Anyone that has spoken to me recently has probably copped a lecture on Ted Bundy’s wicked ways… I officially apologise by way of review!
I will admit fAnyone that has spoken to me recently has probably copped a lecture on Ted Bundy’s wicked ways… I officially apologise by way of review!
I will admit from the beginning that I am a novice reader in the True Crime genre. Up until receiving this book (thank you, Kris Kringle), I was an avid Wikipedia article enthusiast. However, Wikipedia articles can only offer so much information, and instead I turned to Ann Rule as an initiation read.
It is necessary to briefly rehash the backstory of this publication: Rule was already contracted to write this book on the elusive and heinous killer before Bundy’s identity was discovered by the authorities. She found herself in a keenly unique position afterwards, as Bundy was someone that she knew personally, someone she had called ‘friend.’
Accordingly, this book is of an unusually interesting nature. The expected writing style in biographies, full of unbiased journalistic integrity, simply cannot persist in these odd situations. Rule inherently cannot remain objective or detached from the situation (which she appropriately acknowledges in the Foreword), given her relationship and contact with the subject in question. This odd style of writing is therefore both interesting and problematic.
The initial few chapters explore the initial chapters in Bundy’s life, starting from his complicated childhood and issues of complicated parentage, to his achievements and mild-mannered demeanour in high school, to the supremely intelligent and handsome college student. Rule especially highlights Bundy’s significant romantic relationships, providing a detailed backstory into his emotions and connections with Stephanie Brooks and Meg Anders.
One of the notable aspects of this book was (re?)realising that the life of Ted Bundy was not, and never was, an isolated incident, and did not occur in a vacuum. Rule emphasises this and takes care to write (from direct quotes and her recollections) the stories of the girls attacked, the officers investigating Bundy’s attacks, the lawyers retained for either side, the doctors, the wardens, the naïve, whoring women, and herself – she never forgets the emotional toll, stress and morbid fascination experienced by everyone who ever came within radius of this unfortunate story.
On a whole, I felt that Rule’s personal musings, recollections and opinions were well handled in the story, as they provided a fresh perspective without dominating the story at large. However, I had significant issues with Rule’s opinions as elucidated in chapter 49. Rule provides an evaluation of Bundy’s character and states bluntly that “he has no conscience” (397), clinically muses as to the potential ‘triggers’ for Bundy’s actions, and presents a theory in relation to the best question: why?
With respect, I would assert that Rule is not qualified to proffer these comments or theories. Despite her unique situation and peripheral connection with Bundy, she is not entitled to make judgments on Bundy’s psychological character. Rule has and always been a journalist, and legally would not be considered an ‘expert’ by any standard. As a result, I felt that these conclusions, however tempting it is to want to agree, are heavy-handed. Even though her subjectivity is accepted for the majority of the book, her conclusions cross the line and override the fundamental consideration – which is that Rule is merely a writer.
Having stated my personal issues with the book, I would say that overall, this is a decent introductory book into the life and times of Ted Bundy which I would recommend. I have learnt a significant amount about his personal life, and the sad, sad demise that so many girls faced at his hand, and this has left me intrigued for more.
I will leave simply my favourite quote from the book to finish: “And like any number of sociopaths I have listened to, Ted so often spoke in clichés, even as he derided them. “Water under the bridge … stick its head in the sand.” The cliché seems to give a sociopath something to cling to – a verbal anchoring place that allows him to communicate, to speak the language of normal people.” (447)