Fans know true crime doyen Ann Rule would have written a hell of a book about Darren Sharper.

We’d know everything there was to know about his pathology, his childhood. Last time I talked to Rule, I tried to sell her on writing a book about Sharper, the former NFLer who since has been convicted of raping and drugging women in multiple states.

In that phone chat a few months ago, Rule admitted that she was not feeling well and had been using a wheelchair for a time. She had not mentioned the wheelchair during a conversation earlier this year, when I called to tell her I was going to do a better job of staying in touch in 2015. I’d feel a little better today if I’d followed through when I thought about calling her a few weeks ago.

The author of more than 30 books, a reliable best seller, Rule died Sunday at age 83 outside her beloved Seattle, with her family, including her rock, daughter Leslie Rule, reportedly nearby.

In the mid- ’70s, Ann Rule was working on her first book about a series of unsolved murders in Seattle. A caring person, she had also volunteered at a crisis hot line, a sad setting made more pleasant because she worked alongside a handsome young man she’d thought would be a great catch for some woman. He turned out to be the charming, elusive, serial murderer Ted Bundy.

The book about her personal relationship with Bundy, “The Stranger Beside Me,” made Rule’s career, but she was only getting started. She changed the true crime genre, as a woman writing books that were more about victims.

I first contacted Rule when I was a Grand Rapids Press (Mich.) courts reporter who was fascinated with Bundy. At that time there were five books about him. I had read three of them and was on a mission to read the rest. I tracked down Rule’s number and she helped me get the books I didn’t have.

A friendship was born between the Lowell, Mich., native and me.

“It’s so great to find a kindred spirit who loves the same authors, movies, actors and everything,” Rule wrote in “Possession,” one of the books she autographed for me.

Ours was not a fast friendship. She was a former police officer. She wrote about crimes. And the personal radar that should have made the hairs on the back of her neck sit up when she was with Bundy had failed her. So she was a kindly, suspicious person. She told me she made sure that I wasn’t dangerous, deranged or criminal — probably because she had friends at police departments all over the country who could vet me.

I became such a trusted friend that I once helped her thwart a potential stalker.

Rule always tried to put a Minneapolis stop on her tour schedule so she could take me out for an expensive meal on the book publisher. We got away with that twice.

On one trip I was squiring her to an interview at WCCO-TV, where she introduced me to biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli, who was also on a book tour.

On her next book tour visit, for “Green River, Running Red,” I was married. When she autographed the book for us, she asked if we wanted one or two copies. With a twinkle in her eye Rule said that was a test question. If people wanted two books, it was a tip off to her that the marriage was not going to last. We opted for one. Unfortunately, the marriage didn’t last but I retain custody of that book.

“It’s so nice to meet [name withheld] at last and touch faces again with my old buddy, C.J.!” read Rule’s lengthy inscription dated 10.8.04.

Touch faces. That’s a sweet Annism.

“Thank you so much for your art glass [a vase that had been sandblasted with one of my paintings],” the inscription continued. “I will treasure it. Love, Ann Rule.”

We never touched faces again, but maintained phone contact. I called whenever I saw her interviewed on TV. I called when I saw her name at the end of yet another movie based on one of her books.

She LOVED movie rights money and being on a movie set.

She HATED the first edit of her manuscripts, filled with notes in red. She said she sometimes had to put it away for a few days, until she felt better about her editor.

I was always calling her with pitches about Minnesota crime stories, so I could get her back here to watch her work. She preferred stories near Seattle and so she was unaware of Darren Sharper’s case when I called to tell her she needed to get on this one. He would be easy to find because he was being held in a California facility.

She wanted to hear the details. Told her Sharper was a gorgeous former Viking with divine dimples who decided it was more fun to go around the country drugging and raping women than to sit back and let volunteers be attracted to his money, status as an NFL Network analyst, his Super Bowl ring won with the Saints in 2010, and an above average understanding of grammar for a pro athlete. An unmarried father of one daughter, Sharper was an outspoken advocate of the importance of women feeling safe in our society.

There was the customary quiet on Rule’s end, while I was delivering my spiel. She was listening and although I couldn’t see her I’ll bet she was taking notes. She was a great listener. In my pitch, she appreciated the good-looking criminal angle but she didn’t hear that six-lettered word that fully drew her in — murder.

You would just never imagine just by looking at this sweet woman that nothing excited her more than finding a good murder story to tell.

Rest well, dear pal. You’re going to be bored in heaven because I don’t suspect any murders take place there.

 

C.J. can be reached at cj@startribune.com and seen on FOX 9’s “Buzz.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count. Attachments are not opened.