Written in Blood

A True Story of Murder and a Deadly 16-year-old Secret that Tore a Family Apart

Rights purchased for the HBO Max series The Staircase starring Colin Firth & Toni Collette.

Michael Peterson was driven to succeed.

An army brat-turned-marine, he saw combat in Vietnam, and returned a decorated soldier. An avid reader, his dreams of being an acclaimed novelist came true. His desire to find love was fulfilled when he married brilliant executive Kathleen Atwater, the first female student accepted at Duke University’s School of Engineering. The Petersons seemed the ideal academic couple— well-respected, prosperous, and happy.

All that came crashing down in December of 2001, when Kathleen apparently fell to her death in their secluded home in an exclusive area of Durham, North Carolina. But blood-spattered evidence and a missing fireplace poker suggested calculated, cold-blooded murder. Her trusted husband stood accused.

Then the most damaging evidence of all surfaced: Sixteen years earlier, Peterson was the last person to see his neighbor alive–before she was found dead at the bottom of a staircase in her home in Germany. A dramatic trial followed in the explosive final chapter of a life that no novelist could ever have conceived.


Family members involved speak about Written in Blood:

“The Staircase is an emotionally riveting drama but it is no where near the whole truth, if anybody wants to know the whole story, read Fanning’s Book.” Ann Christensen, Michael Peterson’s sister

“I stayed up until 2am the first night reading… You did a very good job.  You put it all together very nicely.”

“In this web of players you managed to identify everyone with human qualitites–all different but the same humanity.  The good, the bad, the ugly.  When I read about our childhood days, I would have sworn you were right there with us.  You were clear in your thinking and your research was impeccable.  You treated all with respect where they deserved it and showed how the true gift of precious LIFE is to be treasured because it also can be so fragile and gone in an instant.  Thank you Diane, for telling the true story and for giving all named in your book a beating heart.”

“I read your book in one night.  The book is the best.  You did an excellent job with setting the stage for all your characters.  I didn’t know how you were going to pull it all together because it is very confusing, but you did and it is so terrific.  Thank you.”

From Written in Honor by Vance Holmes:

Durham County court reporters are still trying to finish a final transcript of the Michael Peterson saga, but as far as I’m concerned — with the publication of Diane Fanning’s book, WRITTEN IN BLOOD, the official record is now complete.
Fanning provides a full account of the epic Peterson murder mystery. Her writing is superb. Most importantly, Diane Fanning has written a true-crime book focused more on the truth than on the crime, and in that sense, her work honors the spirit of the victim, Kathleen Hunt Atwater. [Read More]

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