Pros: Fascinating story of a family that can see no evil in an evil woman.
Cons: Very complicated tale might turn a few off...
About nine years ago, I was serving in the Peace Corps and eager to read anything I could get my hands on that was written in English. Luckily for me, I stumbled across Ann Rule's Everything She Ever Wanted, written in 1992. It really turned me onto Ann Rule's fantastic true crime sagas and helped distract me from the occasional boredom I suffered while I was posted overseas. I recently went on a buying spree at Amazon.com, thanks to a gift certificate supplied by my sister. I decided to use part of that certificate to revisit this book, which was updated in 2002. I'm really glad I did, because after reading this book a second time, I realized that there was a lot that I missed the first time I read it (easy to do when the lights are out all the time!). I have to hand it to Ann Rule-- this is one convoluted tale and she spins it beautifully. I have a feeling that it's going to be a challenge to review this book-- it's a long, twisted story, but I'll give it a try!
Pat is the one name that our villain has consistently kept throughout her lifetime, but she was born Mary Linda Patricia Vann, second daughter of eighteen year old Margureitte Siler of Siler City, North Carolina. Pat's older sister, Roberta, had been stillborn and Margureitte was distraught about it; she was certain that Roberta would have lived had she been born in a hospital. Pat was born on August 22, 1937 in Wilmington, North Carolina, in a hospital. From day one, Pat was doted on by her grandmother, Mary Siler, and her many aunts. Margureitte spent much of her time looking for work, so Pat spent the first few years of her life calling her grandmother Siler "Mama" and "Mama" indulged her relentlessly, cooking special meals for her three times a day and treating her differently than she did her own children. Pat was a very pretty child, which made it all the harder for her guardians to discipline her. Her family backed her all the way, no matter what.
When Margureitte conceived her third child, son Kent, she originally planned to give him up for adoption. She went to Washington, DC to work in a convent home and spend her pregnancy. But when Kent was born, Margureitte found that she couldn't give him up. She ended up having to stay on at the home and work off her debts, but she kept Kent. Meanwhile, she was separated from Pat, who was fine with Grandmother Siler-- but Pat would eventually use this separation against her mother in order to get her way. When Margureitte eventually married Army Second Lieutenant Clifford Radcliffe, who accepted Pat and Kent as his own, the family moved to Cliff's duty station in Texas. Pat cried for Mama Siler the whole way.
Pat never got along with anyone whom she considered a threat to her own personal limelight and that included her brother Kent. Pat grew up to be beautiful and alluring and Kent, studious and quiet. Kent also had a handicap, brought on by a bout of meningitis he had suffered as a small child. Due to a high fever, he had been left virtually deaf-- and Kent also had a bent toward depression. In fact, he would one day die by his own hand. Clifford Radcliffe had always been tough on Kent, but he and his wife had always excessively indulged Pat, who, like her mother, ended up a pregnant teen. At fifteen years old, Pat dropped out of high school and hastily married the father of her unborn baby, eighteen year old Gilbert Taylor, Jr., in Atlanta, Georgia. The two had met at Fort McPherson Army post, located in Atlanta. After the wedding, Gilbert enlisted in the Army and was sent to Korea. Pat insisted that her baby would not be born in the Army hospital. Pat saved up to have baby Susan in a civilian hospital, but ended up having a couple of false labors and used up her savings before the baby's actual birth, so Susan was born in an Army hospital anyway. On the way to the hospital, Pat bitterly blamed Gil for her pain.
Pat went on to have two more children with Gilbert Taylor, Debbie and Ronnie, and she used her considerable skills as a seamstress to make beautiful clothes for the children. She wanted them to look their very best. Appearances were very important to Pat, as they also seemed to be to her mother, Margureitte, who prided herself on having fine southern manners and dignity. Although Pat was the wife of a military man, she would move with him when it suited her. It rarely suited her-- Gil usually moved to his duty stations alone and Pat would stay with her parents.
Pat and her mother fell in love with Morgan horses, especially since horses are equated with wealth and fine people. Pat talked Gil into buying land in Zebulon, Georgia, where they would build a beautiful Morgan farm and a mansion. The couple ended up buying and moving two cheap houses to the property and trying to conjoin them. While both Susan and Debbie ended up teen mothers and wives like their mother and grandmother before them, they remained active on the Morgan show circuit until they were well into their pregnancies. Susan graduated high school and got married, but Debbie dropped out of high school at age fifteen when she got pregnant. Like her mother, she wound up married at a very young age. Debbie was very pregnant at Susan's wedding, and it was there that Pat made the stunning announcement that she wanted to divorce Gil. She had gotten a restraining order against him, so immediately after the announcement, Gil had to leave the reception.
Pat dreamed of owning a southern plantation like the ones depicted in Gone With the Wind, where she could grow roses and rub elbows with the best people of Atlanta. She had gotten her daughters involved with horses and both of them did well on the show circuit. It was there that she met Tom Allanson, a farrier, who often took care of her horses' hooves. Tom was several years younger than Pat and taken by her fragile beauty-- she had a tendency toward what he called "sinking spells". They made him and others want to protect her. He decided that he wanted to marry Pat, and after convincing her, the two wed in 1974. She made costumes designed to make them look like Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler. Ann Rule includes a picture of the two of them in their wedding garb-- Tom Allanson's costume is complete with a fake mustache, which makes him look rather silly (by his own admission).
But this was no fairytale marriage. Tom Allanson was newly divorced from his first wife, Carolyn, known as "Little Carolyn", because Tom's mother's name was also Carolyn. Tom's parents, Walter and Carolyn Allanson, had been against the divorce and they had taken Little Carolyn's side, particularly because Tom had two children with his first wife. Neither of Tom's parents liked Pat, despite hers and her parents' efforts to change their minds; moreover, they had disowned Tom for getting a divorce. Pat frequently tried to get Tom to force his parents to accept her into "the family circle". She also managed to get him to buy property in Zebulon, along with financial help from her parents and Tom's grandparents, so that they might open their Morgan farm. As it turned out, after buying the beautiful farm, which they named Kentwood after Pat's deceased brother (at Margureitte's request), Pat and Tom were to live together as man and wife for only a couple of months. Walter and Carolyn Allanson were murdered-- shot in cold blood in their own home-- and Tom Allanson was blamed for their deaths. He ended up in prison.
A few years later, Pat was taking care of her grandparents in law, Paw and Nona Allanson-- the same people who had helped her buy her Morgan farm, which burned to the ground shortly after Tom went to prison. Paw and Nona had changed their wills to make Pat a beneficiary of their estate, having cut out their other child, daughter Jean Boggs. Before long in Pat's care, both Paw and Nona wound up poisoned with arsenic and Pat ended up in prison. The whole time, her family stood behind her, defending her steadfastly. But it doesn't stop there. Pat continued to beguile and bewitch people, only to leave disaster and heartbreak in her path. A few years after her release from prison, Pat managed to convince one of Atlanta's more prominent couples that she and her younger daughter, Debbie, both high school dropouts, were registered nurses. They were hired to take care of the couple's medical needs and ended up poisoning and stealing from that couple as well. It was this case that ultimately destroyed Pat's relationship with her older daughter, Susan. In fact, Susan, her ex-husband, and their two younger children have been effectively cut out of the family because they turned Pat in to the authorities for what she did. Once again, her family stood behind her with astonishing devotion.
It seemed that no one was safe from Pat when she had her eye on something she wanted, not even her own children and grandchildren. This is the story of a woman with a multitude of personality disorders. Ann Rule mentions that Pat definitely suffered from narcissism, but I would venture to guess that there were a few other personality disorders lurking around in this woman's head, too. Moreover, it's clear that Pat is a sociopath, which makes her very dangerous indeed.
It also looks to me like the entire family was pretty deluded. Margureitte prided herself on her manners and refinement, yet although she was the beautiful daughter of a Baptist minister, she got pregnant three times before the age of twenty and before she ever got married-- at a time when that kind of thing was severely frowned upon. As a matter of fact, although Margureitte named Robert Lee Vann as Pat's and Kent's natural father, there was quite a bit of speculation that they were actually fathered by another man... and she never married either of them. Margureitte looked down her nose at people for the way that they behaved-- as did her husband, Clifford Radcliffe, who eventually rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel-- but this was a family of people who would have likely been looked upon as white trash by Atlanta's elite for their lack of education and their propensity toward producing child brides. Pat's son, Ronnie, also married and divorced several times and had a child that Margureitte had to raise. Pat was jealous of the child, her own granddaughter Ashlynne, who came to live with Pat and her parents after Pat was released from prison the first time. She treated Ashlynne badly because she demanded attention... attention that Pat wanted for herself. Perhaps Susan and her ex-husband were the only two sane ones of the bunch.
Once again, Ann Rule has done a wonderful job with a very complex story. Rule, a former Seattle policewoman, has taken her passion--writing true crime-- and turned it into an art form. I've read several of her books and I'm always impressed by the amount of detail that she includes in each and every saga. Having paid a visit to her website, http://www.annrules.com , I have come away with the opinion that this is a woman who is determined to get to the very bottom of the cases she writes about. Even better is the fact that she takes the time to update the stories on her website. She seems like a truly nice lady who really cares about her craft.
Everything She Ever Wanted in particular is probably my favorite Ann Rule book. She has divided the book into sections, focusing each section on certain people or places. Rule also includes extensive pictures and a family tree for both Tom Allanson and Patricia Radcliffe Taylor Allanson (or whatever she's calling herself nowadays). The book includes two updates, one from 1993 and one from 2002, and an afterword. I'm always struck by the photographs of Pat. She changes so much-- in the early pictures, she's a beautiful woman, but by her second arrest in 1991, she's gained at least 100 pounds and is virtually unrecognizable as the willowy southern beauty that she once was. It's almost as if she's being punished. Her mother made a remark to the effect that everyone believed that Pat always got what she wanted, but they were wrong. She never got what she wanted. She was never happy. I have to say that I agree with this assessment.
If you're interested in true crime and psychology as it relates to the criminal mind, I definitely recommend Ann Rule's books. If you have an affinity for the south, especially Georgia or North Carolina, you would do well to read Everything She Ever Wanted. The only drawback I can see to this book is that it's such a long and convoluted story! But that has made it an interesting, juicy tale, and Ann Rule has done an admirable job in keeping everything straight. This review has barely scratched the surface of this amazing story. This book gets five stars from me!