Saturday, October 25, 2008

Where it all began . . .

by Kathryn Casey

Have you ever noticed how chance encounters can change your life? You walk down one street instead of another, happen upon an old friend, and rekindle a precious relationship, or you drive down the highway and miss your exit, take the next instead, and get hit by a car driving 60 miles-an-hour on the feeder road. Obviously, the first is a good thing. The second? Wouldn't we all prefer to know so we can make sure we get off at the right exit?

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.

9 comments:

Leah said...

The Rapist's Wife was one of the first true crime books I read. It was excellent. I can't wait to read Evil Beside Her. Congratulations Kathryn.

Kathryn Casey said...

Thanks, Leah. Much appreciated.

luvmypeanut said...

This is me... off to preorder a copy!

Congrats!

Kathryn Casey said...

Thanks! Hope you enjoy...

LadySheila said...

Dear Ms. Casey,

Can't wait to read this. I think I'm ready now. Maybe if I read more about other people's lives I will be able to deal with my very own bad marriage with an undiagnosed person bearing the same traits...if you only knew.

Kathryn Casey said...

Sorry, ladysheila. Sounds rough. Hope it's better now....

Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing this book. I knew James and Linda in Washington. I play a small part in the book as the guy who helped Linda Leave james the first time he was arrested. At that time she told my wife and I she was being abused and we helped her leave him. Can't beleive she went back. I truly hope she is doing well after all this, she deserves it.
I hope there is a strong message in the book about just never really knowing anyone, jim seemed so nice and meek, nothing like the monster he was.
I plan on reading the book sooner or later. But having known him, it creeeps me out a little too much knowing he was around me and my wife alot.

PiscesEarth1987 said...

Whatever happened to Linda? Is she and her daughter okay? and what about the husband is he rotting in jail where he should be if not hell itself?!

Anonymous said...

Hello,
I just finished reading the book and the actions and the patience that Linda demonstrated are so real to me that it scared me. I almost didn't read the Afterword section of the book and the sentence of the whole book that most distrubed me was on the bottom of page 370 when James referenced himself to Job- the righteous man tormented by the devil. My ex- referenced himself to the same Bible story, I was a student he was a professor and I entrusted him bc a year prior I was raped and he said if I had somemeth it would relax me. Six years later I lived through lies, mental abuse and he put me down in ways that I am ashamed to admit that I allowed. Five years ago, I was in a car accident and had gasoline poured over me and played a game similiar to Linda's in trying to get him caught. One other student told me such a story that I thought I was listening to myself prior to my accident. Since my accident 5 years ago- I had some additional family drama- but I feel as if I have been living on death row and cannot deal anymore. Like Linda's situation I spoke up and told so truth and now I am willing to go to any extreme to just sleep and if I end up in a looney bin-bc after my accident I did and also was in the ER room bc no one believed me and I am tired of hearing the broken record. I lost everyone I love bc they think I am a freak and I just cannot stand living in this hell anymore, that goodness someone listened to Linda and wake up out there it can happen to anyone. That reference to the Bible put me over the top.