Remembering Ann Rule: Best-selling true-crime author, good friend to WMW passes away at 83
SEATTLE — True-crime author, Ann Rule, was a great friend to Washington’s Most Wanted.
She passed away this week at the age of 83.
I was honored to know Ann in life and am proud to share some special moments during our many interviews through the years I recently uncovered.
To meet her was to instantly love her.
The national best-selling author more than 30 times over had a gift of connecting to people on paper, in person and even those she never met. Rule said in a recent interview, “I feel like I know the victims better than most people I know in life and people think I’m nuts, but I often will feel them standing behind my left shoulder and if I’ve got stacks of research, which I often do and I can’t find stuff I’ll just say, ‘Joe where is that and I put my hand right on it.’”
I first met Ann at lunch with a group of detectives and former prosecutors. She made it a point to connect with these men and women every so-often to discuss possible cases and to just stay in touch with their lives. Sometimes she would get ideas for a book. “I have never heard of this case and I have a group of friends, we call ourselves, we have lunch once a month, we call it The Union Meeting, but really it’s no union it’s just us,” Rule jokes.
She got her start writing short articles for various newspapers and magazines under the name “Andy Stack.” In those days female writers weren’t as common as they are now. Rule talks about her humble beginnings, “I was so scared in the beginning that nobody would ever talk to me, so I started with the Seattle Police Department where I had been an officer and they were really good to me. I had four little kids, five, I adopted a son who I was supporting and so they made sure that if I wrote a story and sent it in on Monday, the next Monday I had $200 dollars, so I’d know I could pay the groceries or the electric bill.”
Eventually she wrote the book that launched her into one of the best-selling true-crime authors of all-time: “The Stranger Beside Me” which tells about her time working with serial killer Ted Bundy. “I worked with him at the crisis clinic every Sunday and Tuesday night, all night long for a year,” Rule recalls. “We were locked up in a building on Capitol Hill in Seattle, the building looked like the house in 'Psycho.' Nobody else was in there but Ted and myself. I was never afraid of him.”
She could always remember details and names of people she had written about decades before. In an interview back in 2011, Ann was almost 80 years old and shared this little tidbit after wrapping up our segment: “I remember my first telephone number from when I was 8 years old, 6253 and when I was in high school 1792, ring 2.”
She was always humble and even though she dominated the true-crime world, Ann never stopped being a student of the things she wrote about. “I had to go back to school and get an Associate Degree in Criminal Justice and also go to every training seminar that comes along if they’ll let me in, I’ll go to. I’ve been to coroners, forensic , I speak at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, I took basic homicide school along with the new hires at the King County Sheriff’s Office.”
She once told me that her early inspiration came from an unexpected source: “Truman Capote inspired me. His idea of novelizing a true case,” Rule explained.
But anyone who met her at a book signing, or just in life quickly learned that her passion was for the victims and the families she wrote about. My last interview with Ann was just before Christmas last year. She wasn’t in the best of health, but even then she had a way of taking the spotlight off herself and connecting with others, even in the smallest ways. “I’m so hoarse. Does it sound awful?, Rule asked. “That would be awful for you to get a sore throat. You have to talk every day.”
Even though recent health issues forced her to take a break from writing she never talked about closing the book on her career which spanned decades. Ann was always looking to write the next chapter: “As long as I can make my way to the computer and into the courtroom and down to homicide I plan to just keep right on writing because writers don’t retire. What would I do? Sit in Palm Springs and watch the guys play golf? I don’t think so.”