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Author Ann Rule, an early inspiration

My blog post this week will be one of the last ones covering my book, Rampage along Route 66. I will be transitioning the blog to use for developing my second book about the history of Mesa Airlines.

I think it is fitting to begin to wrap things up on Rampage with a tip of the hat to author Ann Rule, an award-winning true crime author who was an early inspiration for me as I began to work on Rampage. Ann’s writing career began when she wrote stories for True Detective magazine under the pen name, Andy Stack. It is simply coincidence that back in 1971, when the story behind Rampage along Route 66 appeared in True Detective magazine (July 1971 issue) that Ann was writing articles for that very publication. I'll never forget reading her first true crime book, The Stranger Beside Me (1980) while I was still a detective with the Tucson Police Department. In that book, she documented her early relationship to serial murder Ted Bundy, who volunteered on a crisis hotline along side of her at the same time that he was out committing murders. I was fascinated by her story, and I became a steadfast Ann Rule fan from that day forward. She ended up publishing over 36 books in her career, and 35 of them became New York Times best sellers.

In 2006, when I first began researching and prepping for my book, Rampage, I attended a fundraiser for an organization called Families and Friends of Violent Crime Victims. The CEO (Jenny Weiland) of that organization, which provided support to the families of murder victims, was a board member of the non-profit I managed. Jenny knew about the book I was planning, and she knew I was a rabid Ann Rule fan. She told me that Ann supported her organization and would be attending the fundraiser that evening. When Ann arrived, Jenny introduced us and told her about my plans to write a true crime book.

I stood there teetering between being embarrassed and awestruck, but my fears were allayed as it turned out that Ann was very gracious and spent over a half hour talking to me in earnest about my planned book. She had just published her own book, Green River, Running Red, about the Green River killer, and we also discussed her book in depth. It was during that part of our conversation that we learned we shared an acquaintance. I had attended a homicide seminar in Phoenix in the mid-1980s and one of the lead instructors was Bob Keppel. Bob and I hit it off and we talked for hours. He was on the Green River Killer task force and that was the first time I had heard of that prolific serial killer. Ann had worked with Bob when he was a detective with the King County Sherriff’s Department investigating two of the Ted Bundy murders, and she later collaborated with Bob again, when he was a senior criminal investigator with the Washington Attorney’s General’s Office working on the Green River Killer task force.

Ann gave me some of the best advice that evening, and it has served me well when researching my book. She said when you write true crime stories, some of your best sources are the families and friends of the murder victims. She said most of the time they are wary to speak with anyone writing a story about the crime. I should expect them not to be cooperative or to ignore my requests for interviews, and to not take it personally. She said, don’t let it get you down and always have a “plan B” on what other sources you can use to get to the information you are seeking. I ran into that issue several times, and as frustrating as it was, I would reflect back on Ann's sage advice.

Ann also offered to review my manuscript when I was done and said she would be glad to help me in my search for a publisher. Unfortunately, for me, my book got put on the back burner several times, and it wasn’t until 2019 (after I retired from my last job) that I decided to get serious and finish the book. After I completed my manuscript, I mentioned to my wife that I need to look up Ann Rule and see if she was serious about her offer to help me. My wife gave me one of those “Oh, you poor lost puppy” looks and said, “Ann Rule died a few years ago.” I was shocked and immediately confirmed that my idol had passed away in 2015. I guess I will never know what the Queen of True Crime thought of my true crime book.

Next week, my last blog post on Rampage will cover a few of the areas where I was left wanting more information for the book; information that could only have come from some of those family sources. Although, I feel the book is complete without that information, it is always nice to have all of the facts. As Sergeant Joe Friday from the 1950s TV show Dragnet used to say, “The facts ma’am, just the facts.”

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