on October 31, 2009
there is way too much in the book about marathon running, so unless that is a particular interest, you may tend to, as I did, skip paragraphs and entire pages owing to so much about the various races the author runs...
I read a lot of true crime and prefer when a book is written by someone from outside of the victim's realm, as it tends to be somewhat more neutral...this is written by the best friend of the victim so of course it is highly tilted toward the husband being guilty in her mind. Also the smalltown mentality of Green Bay in the early-mid 80's tended to view adultry with such horror, that anyone who commit that could do almost anything...you get the feeling that this man does not have a chance, guilty or not.
But it is an interesting story if you are one that does not mind reading as much as about the author and her family as about the victim and the crime. I would not have purchased it, probably, if I had taken note that the author was so close to the victim.
on August 11, 2009
When I started leafing through this true-crime book about a Green Bay murder, I had no intention of actually reading the thing. To my surprise though, the 2009-published tale describes events of a quarter-century earlier. On the very first page I recognized people I had met and places I had visited while summering with cousins in 1984. To this day, my aunt and uncle continue to be good friends of many of the book's principal characters.
While that was the initial hook, the story's excellent organization made it captivating. The author (Lynda Drews) has an uncanny feel for how much "backstory" is just enough before returning to the post-crime narrative and unfolding of the criminal case. This pattern repeats through the first half of the book but is handled so deftly as to keep the reader fully engaged. The book's second half is mostly a skilfully told account of the murder trial. Here again Drews takes the reader through a week and a half of arguments and testimony, hitting the key material with perfect pacing and never bogging down in minutiae.
While I am not a fan of the true-crime genre, I cannot help but think that this book is a rarity in the category simply by virtue of the fact that Lynda Drews herself was one of the closest confidants of the murder victim. This gives the book a level of personal insight and authenticity seldom reached by investigative journalists and big-time writers who later try to elbow their way onto a crime scene. That Drews should turn out to have the patience and skill to craft such a readable and fascinating book in her authoring debut is nothing short of remarkable.
The book suffers ever-so-slightly from cost-saving publishing standards: The photographic reproductions are often fuzzy, low-contrast, and all are black & white. A few grammatical errors sneaked into the first print run, and comma placement on a couple occasions was very odd. This handful of items didn't detract from the story though, and is not nearly enough to dock a "star" from the review. This is the best book I've read in the last two years, and the perfect run of five-star ratings garnered to date are well-deserved.
on July 29, 2009
I lived and breathed this enthralling book from the first page to the last. Lynda has written a true crime book that instantly hooks her readers and takes them back to her life in Green Bay in the early 1980s. She shares the history of the first running group in the area. She introduces us to Pam Bulik, her best friend and running partner. She describes the spiraling down of Pam's relationship with her husband, Bob and his long-term affair that leads to repeated betrayals and ultimate tragedy. Though this book is nonfiction, it reads like a captivating novel with a plot that's pure action from start to finish. The main characters are so well-developed that I felt like they were my friends, too. Most of the characters are respected professionals, rock-solid citizens of Titletown--primarily teachers and athletes--which renders the murder even more bizarre.
The author maintains a fine balance between her factual reports and her personal reflections--past and present. And, while she reports on the investigation and courtroom scenes, these sections are not bogged down with sticky details. To personalize her story further, she intersperses photos of her running friends and their families. Also included are pictures of the crime scene and evidence. Near the end of this riveting book, Lynda throws us a curve ball. She presents some facts recently gleaned in the process of her research. They muddy the waters for her and her readers: what really happened: was Pam's death a murder (cold-blooded or accidental) or was it suicide? Questions resonate in our heads long after we turn the final page. And Lynda's memories of Pam, her dearly cherished best friend, are immortalized in our hearts.
on August 19, 2009
You will not be able to put this book down. This is a read much like the races described inside, at times painful but the end is worth every tough mile. Because the author lived through this story, the reader is able to get so much deeper into the minds and hearts of each character. This is one of the best true crime accounts I have ever read, even though I still don't know what truly happened to Pam. Premeditated murder, suicide or tragic accident? Read this book and decide for yourself, the author gives you every tool except the actual truth, which only two people know and dead men tell no tales....
Imagine yourself as a suburban yuppie, enjoying the high drama of PTA debates over the best date for next year's spring carnival or the nail-biting election of a new secretary at the little league. Votes tallied, you all gather for a barbecue on someone's brick patio, share some stories about the challenges of the local park landscaping project and then drift away to make plans for church on Sunday. Now imagine you've heard some whispers about infidelity among your ranks. Juicy for gossip, eh? Suddenly, the cheater's wife dies under mysterious circumstances and the cheater is questioned by police. Now comes the reality of serious crime invading your perfect life.
If you can imagine all that, you'll be right at home in suburbia with Run at Destruction, the true crime memoir and maiden literary effort from retired Wisconsin marketing executive Lynda Drews. Hard-core veterans of the true crime genre will likely find the book a bit naïve and tedious, with Drews recounting the 1984 Green Bay murder case of best friend Pam Bulik like an ingénue attending her first debutante ball. She agonizes in suspense, for example, while waiting for the trial judge to consider the defense attorney's standard motion to dismiss--an exercise made for the record in every trial after the prosecution rests and routinely rejected by the judge in all but the most unusual of cases. She likely delivers the book's own epitaph for some of the true-crime faithful when she compares its events with a story arc from the 1980s prime time soap opera, Knot's Landing.
But I enjoyed Knot's Landing, myself, and considered it a guilty pleasure. I also understand the differences between hard-core true-crime investigative reporting and a woman's memoir of something that certainly had to rank as a life-changing event. In Run at Destruction, those genres blend to produce a memoir that is more dramatic than most and a true-crime narrative more personal than the norm. Once potential readers know those parameters, only one question remains: Is the crime and its resolution interesting enough to suffer through the soap? The verdict in my court is: Yes. For memoir enthusiasts, the author's wild-eyed wonderment over discovery and exploration of the judicial process may actually add some charm.
About sixty percent of Run at Destruction involves coverage of the 1984 trial of Pam Bulik's husband, Bob Bulik, where the mystery centers on the question of whether Pam's death was murder, accident or suicide. Bob had discovered her body drowned in a bathtub the morning after he had unexpectedly returned home early from what had been planned as a Marine Corps reserve training weekend. But police found evidence that Pam had spent part of the night in the couple's van and had suffered some degree of carbon monoxide poisoning as well. Once they added evidence of Bob's lingering extra-marital affair with a family acquaintance, prosecutors had a case that became a mixture of scientific conjecture, psychological profiling and, as Drews admits, a Knot's Landing-style scandal.
The major characters were all teachers who participated in competitive running events. They enjoyed Neil Diamond, drank Old Fashioneds and considered peeks at Playgirl magazine a real walk on the wild side. Through the death of a close friend and the trial of her husband, however, they discovered another world that had been hidden beneath that façade.
As a work of literature, Run at Destruction offers an intriguing question on its own about the validity of the so-called true crime memoir emerging more and more as a nonfiction sub-genre. True crime memoirists enjoy the power of first-person reporting that shares ringside observations of a crime and creates an instant bond with the reader. But true crime memoirists also carry the burden of providing the reader with an objective account of all facts. Drews appears to be a true crime memoirist who has accepted the responsibility of providing a first-person perspective without the unsavory first-person bitterness that can strain the credibility of an otherwise interesting tale.
on November 20, 2009
As far as I can tell, RUN AT DESTRUCTION (RUD) is Lynda Drews' first book, and despite the fact that she does not understand the use of the comma or the difference between the words "imply" and "infer" and that she routinely uses the word "ironically" to mean "coincidentally", she writes competently for a beginner which is more than can be said for a lot of veteran authors in the true crime genre. However, this is the only positive comment I can make about the book, which is ostensibly about the murder in Green Bay, WI, of her good friend, Pam Bulik, and the subsequent trial of her accused killer. I say ostensibly because the book is actually only tangentially about Pam. Its main subject - by a wide margin - is the life and times of Lynda Drews herself to the extent that Pam's story is essentially background material. Drews could just as easily have been writing about Utah sugar beet production or the Lindbergh kidnapping.
Let me say that I stopped reading at page 146 as RUD is so irritating and so boring that I could read only 2 or 3 pages at a time and it's unlikely I'd have finished it before Easter.
Drew has to be one of the most self-centered and self-satisfied authors I've ever read, and there is nothing too trivial about her life for her to omit. As one example, Drew and her friends were regular runners and she finds it necessary to mention each and every race she or her husband participated in, including her group's CONSTANT Fun Runs. She describes all of her circle of friends' parties - and they were numerous - mentioning the participants by name, how they were dressed, and any other minutiae that catch her fancy. And though the subject is never confronted head on, she frequently mentions the group's alcohol consumption. This thread is so ubiquitous that I began to picture knots of drunken or hung-over runners regularly careening around the streets and trails of the greater Green Bay area.
So you may fully grasp Drews' maddening self-absorption I have chosen at random some examples, which can be found on each and every page:
"Jim (Drews' husband) slid his hand under my hair and began rubbing the nape."
"Jim looked at my flushed cheeks and brushed the damp bangs out of my eyes. `I sure do love you ` I captured his hand, kissing the palm."
"Pam had finally completed her special education credits...I still flushed remembering how we'd agreed to celebrate her achievement."
"Daryl (said) 'Maybe Bob is guilty. Maybe he's not. How do we know until we've heard all the facts?' My face flushed."
"I flushed, remembering one situation I'd never shared with Pam..."
Though I realize I may just be ill informed, I have never heard of such constant flushing in an individual and thought that Drews might have been wise to consult a doctor. But I know that she didn't, as, had she done so, she would have droned on about it including what she wore, the doctor's hair, and a description of the office.
Drews probably should have seen a doctor, though, because her symptomology was not confined to excessive flushing:
"Jim waited until we'd ordered drinks and gyros, and then took a deep breath. "'Lynda, I need to tell you something.' My heart sped up, seeing his concerned face."
"Watching the petite lady...had given me goose bumps."
"Pam cracked her beautiful smile, giving me goose bumps."
This woman is not well. And parenthetically, if your goose is missing some bumps, one of the first places I'd look for them is on Lynda Drews.
More bad soap opera-esque writing:
"Dressed neatly in a navy sport coat, plaid shirt, tie and khakis, Taylor climbed out of his unmarked brown Chevy. With flared nostrils, slight jowls, and bags below his eyes he looked a bit like the Cowardly Lion from the 1939 film THE WIZARD OF OZ." Seems improbable, but then I wasn't there.
"Her shiny fudge hair, always worn in a bob, was disheveled..." Drews does not specify, but I assume her hair was not black walnut.
"...the city's ethnic makeup of hardy Germans, Belgiums, and Scandinavians."
"'Bill was a terrible dancer!' Kathleen said, her green eyes twinkling."
"Eyes flashing, the prosecutor then detailed her numerous bruises and scrapes."
"On race mornings,...we'd clamber into Pam's van, and with Neil Diamond blasting, we'd rev up while driving to the run. Pam would lead the charge as we'd hijack the men's bathrooms. Once the gun went off she would relish sweating and even spitting during the race."
And as a hyperbolic example of RUD's consistent soap opera tone: "If I could picture Linda's long slim legs wrapped around Bob's sleek back, while she massaged his muscular shoulders, as the prelude to their ultimate `act', what must Pam have thought?"
Demonstrating Drews' propensity for self-congratulation to the exclusion of the actual case, "In the 1890s Green Bay had been in the midst of its boom years, and Astor was its most prestigious residential neighborhood. Victor Minihan, a co-founder of the Green Bay Press-Gazette, was one of our home's early owners.... For a pittance we were able to purchase our 1899 Queen Anne Victorian, with its beautiful open gables, original slate roof, tiled fireplaces, and its back and front staircases."
And finally, in an example of Drews' starkly unembarrassed narcissism, she dumps the day to day activity of shoring Pam up emotionally onto her friend, and is then hurt when she is not privy to titillating inside information. "Even though Pam's crisis was escalating, it was impossible for me to support her needs the way I should. After I hung up, I called Beezie (who) could devote time to Pam when I felt I couldn't. Over the next four weeks, I was grateful when Beezie became Pam's crutch." But then, "Later I cornered Beezie. I knew she was also (in addition to Pam) hiding some secret. She would only say, `The Bulik's counselors are still helping them work through their issues.' A terrible sense of rejection overwhelmed me. I felt that my best friends wouldn't trust me with their confidences when we'd shared absolutely everything in the past."
You will notice that none of these examples contain anything about the murder, investigation, or trial as those facets are essentially incidental to the book that Drews has chosen to write, and she mentions them only in the context of herself, her life, and her emotions. I would estimate that the 146 pages I read, if reduced to the actual information they contain about Pam Bulik's case, would consist of about 40 pages.
Do not read this book if you want a well reported account of an interesting true crime. But if an account of the author's essentially mundane life appeals to you, RUD will be right up your alley, because the book is all Lynda Drews all the time.
on May 17, 2012
Book describes a Fatal Love Triangle where all of the parties were involved in the running community in Green Bay, WI. IF you do not run (or at least used to run) and are not familiar with the Green Bay area, because of all the descriptions of local races, "Run at Destruction" may not be for you. I ran most days in the era that the book describes, 83/84. I moved to WI in '99, so I've been to Green Bay a number of times, and am familiar with a number of the areas described.
The author is also a Runner and was best friends with the victim. The book was written about 25 years after the events occurred. The author gives a very detailed account of the trial , and it was very easy for me to understand how the Jury came up with its verdict.
The book certainly held my interest and if the Subject matter interests you I think you will be quite wrapped up in reading "Run at Destruction".
on November 29, 2009
"Truth is stranger than fiction." Those famous words from Mark Twain have been a driving force in my reading life for at least the last decade. Somewhere along the line, I discovered Ann Rule, a widely-known true crime author, and never looked back. I became addicted to these types of stories...the personality disorders, the trail of evidence, the deceptions, the trials, the victims. I literally have read hundreds of these stories. I think somewhere deep down in my psyche, I thought that if I learned the signs of sociopathic personality, I might have a better chance of avoiding them! Where am I going with all of this? Well, recently I was offered the chance to review this book and I jumped at it. While I have diversified my reading selections since I started blogging, this is one of my favorite genres.
The author, Lynda Drews, has an interesting tale to tell. Her and her husband, Green Bay, WI natives, have been avid runners and marathoners most of their adult lives. The running community in Green Bay is a tight-knit bunch...they run together, they party together, they are each others' support systems and are all good friends. On April 7, 1984, however, this world imploded for Lynda. Her best friend, Pam Bulik, was found drowned in her bathtub, presumably of suicide. Soon, after the facts begin to emerge, Lynda, the rest of her group, and the police know this was no suicide. They all believe Pam was murdered by her husband Bob.
The Buliks' lives are unspooled before us. From Lynda's own knowledge, police interviews and crime scene details, we learn about the deterioration of the Bulik marriage. Of Bob's long-term affair with a fellow school-teacher, which becomes the primary motive. Of a mysterious attack on Pam nine months earlier, which was never solved. Of Pam's fear that Bob was drugging her, her depression, and fight to lift herself out of the quagmire. Of Bob's convoluted and lame explanation for what happened on April 7th. Lynda provides the history, the evidence, the trial, the verdict, the aftermath, and Lynda's involvement in process, from a point of view that is as street-level as it gets.
Throughout the book, you get such a sense of Lynda's raw devastation from the loss of her friend and the senselessness of the crime. This book is truly a labor of love, and a tribute to Pam's memory. But most impressive is her ability to also step away from her emotion and present the facts, and look at the case from different angles. I suppose time allows her a bit of this control, but from where I sat, I was ENRAGED. At one point, while my husband was playing with his iPhone and I was in my chair reading, I caused him to start when I exploded "ARGH, damn I hope they fry this guy!". I was highly disturbed that the legal system prevented the inclusion of certain, very important facts in the trial. I was disturbed by Bob's cocksure attitude and pathological lying. All of this adds up to a phenomenal true crime story, matching up nicely against anything else out there.
So how does it all end? Is Bob found guilty or innocent? Where is Bob now? Well, it is public record of course, but you aren't going to hear it from me. You need to read this book for the goods.
on June 8, 2011
I read this book from the perspective of someone who knows the main character, although our collegial relationship began years after the subject of this book was over. Because I was totally unaware of this episode in my colleague's life until shortly before I read the book, it became for me one of those can't-put-it-down-until-I-see-how-it-ends book. Maybe it wouldn't be quite as enthralling to someone not familiar with the case or the people involved, but I thought it was extremely well written for a first book by this author, and should be of interest to anyone who enjoys the crime-thriller genre.
on August 8, 2013
The true crime genre is more difficult to master than most people realize. The difficulty of infusing true people and events into structured prose that sounds like fiction and keeps the reader's attention is not easy. Lynda Drews was able to do just that in her book, Run at Destruction.
To add to the problem was the author's personal relationship with the victim, Pam Bulik. It's a testament to the author's skills that she was able to tell the story without seeming biased, or like a victim herself.
One of the hardest parts for any true crime author is the courtroom. What's there has to be factual, but it also can't play out like a fictional movie, but again, the author handled this area like the pro she is.
Run at Destruction is a book well worth reading