The Stranger Beside Me: Ted Bundy (The Shocking Inside Story) by Ann Rule

The Stranger Beside Me: Ted Bundy (The Shocking Inside Story), Ann Rule, Signet, 1981

4 Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Book – The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule

On my Goodreads account I filed The Stranger Beside Me: Ted Bundy (The Shocking Inside Story) under my “so bad it’s good” and “unintentionally hilarious” shelves. Without a proper review to qualify the categorization, it occurred to me perhaps people might misconstrue my reasoning.

The all-too-real crime of a depraved serial killer who raped and murdered countless defenseless females was not what “amused” me, for lack of a better word. Author Ann Rule’s defensive narration of her relationship with the murderous Bundy was akin to watching the Hindenburg burn up or Titanic go down. It made for quite a spectacle.

Ted Bundy

As a GenXer, I’ve heard of Ted Bundy for most of my life. I remember his execution in 1989 when they showed his dead body in the media. Tabloid news TV and the daytime talk shows were obsessed with Bundy and his depraved murders. Perhaps it was his well-mannered appearance in contrast to his heinous actions, but the Bundy killings made for a strangely fascinating tale.

True crime author Ann Rule built her reputation on Ted Bundy. Rule was his friend and co-worker. They worked together at a crisis hotline center. To her, he was a handsome, hard-working, sensitive, up-and-comer. As a writer who penned detective stories and worked with the police department, she could not see what was before her. Bundy a narcissistic sociopath who preyed upon innocent women.

Everybody knows the tale of Ted Bundy. He’s as notable a character to 20th-century American culture as Jack the Ripper is to the British Victorian Era.

The parents who raised him for the formative years of his life were, in actuality, his grandmother and grandfather. Bundy’s true mother his elder sister. Born outside of marriage, he spent the first months of infancy in an orphanage. Ted’s grandfather was abusive to him, yet Ted looked up to as him as his lone source of male authority. When Ted was older, he moved to live with his mother and her new husband, who adopted Ted as his son.

Ann and Ted, Friends

Ted was a respectable-seeming guy, a college student at the University of Washington who was majoring in psychology when Rule met Bundy. Rule was a decade older than Ted and found him charming. She trusted him so much she let her children play with him.

Rule goes on at length in her book about how she wasn’t sexually attracted to Ted. Sure, sure. Ok, so maybe her feelings were wholly platonic and she just saw Ted as a kid brother. Whatever it was, she was drawn to him and liked him.

Rule makes a big deal about her friendship with Ted. However, she only knew him for a couple of years. Of course, during part of those years, he was abducting women, butchering them, and violating their corpses.

Later, Rule writes how she never knew the real Ted Bundy. They were just casual friends. He seemed nice, so she had taken him under her maternal wing. Eventually, like many in friendships, they lost contact.

But Ann never forgot about him.

The True Crime Writer and the Killer

After Bundy was arrested for murder, the two wrote and called each other. Ted insisted on his innocence, and Ann listened to his denials. Rule believed him so much she sent him money for his defense. When Bundy escaped from prison and there was a nationwide manhunt for him, Bundy sent her letters, still proclaiming his innocence.

Even his final murderous spree in Florida where he killed a young girl, did not fully dissuade Rule about his guilt. Only after being confronted with genuine forensic evidence in a court of law, could the “savvy” writer of detective stories concede the man she considered a friend was a monster.

Conclusion

The Stranger Beside Me was an enlightening source of insight into the life and crimes of Ted Bundy. But it was even more so for the Ann Rule, who used this to catapult her career.

Denial ain’t just a river.

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin, Bantam, 1996

4 Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Book – A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

After reading A Game of Thrones, I concluded that George R. R. Martin is like a little boy who likes to create a big tower out of blocks, carefully laying one on top of the other, so the column reaches a great pinnacle that amazes. As mom’s running to take a picture, he gleefully smashes it down and watches the pieces scatter all over the room.

I was a haughty scoffer about “A Game of Thrones.” It was a popular TV show I didn’t watch. I watched programs like “Turn,” “Bates Motel,” “Damages,” and “Hannibal”…shows that are smart, but few knew were on the air. I had an annoying, superior attitude of “I am smart, do you hear me, you unwashed masses!” 😉 So when everyone and their brother, sister, uncle, plumber, and former college roommate watched the HBO series, I snootily turned my nose up at it.

“The books are so much better,” my little brother told me.

“Yeah. But it’s fantasy…” I demurred.

Long-running series about magic & mystical creatures, and I don’t get on well.

It was ok when my daughter was a child and read to us her beloved Harry Potter series. Book 1 was good, 2 was similar. 3 was more of the same. Finally, at book 4, I couldn’t take any more about Quidditch or Dumbledore’s twinkling eyes and tapped out.

The less I say about Tolkein’s much-loved Lord of the Rings series, the better. I don’t want virtual tomatoes tossed at me over the internet. I’m more of a Robert E. Howard kind of gal. I like my fantasy to be more based on sword and sorcery, short, and with an ending in sight.

Pleasantly Surprised

I don’t recall why, perhaps it was Audible credits, but I decided to give A Game of Thrones a try. I was expecting dreck, but Martin’s penchant for floral descriptions and extreme violence pleasantly surprised me. I created a Goodreads shelf just for that topic.

I began listening to the amazing Roy Dotrice narration on Audible, but I got so interested in the tale, I bought the book, too.

At first, names like Aerys, Arryn, Eyrie blended together. So many places, characters, and settings, and they all sounded alike or were weird to my ears. That’s one of the reasons I never really tried reading the fantasy genre. If I’m going to have to know the names of Kings & Queens and faraway lands, I’d rather use my ever-diminishing brain capacity to store actual historical information.

As I read on, the novel fascinated me more. With so many characters, I found some I loved, others I detested. Sansa and Catelyn were the absolute worst. I could give or take Arya. But Daenerys, Eddard & Tyrion were amazing.

The build-up took a long time, and for a while, I felt the book’s theme was “Hurry up and wait.” But the last third was a thrilling conclusion and made me truly enjoy this epic story.

Opinion

Maybe, I’ll read up to book three, although I kind of doubt I will. Martin’s never going to finish the series, and reading thousands upon thousands of pages with no grand payoff is akin to masturbating for hours and not coming to completion. Sorry, that’s vulgar, but it’s how I feel about book series with no end in sight.

The Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille

The Story of the Eye, Georges Bataille, City Lights Publishers, 1928

Extreme seductiveness is at the boundary of horror.

THE EYE

4 Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Carnality Beyond Sex

Written in 1928 and denounced as blasphemous, The Story of the Eye by French author Georges Bataille, straddles the line between horror and sex in a manner that would offend most readers, both 100 years in the past and in today’s modern era.

Although I devour trashy reads from horror to pulp to romance, I am not a fan of erotica. A vanilla erotic romance is ok, but pure pornography rarely moves me in a sensual manner. I was bored senseless by Anne Rice’s forays into erotica. It’s always the same repetitive theatrics in these books: sex in this orifice, sex in that orifice, put this object into this orifice, place that object into that orifice.

What is erotic to me in books, be it literature or trash, has always been the anticipation, the desire for the act, not the technical description of the act itself.

Books with no plot, just sex, remind me of a scene from “The Golden Girls”:

Rose: I hate to admit it, but my relationship with Miles is really getting boring. We even make love the same.
Blanche: How?
Rose: Well, first he says, “Let’s go watch TV in the bedroom.” And then I think, “Wait, he doesn’t have a TV in the bedroom.” And then he says, “Come lie down. I won’t try anything.” And then we have four hours of the most boring sex you’ve ever had in your life.
Blanche: Four hours?
Rose: I guess it could take less if I stopped playing hard to get.

THE GOLDEN GIRLS

The Depths of Depravity

While Georges Bataille’s The Story of the Eye is hardly sexually arousing, it was such a visceral work it was capable of creating deep emotions within me, whereas pure erotica bores me. Ok, the emotions were not arousal or lust, but revulsion, disgust, pity, rage, and yes, a bit of awe at the writing (which must be incredible in its original French.)

These are contemptible, loathsome people engaging in the most depraved acts. The perversity here can only lead to insanity, imprisonment, or death.

If Clive Barker was influenced by this short work, I wouldn’t be surprised. It’s easy to imagine the Cenobites’ from the Hellraiser films delighting in the blood-and-urine-soaked orgies these twisted characters engage in.

The eroticism of the human eye plays a prominent, profanely obscene role throughout the novel. A woman comes to orgasm upon seeing a man being gored by a bull, the man’s eye impaled by the horn. Later, she sits upon a plate of said bull’s testicles, her vulva bare, and exalts in delight.

Orgies, necrophilia, madness, mayhem, and murder follow the main couple as they take part in one perverse adventure after another.

To others, the universe seems decent because decent people have gelded eyes. That is why they fear lewdness. They are never frightened by the crowing of a rooster or when strolling under a starry heaven. In general, people savour the “pleasures of the flesh” only on condition that they be insipid.

THE EYE

Opinion of The Story of the Eye

This book is disgusting, nihilistic filth. However, it has no pretensions of being erotic. The Story of the Eye  is designed to engage the senses in an offensive way. It is transgressive, postmodernism, and being so, I should have detested this. However I found this to be a more honest piece of writing than many other books I’ve come upon. 

The Story of the Eye is a fascinating psychological study and more so on a metaphysical level. The author was an anti-religionist; even so, spiritual questions arise. Are these characters demonically possessed? Insane? Sane in a crazed world?

Bataille’s writing “transcends” erotica. There is literary merit to his art. It is up to the reader to decide what meaning to attribute to this tale, or if indeed, there is any meaning to it all.

The Dirty Parts of the Bible by Sam Torode

The Dirty Parts of the Bible, Sam Torode, Book Surge Publishing, 2007

“You’ve got to sin before you can be redeemed. A man might as well enjoy it.”

THE DIRTY PARTS OF THE BIBLE

4 Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Book – The Dirty Parts of the Bible

The Dirty Parts of the Bible by Sam Torode is a loose retelling of “The Book of Tobit” from the Catholic/Orthodox Deuterocanonical books of the Bible. It’s a cutesy story about a 1930’s Baptist preacher’s son, Tobias Henry, a devout atheist.

Well, he’s not a total unbeliever, admitting: 

“Whenever I feared I was in imminent danger of death, I’d call on Jesus and beg for salvation. The rest of the time, I didn’t give him any thought. Jesus was like an insurance policy against eternal fire.”

This is a sweet, whimsical tale, full of little dabs of brilliance.

A Religious and Romantic Journey

After his father is blinded after a bird shits into his eyes, Tobias leaves home to follow his father’s exhortations to seek out and regain the family’s “fortune” & honor. Tobias rides the rails from Michigan to Texas. Along the way, he gets screwed by hookers whom, lamentably, he doesn’t get to screw.

Along the way, there’s a hobo named Craw, who’s full of St Augustinian insights like:

“Don’t get old. When I was your age, all I thought about was girls. When I was forty, all I thought about was money. These days, all I ask for is a good shit once a week.” 

All while subsisting on “sonuvabitch” opossum stew.

In Texas, Tobias meets Sarah, a tough, gun-toting farm girl, whom he falls for. Sarah is unique to Tobias, unlike anyone he’s ever known.

“Sarah might not have been pretty in the usual way, but it was her little quirks that got to me. Her freckles, pointy eyebrows, the fine, downy hairs on her arms, the way she smelled. Other girls powdered over their skin, plucked their hairs, perfumed their hair. Sarah was a wild rose—graceful without trying, beautiful without knowing it. Whether it was love, lust, or just the effects of beer and a wine-colored dress, I didn’t know. But I was smitten.”

Unfortunately, the love of his life is a “durn Cathylick.” Through his relationship with Craw and his love of Sarah, he becomes more accepting to understand different religious perspectives and as he opens his mind, his heart opens to love.

God is Love

Has Tobias been looking for God in all the wrong places? Has he been so stuck on deconstructing fables that he’s missed out on experiencing something truly sacred here on Earth?

Craw tells him bluntly:

“..,[T]he point is, every woman is a vessel of beauty, life, and love—though most don’t know it. And all the forces of evil in the world are dead-set against her. That’s why loving a woman is the hardest battle you’ll ever face. Love isn’t going to fall into your lap—you’ve got to fight for it.”

Tobias discovers that God is found in the holiest of places, with the one you love. With Sarah he is complete.

While this book tackles one of life’s most controversial mysteries, religion, it’s an accessible read for anyone looking for a short, humorous slice of Americana.

The Crimson Corsair and the Lost Treasure of Count Dooku by Landry Q. Walker

The Crimson Corsair and the Lost Treasure of Count Dooku, Landry Q. Walker, Disney Lucasfilm Press, 2015

4 Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Crimson Corsair and the Lost Treasure of Count Dooku was a fun joyride about treasure-seeking pirates who compete in a deadly race against the natural elements, each other, and time. 

This fast-paced, very short read was part of a series of books tangentially related to the film The Force Awakens. Although readers of almost any age can delight in this action-packed adventure, it’s written with an eye for Star Wars fans who know their lore. Be sure to familiarize yourself with aliens such as Gamorreans, Twi’leks, Weequays, and more. Author Landry Q. Walker places neat easter eggs to many details in the Star Wars universe, whether it be the ubiquitous phrase: “I have a bad feeling about this,” to more humorous references, like yet another planet covered in that stuff that’s coarse and rough and gets everywhere:

“Ponemah was not known for its hospitable climate. Nor was it renowned for its incredible wealth of goods and resources. It did, however, have a vast overabundance of one thing: sand.”

The Sith and Jedi conflict is, for me, the most compelling aspect of the SW universe, but I love me some bounty hunters, smugglers, and pirates!

In this little episode, the Crimson Corsair, a mysterious captain who wears a red Kaleesh mask, leads his crew across the hostile desert as they fight off other pirates who seek to find riches among the ruins of a crashed CIS ship from the long-ago Clone Wars.

The mystery behind Count Dooku’s secret stash is revealed after most of the treasure-hunters are dispatched via violent methods. Only the strongest will survive to be victorious. There’s a neat twist surrounding the precious cargo the winners find, one which should have had greater ramifications in the Disney sequel trilogy, but, alas, was another missed opportunity.

The current state of Star Wars is a mixed one and I wish the political drama surrounding this IP didn’t exist. This stuff is supposed to be a campy fantasy that provides joy to your inner child, no matter what age you are. I’m grateful that there are little nuggets of gold like this that can be found. And best of all, it was free to borrow on Kindle, so why not read it?