The Stranger Beside Me: Ted Bundy The Shocking Inside Story – Ann Rule
Ann Rule was a writer working on the biggest story of her life, tracking down a brutal mass-murderer. Little did she know that Ted Bundy, her close friend, was the savage slayer she was hunting.
Review: Books don’t usually make me anxious, but this one sure did. There were a few chapters where I set the book down and listened to my heart pound. Ted Bundy was one sick weirdo. I feel very sorry for all the women who had the misfortune of meeting him.
In the 1970s, crime writer Ann Rule was contracted to write a book about the unknown serial killer who was stalking the western US. When Ann wasn’t writing, she volunteered to answer phone calls for a suicide hotline. At her volunteer job, she met Ted Bundy, a college student who was studying psychology. They became friends. Several years into their friendship, Ann learned that Ted was the serial killer that she was writing about. The Stranger Beside Me is a chunky book (500+ pages) that covers everything from Ted Bundy’s birth to his execution.
I have no problem reading horror fiction, and I’m fascinated by serial killers, but real-life murderers majorly creep me out. Especially murderers like Ted Bundy. I can’t wrap my mind around the fact that a dude would bludgeon women to death and then have sex with their corpses. How do people even get that messed up? Ann Rule attempts to answer that question in this book, but it’s still hard for me to understand. It’s just . . . yucky.
“And, like all the others, I have been manipulated to suit Ted’s needs. I don’t feel particularly embarrassed or resentful about that. I was one of many, all of us intelligent, compassionate people who had no real comprehension of what possessed him, what drove him obsessively.” – The Stranger Beside Me
Ted Bundy is a thought-provoking (and nerve-wracking) subject for a book, but I struggled to get through Ann Rule’s writing. Mostly because she needs an editor (or several). There are lots of typos and clunky sentences. The book also has huge pacing issues. The story often gets bogged down in pointless details. I don’t need to know the names and job titles of every person in a courtroom. Just tell me what they’re saying and why I should care.
I also think the synopsis is misleading. Since the author was friends with Bundy, I expected the book to be more insightful. Instead, it mostly contains information that could be found in newspapers or by reading court transcripts. Most of the book is very surface-level.
This is probably going to sound bitchy, but I’m going to say it anyway. I think this book would have been phenomenal if it had been written by someone with better writing skills.
Not-So-Fun Facts About Ted Bundy
1. In the 1940s, it was scandalous for an unmarried woman to get pregnant. Ted was born in a home for unwed mothers. His mother left him there for several months while she decided if she wanted to keep him or put him up for adoption. She decided to keep him, but not tell him the truth about his birth. Ted lived his childhood believing that his grandparents were his parents.
2. Bundy spent years concocting a revenge scheme to get back at his ex-girlfriend. She broke up with him because he wasn’t the type of man she wanted to marry. He transformed himself into her “perfect” husband. They started dating again. She fell in love with him. He proposed. Then he broke up with her. He planned this all out for revenge.
3. Bundy escaped from jail twice. The first time, he got lost in the Colorado mountains. After days of wandering through the forest, he stumbled back into town and was arrested a few blocks from the jail.
4. Girls loved Bundy. He actually proposed to his girlfriend in a courtroom. When the proposal happened, he was on trial for murder, and she was on the witness stand. She said yes.
5. Ted had “groupies.” Hordes of girls wrote to him in prison and attended his trials. They claimed they were in love with him. I don’t understand any of this. He was convicted of murdering young women. Why would any woman love him? Why would they want to be one of his sex corpses? Weirdos.
“The most basic bit of advice given to women who have to walk alone at night is, ‘Look alert. Be aware of your surroundings and walk briskly. You will be safer if you know where you are going, and if anyone who observes you senses that.’ The stalking, predatory animal cuts the weakest from the pack, and then kills at his leisure.” – The Stranger Beside Me