Today, Hartford Books Examiner welcomes Lois Duncan.
The author of more than fifty books, Ms. Duncan’s most recent release is One to the Wolves: On the Trail of a Killer (Planet Ann Rule, LLC, $7.99) – the much anticipated follow-up to Who Killed My Daughter? (1992), a non-fiction account of Kaitlyn Arquette’s unsolved murder. Ms. Duncan is perhaps best known for her young adult suspense novels (including I Know What You Did Last Summer) which have won Young Reader Awards in 16 states and three foreign countries; the author also received the Margaret A. Edwards Award in 1992, presented by the School Library Journal and the Young Adult Library Services Association, to honor a living author for a distinguished body of adolescent literature. Also a journalist, she has had more than 300 of her articles and short stories published in a variety of periodicals. Ms. Duncan, along with her family, created and maintains the Real Crimes web site – a resource for families of homicide victims to share their stories. She lives in Florida.
One to the Wolves was published digitally last week. Legendary true crime writer Ann Rule called the book, “Chilling…Gripping…A riveting true story of a mother’s fight for justice.”
From the publisher:
In 1992, Lois Duncan, acclaimed author of fictional suspense novels, wrote a horror story she could never have imagined writing—a true account of the murder of her own daughter, Kaitlyn Arquette. Kait, 18, was shot to death as she drove home from a friend’s house on a Sunday evening in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Police closed the unsolved case as a “random shooting,” refusing to accept information that indicated otherwise, although it had all the earmarks of a professional hit.
That first book, WHO KILLED MY DAUGHTER?, was Duncan’s desperate attempt to motivate informants and prevent the facts of Kait’s story from becoming buried. It turned out to accomplish much more than that.
Duncan’s new book, ONE TO THE WOLVES: ON THE TRAIL OF A KILLER, is even more horrifying than its predecessor as new information poured in, the family ran for their lives, and their original suspicions turned out to be the tip of an iceberg so immense that Kait, herself, could not have known how dangerous the information was that she had been sitting on in order to protect a now-estranged boyfriend.
Since Kait didn’t live to reveal it, her mother now does so in a book so intense and yet so painfully human that the reader will never forget it. All of the elements of a suspenseful mystery are here–intrigue, turns and twists, cover-ups, and page-turning action. The sobering fact is that, this time, the story isn’t fiction.
Perhaps most chilling is the fact that the cover art is an etching of a wolf that Kait made when she was ten years old. Is it possible that, even then, she was having nightmares about the predator who would come for her eight years later? This is probably the only occasion when a murder victim was the cover artist for a book about her own murder.
Now, Lois Duncan shares her most personal story with readers…
1) ONE TO THE WOLVES is the follow-up to WHO KILLED MY DAUGHTER? (1992). How does this book build upon its predecessor – and what made you decide that now was the time to publish it?
WHO KILLED MY DAUGHTER? was a “grief book,” written to motivate informants and prevent the facts of our daughter, Kait Arquette’s, murder from becoming buried. It accomplished both purposes.
ONE TO THE WOLVES is an “action book.” It chronicles all that occurred after that first book was published. As a result of our continued personal investigation, we discovered that the suspicions we’d held, though accurate, were only the tip of the ice berg. At the time Kait was shot she was in a position to expose a myriad of criminal activities that implicated people at a very high level. Kait was a powder keg getting ready to go off.
I kept holding back on publication because every time I was ready to submit ONE TO THE WOLVES, we’d receive new information that led to even more avenues that needed exploring. But I couldn’t keep adding chapters indefinitely. The U.S. Justice Department is currently in Albuquerque investigating police corruption. That fact caused me to realize, “It’s time to get this published.”
2) Tell us about the significance of the book’s title and cover art.
When Kait was ten she drew a chilling picture of a ferocious wolf. She was such a sunny little girl that we couldn’t imagine where that image came from. Today we wonder if she already was having nightmares about the predator who would come for her eight years later. When I sent that picture to the publisher, Planet Ann Rule—(yes, the very “Ann Rule” who is our nation’s Queen of True Crime Writing)—my editor agreed that it would make a perfect cover. This may be the only time that a murder victim created the cover for a book about her own murder.
3) The book’s dedication reads, “for ‘Kait’s Army’ with gratitude.” Who are these people (collectively) and how have they helped to advance the cause?
Kait’s Army consists of literally hundreds of people who became obsessed with Kait’s case. Such people include an incredible private investigator; forensic experts and crime scene reconstructionists who donated their services pro bono; newspaper and TV reporters; individuals who launched petitions and distributed reward flyers; tipsters who contacted us privately or posted information on the message board on Kait’s Web site; and all the people who read WHO KILLED MY DAUGHTER? and, although they didn’t know us personally, kept us and Kait in their prayers.
4) Given that Kait’s case remains unsolved, what specific areas of investigation do you believe warrant follow-up and what do you believe might be the key to uncovering truth?
There’s so much that needs follow-up that it would take many pages to list them all. So I’ll name just a few specifics:
A man who had a long record of violent assaults upon women, was standing next to Kait’s car when the first officer arrived. He was allowed to leave the scene without being questioned as either a witness or a suspect. (The drug dealer he was in the area to visit was the brother of an APD narc.) He needs to be interrogated.
Police have withheld from Kait’s case file a second-day work-up on her car which – according to one homicide detective – proved that Kait was not the victim of a “random drive-by shooting” but was targeted and assassinated. The supervisor of the Criminology Dept. told our P.I. that reports of that second day work-up were given to the homicide and records departments. Those have disappeared, as have the photos from that work-up. APD now claims no second-day work-up took place. Why this deception? Where are those reports and photos? Why aren’t they in Kait’s case file? Who, at APD, was in a position to mandate a cover-up? And why would he do so?
Two bullets entered Kait’s head. There were no exit wounds. Yet, reportedly, no bullets were found in her body. Why?
The actions of the first cops at the scene need to be investigated. The first cop to “stumble on the scene” called in “an accident with no injuries.” A second cop arrived 40 seconds after being dispatched. In other words, she was already there. How could that be?
The medics who transported Kait to the hospital have signed affidavits stating that, when they arrived at the scene, they found Kait alone in her car, unconscious. There were no police. No police cars. In fact, they initially by-passed the scene because there was no one there to wave them over Why did police leave the scene before rescue arrived? Where did they go?
John, there’s so much more. As I said, I could fill up pages. (Actually, I DID fill up pages. And those pages have now been published under the title ONE TO THE WOLVES.)
But, to respond to your basic question: I believe the key to uncovering the truth is to remove Kait’s case from the jurisdiction of the Albuquerque Police Department and hand it over to the Feds.
5) It’s been said that truth is stranger than fiction. How has the experience of writing these books touched you – and what impact has Kait’s murder had on your career as an author of fiction?
I’d become known for my young adult suspense novels in which teenage heroines were caught in life threatening situations. I loved creating dangerous situations and building suspense as my heroines fought to save themselves. Of course, they all managed to do that. Those novels had happy endings.
Then, overnight, the subject that I’d been treating as fiction became hideous reality. The “heroine in jeopardy” was my own child, and I couldn’t re-arrange the plot to make her save herself. I couldn’t produce a happy ending. When police dropped off the unsolved case, shrugging it off as a “random shooting,” I had no heart to write fiction. How could I concentrate on writing a fictional mystery when our real one was all I could focus on?
Ironically, my backlist is doing exceptionally well. Readers are discovering “Lois Duncan books” and responding to them as if I were a new young writer. And movies based on those stories continue to be made.
But I’m no longer writing new books. My efforts are centered upon helping other families of homicide victims.
6) Tragedy can often be the impetus for change. What good has come from Kait’s death – and what do you believe to be your daughter’s legacy?
When Kait died, her oldest sister, Robin, said, “Aside from losing Kait, the worst thing about this nightmare is knowing that she never had a chance to make her life meaningful. I can’t bear the thought that Kait died an empty death.”
I comfort myself with the knowledge that her death wasn’t empty. Kait was an organ donor, and lives were saved or extended by the donation of her heart, lungs, liver and kidneys. Beyond that, Kait Arquette has become a sort of poster child for hundreds—maybe even thousands—of families of murder victims who have been failed by the American Justice System. Most of those families are not in a position to get a book published. Yet their pain and frustration is just as over-whelming as ours. Kait represents us all.
With thanks to Lois Duncan for her generosity of time and thought.