Nearly four decades ago, a small Seattle publishing house put out The Phantom Prince. The 1981 book, written by Ted Bundy’s long-time girlfriend Elizabeth Kendall, was met with little fanfare and went out of print after a few years. But this year, Netflix turned the book into the movie Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile with Zac Efron starring as the notorious serial killer.
“What I love about the book, and why I wanted to make a movie, is there have been many stories about how a serial killer kills and the procedure of tracking the serial killer down and the escalating body count,” the film’s director, Joe Berlinger, told me in May. “I’ve not seen a film from the POV of a victim, which is why I wanted to do it. Of course, Elizabeth is a victim.”
The movie stirred up incredble interest in Kendall and her story—but the book still wasn’t available to buy outside of used bookshops and resell sites. In the weeks before the film aired, used copies were going for as much as $2,000 on Amazon. In January 2020, the book will finally be available again. Book publisher Abrams announced today that it is issuing a re-release of The Phantom Prince, and that it will be expanded with never-before-seen photos. The biggest addition, though, is a chapter by Elizabeth’s daughter, Molly Kendall. Molly, along with her mother, has never spoken publicly.
Molly was a toddler when her mom met Bundy at a bar, as Elizabeth writes in the book. Bundy became something of a father figure to Molly as he secretly began his heinous killing spree across the U.S.
The film’s director and actors met with Elizabeth and Molly before the Netflix movie came out—and Elizabeth gave her permission for the film to move forward. But when I talked to Berlinger before the movie’s release, he said Elizabeth was ready to put her experience with Bundy behind her.
“I told her she should republish the book. I think a lot of people would be fascinated to read it. She may republish it. She hasn’t decided, but she’s certainly not doing it in time for the movie,” he said. “I think she has a lot of ambivalence. Look, it’s a painful experience for her and she’s put it behind her.”
Even back in 1981, Elizabeth didn’t do publicity for the book, for fear of having her identity revealed, her editor at Madrona Publishing told me. In fact, Kendall isn’t her real surname—both Elizabeth and Molly have used pseudonyms. But it seems she’s slowly willing to step forward with the re-release of the memoir.
“Abrams is thrilled to be able to republish this riveting book and share new material written by Elizabeth Kendall and her daughter Molly,” Michael Sand, Vice President and Publisher of Abrams, said in a statement. “The new chapters add startling insights and put the book in context for readers today, thirty years after Bundy’s death.”
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