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True Crime Author Lynda Drews on the Writer's Life

by JaimeM (writer), Australia, November 06, 2009

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Lynda Drews, author of the true crime novel Run at Destruction, talks about her life and writing about the death of her best friend.

Thank you for joining me today at Broowaha. Would you mind briefly introducing yourself?

I’m a Wisconsin native that’s been running for forty years and relishes the outdoors, whatever season. Now, with eight marathons under my belt, the sport remains one of my passions.  My husband, Jim, and I helped start Green Bay’s local running movement where the city now hosts the fourth largest 10K. My former marketing career was global, allowing me to accumulate air miles.

 During each of my two son’s middle and high school years, I let them pick a one-on-one trip with just their mom. Yes, that was me, sitting in the first five rows of those 15 Dave Mathew’s Band concerts! As a freshman in college, I’d loved two basic studies courses – creative writing and introduction to computer science. In the seventies, the latter was an emerging field. Encouraged, I became the first graduate and was hired by IBM, putting my writing passion on the backburner until I retired in 2004.

 Ever since my best friend and running partner, Pamela Bulik, mysteriously drowned in her bathtub, I knew I had a story to tell. Recently I gave the commencement speech at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse, my Alma Mater. One of the lessons I shared was to “journal your life.” When I retired, I followed my own advice. Run at Destruction: A True Fatal Love Triangle is the outcome.

You’ve written the book Run at Destruction. Would you tell us briefly about the book?

 Run at Destruction is unique. It’s the only book categorized in these two ways: first – True Crime and second – Sports/Running. There's a love triangle between three teachers/runners, a suspicious bathtub drowning, and a small-town community rattled by speculation. But rather than an intriguing work of fiction, the events in Run at Destruction really happened and they happened to my best friend and running partner, Pamela Bulik. My book takes place during a historical U.S. time period – the running boom of the 80s. 

 Pam and her husband, Bob, were members of our close-knit running group and two corners of a three-teacher love-triangle, while Linda, a charismatic teacher/runner, completed the third. Normally, football is Green Bay’s only obsession… but that changed when Pam died. Our city prided itself on its extraordinary low crime rate, fifty percent below the national average. There’d never been a tragedy like hers - “somebody up on the hill with a fancy bathroom.” Inside this baffling murder mystery, portrayals of our running community’s friendship are layered between detective work and courtroom drama. 

 When the trial, deemed to be one of the most sensationalized in Green Bay’s history, unfolds, and I take the stand, the evidence teeters between premeditated murder and a tragic accident, and the reader must decide.

 

Had others in your group talked about writing a book about everything that happened or did the idea come to you only?

 When Pam died, she had three confidants, Beezie MacNeil, Sylvia Madden and me.  Beezie had always wanted to write this story, too, but we differed in our approach. She wanted to write a fictional account and I preferred true crime.  We compromised and began writing the book as fiction based on fact, but a couple of issues arose.

 Eighteen months into the project, I also began to believe that we might have legal issues handling the story as non-fiction. After talking to a publishing attorney, this was confirmed. Our characters certainly resembled “actual persons, living or dead.”  At that point, Beezie dropped out of the project, with no ill effect on our friendship, and I started from scratch, including “all the evidence,” while creating a true crime story that still read like a suspenseful novel. Instead of being a joint author, Beezie now became a major character within Run at Destruction.

It was also interesting to note that during my research, I found documentation stating that while awaiting his first-degree murder trial, the defendant had started writing a book concerning his legal situation. Because a criminal cannot profit from his crime, however, it never came to fruition.  I understand from an attorney friend, that the defendant’s attorney’s wife, who taught English at the school where my husband taught, had also started to write this story, but again, it has never been published.   

 About how long after the actual crime and trial did you begin thinking about turning this all into a book?

It is one thing to say you wanted to write this story and another thing to actually begin. Beezie and I started talking about turning Pam’s story into a book soon after our grief began to subside. Our close-knit running group has been meeting every Wednesday night since 1977. Pam’s death occurred in 1984.

During my intense IBM career, I was balancing my family commitments while working about 80 hours a week. I found, literally, no time to start a book. For twenty years Beezie and I continued to discuss this tragedy that had so drastically affected our community. Just weeks after I retired, we finally began our project.

 You were a direct participant in the trial and a friend of the victim, but did you have to do any additional research for the book?

 In addition to documenting my memories, I interviewed both friends and Pam’s family, read running logs from those years, and perused photo albums. I also secured high school and college yearbooks. Linda was the teacher/runner having the affair with Pam’s husband, Bob. Luckily she spelled her name with an ‘i” rather than a “y.”  I discovered where Linda went to high school and then couldn’t believe my luck when I found an old yearbook on eBay, from the year she’d graduated, that I bid on and won.

To understand the police investigation and trial, I read old newspaper articles, and interviewed detectives, attorneys, the judge, the coroner, the psychiatrists, and even three of the jurors. I purchased two immense boxes of police records and more than 100 photos. In our county’s courthouse, I scanned three massive boxes of court records into my laptop, plugging parking meters every two hours. While doing this tedious job, I listened to books on tape. One day, by mistake I couldn’t hear the narrator, so I kept turning up the player.

Someone finally tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to my headphones that had mistakenly become unplugged. She smiled saying that the whole office was listening to a suggestive sex scene. Boy was I embarrassed!

What would you like readers to take away from reading your book?

One of my chapters is called a Tale of Two Stories. Studying the defense and prosecution strategies was an eye-opener. It’s interesting…  let’s hypothesize that the defendant has been unjustly accused. On the stand, he is sworn to tell the truth, no matter how strange it may seem. The prosecution, on the other hand, can sift through the evidence, picking and choosing what will be utilized to develop a damaging scenario.

I asked the Assistant DA what he’d been looking for in a jury while prosecuting the Bulik case. He said, “I don’t want smart people that try to figure out what happened. I want to tell them a story and have them believe my version.”  While researching my book, removed from my emotions, the media, and the biases of friends, I wanted to figure out what had really happened. Shockingly I discovered that my previous beliefs about Pam’s death had changed. I also realized how much I still miss her.

Is this it for you for writing or are you working on other projects at the moment?

I’ve started a fictional murder mystery, but have temporarily put it on hold to market Run at Destruction. It’s not that I’m not writing! It takes a tremendous amount of time, thought, and creativity to keep up with your blog, facebook, twitter, website, media interviews, appearances, and book club talks.

Where can people find out more about you and your book?

The best place to start is at my website www.lyndadrews.com. My front page provides reviews and links to purchase my book on Amazon, B&N, Borders, and Target, my book-signing tab provides future appearances, and my contact page directs you to my email, facebook and blog.

Would you like to mention anything else?

Dr. Ronald Rook, an orthopedic surgeon, once said, “I do not run to add days to my life– I run to add life to my days.” And so did Pam.

Thank you your time and this interview.

 



About the Writer

JaimeM is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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2 comments on True Crime Author Lynda Drews on the Writer's Life

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By Theresa H Hall on November 06, 2009 at 09:57 pm

Bingo! What a great interview! Well done you.

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By longli503 on August 08, 2015 at 01:25 am

Trial has been set for four Pennsylvania men accused of robbing Paul Medawar Fine Jewelry now that a judge has given prosecutors the OK to use evidence placing the defendants in Grand Rapids during the April, 2014 hold-up and in Oakland County during a similar heist later that day. The government says cell phone data puts the group near the Medawar robbery on April 22, 2014 and near Tapper's Jewelry in West Bloomfield Township, which was hit several hours later. Thieves got away with $1.5 million in Rolex watches from that heist. Defense attorneys wanted the cell phone information thrown out because it was obtained without a search warrant, in violation of the replica watches uk Fourth Amendment. The case had been on hold for several months while U.S. District Judge Laurie J. Michelson listened to arguments from both sides. She settled the issue in a 38-page ruling handed down last week. Michelson's decision comes three months after two federal appeals courts decided that police do not need a search warrant to track the locations of a suspect's cell phone. "This argument is not novel and has been rejected by other district courts,'' Michelson wrote. Trial for Nathaniel Pembrook, Shaeed Calhoun, Orlando Johnson and David Briley is now set for Oct. 13 in U.S. District Court in Detroit. Federal investigators say they are part of a Philadelphia-based crime ring that targeted jewelry stores in the Great Lakes replica rolex region. Six days after the Michigan heists, federal investigators asked cell phone companies to provide the phone numbers of cell phones that connected to communications towers near the two stores, federal court documents show. The robbery at 4518 Plainfield Ave. NE took place at 12:30 p.m. About 5 p.m. the same day, Tapper's Jewelry was hit. Surveillance video indicates the three involved in that robbery were also responsible for the failed heist in Grand Rapids in which one of the four suspects was shot. Police were looking for a common phone number active at each location around the time of the crimes. A federal magistrate ordered Metro PCS, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile "to disclose all replica watches records and other information about all communications'' made using cell towers providing service to the Medawar store between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. and at Tapper's between 4 p.m. and 5:15 p.m., court records show. Phone records indicated one telephone number was active at both sites during the time frame of each robbery. The phone data helped investigators zero in on the suspects. Pembrook, who was shot during the Medawar incident, was arrested in early September. The three others were nabbed a month later. Based on prior felony convictions, the quartet face up to life in prison if convicted.

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