Literary Liaisons

A blog about writing and all things story…

Close Encounters With Serial Killers

Thinking about springtime on Maui

Thinking about springtime on Maui

I have a confession to make to Arleen Williams. I’ll get to that in a moment. This morning I started to read, again, her memoir, The Thirty-Ninth Victim. I say again because when I first met Arleen a few years ago I (of course) purchased her book and settled in to read. But, I couldn’t do it. I don’t know why or what it is that stops me, because I’ve read and do read some gruesome stuff from time to time. Maybe it’s because I know her that it disturbs me to read how she can’t walk through a park ‘without imaging bones in the undergrowth’, or maybe it’s because when I first was relocated to Seattle I worked with a woman who was the younger sister of a girlfriend of Ted Bundy’s, and who had been in his Volkswagen several times as he gave her a ride – years of therapy had not helped her to forget she sat in a car, right on the very spot where murder victims had been. She couldn’t get past the constant wonder; why not her or her sister? Why did he let them live? She talked to me about it all time. I was starting to have her nightmares and as a single mother of a young teen girl, became irrationally over-protective of my daughter who was/is the sort to help a guy with a broken arm carry his groceries to his car,  that Volkswagen.

Or maybe it’s because I had the honor of having lunch with Ann Rule (a few years ago) and she talked about both Ted Bundy and Gary Ridgeway while we dined. I didn’t eat much that day. And again I had night time visions about how Ann described seeing Gary Ridgeway standing behind the crowd in the back of a bookstore where she would be doing a book signing for her books about Bundy. He stalked her, wanting (she learned later) for her to write his story. So predatory…so creepy…. Maybe these close-enough encounters with serial killers disturbs me to the core – maybe I just have an over active imagination but my confession to Arleen Williams is that The Thirty Ninth Victim upsets me too much to read. When I read it I am reminded of a man who tried to snatch me, and how I was saved by a well-meaning, brave co-worker, and how we later read that that man had raped and beaten several women between Oregon and California – I still can see his soulless eyes and feel his breath as he leaned into me, grabbed my arm and shoved me toward the door. Then I hear my friend’s voice call out to me. Then, that’s where I always wake. But it couldThe Thirty-Ninth Victim cover shot have ended so differently. And when I read Arleen’s memoir I also think of my own sister who died; how I took care of her while the cancer ate her from the inside out, how her beautiful eyes changed from blue to almost a metallic green, then foggy, then gone – how I held her hand as her soul left her body – how I felt it leave. I know Arleen would have cherished the kind of last moments I had with my sister – as I cherish them – had she had them with hers. But when I read Arleen’s book, I see my sister, and I grow overwhelmed with emotion, again and again. Maybe someday I’ll be able to read it entirely, but for now, it’s only been bits and pieces at a time, then I fall apart, more bits and pieces. Maybe someday…. But, if you want to read it you can check it out at Watpad for free. Needless to say, I won’t be there.

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3 comments on “Close Encounters With Serial Killers

  1. arleen williams
    May 4, 2014

    Dear Mindy,
    Thank you for your post and for trying repeatedly to read The Thirty-Ninth Victim. It’s not a book for all readers, but I certainly appreciate your interest and support.
    Arleen

  2. Roxana Arama
    April 27, 2014

    There was a scene in the beginning, where Arleen and her baby sister Maureen, spend time together on vacation, Mexico I think, and I could not read that scene without sobbing (and I don’t cry much when I read books), and there was nothing in that scene but happiness and good times, but the shadow of Maureen’s murder was just too much for me as a reader. It was sheer terror for me to witness that scene. I have so much respect for Arleen, for having gone through it all and having the strength to write about it, to revisit that trauma, rewrite after rewrite. So much strength and so much pain. I’m humbled.

    • Mindy
      April 27, 2014

      Well said – you’re right, it’s the shadow of the murder that make sit unbearable. And yes, Arleen is one brave soul.

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