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 and childhood. Last time I talked to Rule, I tried to sell her on writing a book about 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 said that she was not feeling well and was using a wheelchair. She had not mentioned that 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 few weeks ago.
The author of more than 30 books, a reliable bestseller, 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 Seattle murders. She 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 serial murderer Ted Bundy. The book about her connection with Bundy, "The Stranger Beside Me," made Rule's career.
I first contacted Rule when I was a courts reporter for the Grand Rapids (Mich.) Press and fascinated with Bundy, at that time the subject of five books. I had read three of them and I tracked down Rule's number in an effort to get the rest. 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 an instant friendship. 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 suspicious person. I'm pretty sure she had a police friend vet me to make sure I wasn't deranged or criminal. 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 book tours so she could take me out for an expensive meal on the book publisher. We got away with that twice. On one trip, I squired her to an interview at WCCO-TV, where she introduced me to biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli, also on a book tour. At the time of her tour for "Green River, Running Red," I was married. "It's so nice to meet [name withheld] at last and touch faces again with my old buddy, C.J.!" said Rule's lengthy inscription, dated Oct. 8, 2004.
Touch faces. That's a sweet Annism.
"Thank you so much for your art glass [a vase sandblasted with one of my paintings]," the inscription continued. "I will treasure it. Love, Ann Rule."
We never touched faces again, but I called whenever I saw her interviewed on TV or 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. Sometimes she 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. She preferred crimes near Seattle, and so she was unaware of Darren Sharper's case.
She wanted the details. Told her Sharper was a gorgeous former Viking with divine dimples who decided to go around the country drugging and raping women rather than to sit back and let volunteers be attracted to his money, status as an NFL Network analyst, his Super Bowl ring and above-average grammar.
An unmarried father of one daughter, Sharper was an advocate for women feeling safe in our society.
There was the customary quiet on Rule's end.
She was listening and, I suspect, taking notes. But my pitch lacked that six-letter word she needed — murder. You would never imagine 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 you'll find any murders there.
C.J. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and seen on FOX 9's "Buzz." E-mailers, please state a subject; "Hello" does not count. Attachments are not opened.