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


He was supposed to be dead. Five years after Eric Rudolph escaped into the mountains of North Carolina, the FBI had long since abandoned the largest manhunt ever launched on U.S. soil. The fugitive accused of bombing the Atlanta Olympics, a gay bar, and two abortion clinics, leaving a trail of carnage across the southeast, had become a figure of folk legend. Many of his pursuers thought he had either skipped the country or crawled into a cave to die. In fact, Rudolph had been haunting the mountains and towns he ...

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He was supposed to be dead. Five years after Eric Rudolph escaped into the mountains of North Carolina, the FBI had long since abandoned the largest manhunt ever launched on U.S. soil. The fugitive accused of bombing the Atlanta Olympics, a gay bar, and two abortion clinics, leaving a trail of carnage across the southeast, had become a figure of folk legend. Many of his pursuers thought he had either skipped the country or crawled into a cave to die. In fact, Rudolph had been haunting the mountains and towns he knew best, pilfering food, stealing trucks, stalking the men who hunted him, and keeping his secrets buried in the woods. Then one night Rudolph got careless, and a rookie cop captured him a few miles from where he had first disappeared. But even in custody, Rudolph remained a mystery.

In Lone Wolf, Maryanne Vollers brings the reader inside one of the most sensational cases of domestic terrorism in American history. In addition to her unprecedented correspondence with Rudolph, Vollers had access to the FBI, the ATF, federal prosecutors, members of Rudolph's defense team, and his family to re-create the story in all its sweeping breadth and complexity.

Lone Wolf asks the inevitable questions: Who is Eric Rudolph, and why did he kill? Is he the hate-filled neo-Nazi described by federal agents, or is he the passionate, curious, and engaging man described by his lawyers and his family? Can both personalities exist in one rare, complicated, and deadly individual?

The profilers and psychologists Vollers interviews identify Rudolph as a "lone offender," a self-appointed avenger with no real alliances and no meaningful social ties. It puts Rudolph in the same category as Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, and Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber. The "lone wolf" believes history will judge him to be a hero. Society judges him to be a monster. Without losing sight of the hideous violence of his crimes, Lone Wolf seeks to put a human face on this iconic killer as it explores the painful mysteries of the human heart.

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Editorial Reviews

Janet Maslin
A standout in the true crime genre, Ms. Vollers’s book is consistently astute. “A homemade bomb is more than a weapon,” she writes at the outset. “It is a statement.” She devotes her book to deciphering Mr. Rudolph’s statement as keenly as she can.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Eric Rudolph, who in 1996 and 1997 set off deadly bombs in Atlanta and Birmingham-at two abortion clinics, a gay bar and at Olympic Centennial Park-was both reviled as a terrorist and celebrated as a folk hero when he evaded the largest manhunt in FBI history for five years. Vollers, a National Book Award finalist for Ghosts of Mississippi, was-for reasons Rudolph never made clear-the only journalist he consented to communicate with (in writing only) while he was awaiting trial. She draws on his letters to her to great effect in providing not just a page-turning account of the hunt for Rudolph, but, more important, a look into the "remarkable and frightening mind" of a man who, after finally pleading guilty to avoid the death penalty, remained proud of his murderous actions. The cunning fugitive, whose aim was to protest abortion, explains to Vollers how he survived the winter cold in North Carolina's Nantahala forest, how he scavenged for food, talked to himself and read newspapers aloud to prevent his vocal cords from deteriorating during the years when he spoke to no one. Vollers provides an equally striking portrait of Rudolph's mother, a misguided spiritual seeker who led her son into contact with a Christian Identity compound and other survivalist, antigovernment extremists. There are plenty of surprises and conundrums in this breathtaking and deeply disturbing attempt to answer the elusive question, "Who is Eric Rudolph?" (Nov. 1) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060598624
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 11/7/2006
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 1,426,708
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.96 (d)

Meet the Author

Maryanne Vollers, the author of Lone Wolf and Ghosts of Mississippi, has also collaborated with Hillary Rodham Clinton and Ashley Judd on their bestselling memoirs. She lives with her husband in Montana.

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Read an Excerpt

Lone Wolf

Eric Rudolph: Murder, Myth, and the Pursuit of an American Outlaw
By Maryanne Vollers


Copyright © 2006 Maryanne Vollers
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-06-059862-X

Chapter One

Lone Wolf

In the end, the moon was just another enemy. It hadn't always been that way. When he started writing about his fugitive years the word he chose was "addicting": "There is something addicting about the full moon on an early summer or fall evening in the South ..." Now the moonlight pinned him to the shadows, kept him off the roads and dirt tracks where the breeze would disperse his scent before the hounds could follow it. The damp grass and foliage would hold his trail for days. The years of hiding, he later said, had turned him into a nocturnal creature, sleeping in the day, prowling for food at night, always watchful.

Eric Rudolph kept his campsite orderly: hiking boots lined up like soldiers on the cardboard pallet beneath a double tarp; scavenged newspapers and magazines stacked up neatly beside them. A small ring of stones for a cooking fire, with two blackened pots upturned to drain. He had scattered overripe bananas, tomatoes, and onions to dry in the sun. He could store them, use them later when food was scarce. His life was consumed with planning: figuring out the movement of police patrols through town, knowing which days the grocery stores dumped their expired bread and vegetables. He traced a grid on notebook paper to make into a calendar and neatly crossed off each day asit passed. When the federal agents found the calendar at his camp, the last marked date was May 30, 2003.

It was a weekend night, not much of a moon, and Rudolph figured that the lone patrolman would be distracted by teenage drunks out looking for trouble. He pulled on his "rummaging" clothes: a black cotton T-shirt, dark slacks, old black tennis shoes. In the darkness his feet remembered the steep trail down the small mountain overlooking town. When he reached the bottom he watched for the glow of headlights approaching, and when it was safe he ran across the four-lane highway, following the bridge a short distance until it crossed the Valley River. One time a car had surprised him and he'd had to hang off the side of the bridge to keep from being seen. Tonight the trip went smoothly and he dropped down quietly into a field on the other side of the river. He followed another well-worn path through the grass and weeds to the alley behind a small shopping center. The patrol car usually passed this way every hour or so. He crouched in the darkness and waited.

It was late in the third shift on the first night of the long Memorial Day weekend, and Officer Jeff Postell was running through his routine business checks along Andrews Road in Murphy, North Carolina. At about 3:30 A.M., Postell cruised through the alley behind the Save-A-Lot grocery store and the Sears appliance retailer, past a cluster of old, one-story shops with their backs to the marshy bottomland of the Valley River. Then he turned his patrol car back into the deserted parking lot.

Postell was short and slight, a twenty-one-year-old rookie with less than a year on the Murphy police force. But as his colleagues had already noticed, Postell compensated for his size with hard work and enthusiasm. More seasoned police officers might slide through the bottom of the third shift, waiting for trouble to call itself in. Not Jeff Postell. He was flush with the optimism of inexperience, and he wanted to catch himself a burglar before he switched over to working days.

Murphy is the largest municipality in the mountainous western tip of North Carolina. The town has 2,500 people in a county with 25,000 scattered residents, a population that almost doubles in the summer months. Locals like to boast that the area is "two hours from anywhere": two hours' drive from Asheville to the east, Chattanooga to the west, Atlanta to the south. Due north is the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and the Appalachian heartland. Now that the textile factories and other light industries have packed up and moved to Mexico, Murphy's main industry is tourism. The visitors come for the clean air and wide mountain views, fishing and water sports. Four counties, Cherokee, Clay, Macon, and Swain, are set within the 500,000-acre Nantahala National Forest. If you don't count the transgressions of marijuana growers in the mountains or the crank syndicates that exploit the area as a regional distribution center, crime rates are pleasantly low. The most common police blotter items involve DUIs. Restaurants close early and the streets empty out after dark. People sleep soundly in the velvet warm nights of late spring, windows open to the breeze.

As soon as Postell was clear of the lot, he cut off his lights and swung the car around the corner and back into the alley, hoping to surprise any prowlers. It was then that he spotted the figure of a man crouched down and scurrying toward the supermarket loading dock. The rookie saw something long tucked under the subject's arm, like a rifle or a shotgun on a sling. The man heard him coming and darted behind a stack of milk crates. Postell turned on his "alley lights" while he radioed dispatch for backup. Then, using his open door for cover, he got out of the patrol car, drew his sidearm, and shouted, "Come out! Put your hands where I can see 'em!"

The man complied.

"Okay, drop to your knees. Now, down on the ground. Arms out. Cross your feet ..."

The subject seemed so docile that Postell felt comfortable enough to approach and cuff him.

Cherokee County deputy Sean Matthews, known to all as Turtle, was walking out of Fatback's Citgo with a paper cup of coffee in his hand when he heard a commotion on his patrol car radio. As he climbed behind the wheel he could make out Jeff Postell's voice shouting, "Man with a gun!" It sounded pretty urgent....


Excerpted from Lone Wolf by Maryanne Vollers Copyright © 2006 by Maryanne Vollers. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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