Sometimes the encounters are not completely by chance. That happened to me back in 1992. I was working as a contributing editor for Ladies' Home Journal magazine. I loved my job. I spent eighteen years with the Journal, and had incredible experiences, from interviewing presidents and first ladies to meeting the McCaughey septuplets, when there were just three-month-old little pink bundles. I enjoyed a day on a ranch with Patrick Swayze and his Arabian horses (all of them gorgeous), and I once took Marina Oswald, the widow of presidential assassin Lee Harvey, into the Dallas book depository, where decades earlier her dead husband stood aiming out a window at Kennedy's motorcade. It was her first time inside the old building, and I watched, overcome by the painful reality of what had happened in that place, as she gazed sadly out the window at the site where a president was mortally wounded.
Those experiences aside, what I wrote about the most for the Journal was crime. You might not think that a women's magazine would cover crime, but we did. Over the years, I wrote articles on murderers, serial killers and pedophiles. One article took me to Utah for a report on juvenile sex offenders and their young victims. The research absolutely broke my heart. I will always remember a five-year-old girl who'd been raped by a fourteen-year-old cousin participating in an exercise designed to give her a sense of control over her life. The youngster resolutely held up her hand and shouted, "Stop!"
I left hoping that little girl and the other children in the program would never need to defend themselves from another attacker, and I wondered if anything they learned would truly help if they did.
The article that changed my life, however, was on a Houston woman who'd married a shy young factory worker, so outwardly timid his coworkers at the paint factory showed him Playboy magazines to watch him blush. The young man, James Bergstrom, is pictured to the left, holding their daughter, Ashley. The woman in the photograph above is his ex-wife, Linda. For more than two years, Linda knew she was married to a dangerous psychopath. She called police and tried repeatedly to stop him. Her warnings went unheeded and James continued to add to his toll of victims.
Amazed at the courage of this woman, who suffered through terrifying abuse yet remained intent to save her daughter and other women, I wrote my first book, The Rapist's Wife. It came out in 1995, sold well, but due to a publishing glitch, went out of print a year later. It's the book that began my career as a true-crime author, and it's always been very special to me. I was disappointed when it was taken out of print. I can't tell you how pleased I am that HarperCollins is reissuing the book this coming week, with a new title, cover, photos and author's note, updating the case.
Evil Beside Her is available on Amazon for preorder now and in bookstores on October 28th. It's an amazing story of one woman's bravery in the face of utter depravity. Linda Bergstrom slept with the devil and lived to not only tell about it, but to stop him.