular book apart from most True Crime. You can feel Ann’s emotional turmoil spilling over the pages as she grieves not just for the victims, but also the lose of the friend she thought she knew. It’s not cold and distant; it’s a personal story that could not be told by anyone else. Ann’s own story is entangled with that of Ted Bundy and his victims and it’s the beating heart of the book, the anchor that can steady the reader through the vicious journey.
While the original edition was published just after his conviction subsequent editions have been released with updates from Ann (the first being after his execution, most recent being 2018). These show the continued journey from a woman still grappling with these tragedies to one who has accepted her role in their histories. Ann Rule is imprisoned to a life of telling Ted Bundy’s story, and to being a source of confidence to women coming forward with their own “Ted Bundy Stories” they felt too frightened to tell for decades.
I have seen numerous Ted Bundy documentaries. These are good for facts, most dig into some facet of the crimes, rooting through the information. The Stranger Beside Me is a much more emotional book. It explains the crimes, and gives a great base line for what happened and how – but ultimately this is Ann’s story. She digs much more into the psyche of Ted Bundy, the understanding of his victims and their families, the reaction of police and the atmosphere surrounding the crimes, and the relationships Ted Bundy had outside of his victims to better understand from an emotional and psychological understanding – what happened?
Title: The Stranger Beside Me: The Shocking Inside Story of Serial Killer Ted Bundy
Author: Ann Rule
Page #: 592
Published: August 1980
My Rating: ★★★★★ /5
Read For: RIP Challenge XIV
Suggested Reading: I’ll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamara