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Big-time author takes on Perry March book

By Matt Pulle

JULY 31, 2000:  It was a tale that was just waiting to be written the story of Perry March, a smart, dashing attorney who became an unlikely murder suspect after his pretty wife Janet disappeared without a trace nearly four years ago. But while a near gaggle of local reporters has dutifully chronicled each twist and turn of this never-ending saga, none has taken up the far more lucrative prospect of writing a book.

They might have missed their chance. Wendy Goldman Rohm, a big-time author from Evanston, Ill., says she has a deal from Random House to write the story. And she claims it will set the record straight about Perry March. "There have been inaccurate statements made on both sides, but it does seem like there has been heavy misinformation coming from those who assume that Perry March murdered his wife," says Rohm, who penned a controversial exposé on Microsoft nearly two years ago. "To date there has not been even the slightest bit of evidence that he murdered his wife."

When reached by phone, Rohm was reluctant to divulge too many details about her research. She wouldn't give the book's working title, its publication date, or even whom she'd interviewed. But clearly Rohm sympathizes with Perry March and believes that he has been unfairly maligned by an easily manipulated media.

About the local reporting she has reviewed, she says, "From what I know, it seems incredibly one-sided. I don't know if that's a function of reporters not having access, but there has been lots of inaccurate reporting, judging by the facts I have collected." (Surprisingly, Rohm was not familiar with the work of Scene reporter Willy Stern, who in early '97 penned a widely read two-part series delving into March's array of personal problems and into police work on the case.)

Rohm acknowledges that she has yet to contact Lawrence and Carolyn Levine but wouldn't say whether she has talked to March. There's almost no doubt that she did, however. Otherwise, she probably wouldn't have been able to secure a book deal.

If Rohm's first book, The Microsoft File: The Secret Case Against Bill Gates, is any guide, her account of the March saga should be juicy, though perhaps not authoritative. The Microsoft File constructs a rather damning account of Bill Gates and his "smoke screen" business practices; however, it does rely heavily on unidentified sources.

The book received decidedly mixed reviews, and Microsoft officials dismissed the book as the work of an overactive imagination. But The Nation explained away bad reviews of Rohm's account by claiming that they came from a press corps that was biased in favor of the corporate giant. Indeed, the liberal political journal praised her damning conclusions about Gates and noted that she had "gone to extraordinary lengths to make her case."

Downsizing her sights a bit, Rohm has moved from targeting the biggest company in the world to trying to unravel a local mystery. Although she is early into her research, Rohm did share a few tantalizing--if not necessarily believable--revelations. For one, she claimed that "based on information I have seen, there will be a massive federal suit against the state of Tennessee." Rohm claims that the civil trial in which March was found liable for his wife's death was a sham and hinted that it had attracted the attention of federal authorities.

Rohm also said that "as we speak, [the Levines] are telling the kids, 'Your father killed your mother.' " Asked how she knew that, Rohm relays that she has interviewed people who have spoken directly to the children. Could it be that those people are March and his new wife? Through their lawyer, the Levines deny that accusation.

Finally, Rohm states that the influential Levine family ruined March's life by making it impossible for him to earn a living. That, in turn, drove him out of the country.

Sensitive to the perception that she will simply be an apologist for March, Rohm repeatedly insists that she plans to capture both sides of the story. But the Levine family has been reluctant to talk about the events surrounding their daughter's disappearance. It would be truly shocking if they suddenly open up to an author who might already have her mind made up. In other words, don't expect this book to answer many questions.

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