three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
28-May-June-2007
user_rating: 
0

Eric Rudolph, Murder, Myth, and the Pursuit of an American Outlaw

A-Lone Wolf"A homemade bomb is more than a weapon," writes Maryanne Vollers. "It is a statement." When Eric Rudolph set off deadly bombs at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, at an abortion clinic and a gay bar near Atlanta in 1997, and at an abortion clinic in Birmingham in 1998, he couldn’t have made a stronger declaration. For five years, Rudolph dodged the FBI’s manhunt and lived in the forests of North Carolina, earning a reputation as a "lone-wolf" hero to some and a villain to others. Caught in 2003, he pleaded guilty to the four bombings and is now serving four consecutive life terms in prison. Vollers, who communicated with Rudolph in prison, delves inside the mind of an unremorseful killer, an antiabortion activist, and a neo-Nazi while untangling his complex life and motives.
HarperCollins. 356 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 006059862X

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"Like any good true crime account Lone Wolf is most interesting for elements that are stranger than fiction. … Ms. Vollers finds that while certain generalities apply to bombers (the claim that ‘we’ are responsible tells investigators that the suspect probably acted alone), this was not a simple case." Janet Maslin

Chicago Tribune 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Vollers might have mitigated [her lengthy descriptions] by taking a firmer editorial hand: telling us why we ought to care so much about turf disputes between various agencies, or, better yet, explaining what these experiences have to say about the nature of terrorism and counterterrorism in the U.S. Instead, she largely shies away from drawing larger conclusions on this or any other matter, preferring to see Rudolph’s story, from start to finish, as ‘a touchstone for the expectations of others.’" Beverly Gage

Denver Post 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Vollers attempts to let the reader in on what makes Rudolph tick and succeeds to a large degree, using contacts inside the investigation and in Rudolph’s family—particularly Rudolph’s mother, as well as correspondence with Rudolph from his prison cell. … It would have been nice to learn more, though, about his time in the woods." Tom Walker

Los Angeles Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"When [Rudolph] is absent—and he is absent for long stretches—the book bogs down as the author recites the names of countless investigators at the dozens of law-enforcement agencies involved in the case. … Although she never loses sight of the atrocity of Rudolph’s crimes, Vollers spends the bulk of Lone Wolf attempting to humanize someone whom many people regard as a monster." Valerie Boyd

Oregonian 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Vollers is a smart, thorough reporter who … relies on facts rather than psychological profiling. … Lone Wolf is a fascinating narrative that starts with Rudolph’s capture and goes into the forensics lab to explain his crimes through the evidence, using the kind of detail CSI fans love." Jeff Baker

Critical Summary

That Eric Rudolph admired the film version of Maryanne Vollers’s book Ghosts of Mississippi perhaps explains why Vollers was the only journalist with whom he corresponded while awaiting trial. On the basis of Rudolph’s letters, FBI files, and interviews with his family, this compelling true-crime story draws a portrait of a "lone-wolf" criminal who, fueled by antiabortion and antihomosexual sentiment, felt compelled to kill. The best parts center on Rudolph; when he disappears, the narrative slows down. While most reviewers agree that Vollers’s grisly details and humanistic approach create a "gripping investigation of the bomber’s mind" (New York Times Book Review), a few contend that readers never fully understand Rudolph’s actions. In the end, notes the Los Angeles Times, Voller acknowledges that a satisfying answer to the question "Who is Eric Rudolph?" may be "as elusive as the man himself once was."

Also by the author

Ghosts of Mississippi (1995): Award Star National Book Award finalist. In 1963, white supremacist Byron De La Beckwith murdered civil rights leader Medgar Evers; not until 1994 did a Mississippi jury finally convict him. Vollers explores this story against the backdrop of a changed South.