Publisher's Letter

updated 01/18/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/18/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

As a Chicago-based correspondent for PEOPLE since 1984, Civia Tamarkin, 40, has specialized in reporting gritty stories, often on unseemly characters. She has roamed the streets at night with hookers, fled from drug dealers angered by her investigation of their activities and even faced a gunman while reporting an article on child abuse. For all her exploits, however, Tamarkin says that few subjects have so captivated her as the plight of convicted rapist Gary Dotson (page 67). "I found the Dotson case intriguing," she says, "because it is a classic example of the fallibility of the criminal justice system."

In 1985 Dotson and his supposed rape victim, Cathleen Crowell Webb, made headlines when she recanted the testimony that had sent him to prison. Webb, now a New Hampshire housewife, gave an exclusive interview to Tamarkin explaining why she had previously lied about being raped. By then Dotson had served six years of a 25-to-50-year sentence, and Illinois Governor James Thompson ordered him released on parole. Two years later he was jailed again, charged with assaulting his wife. While in prison he frequently telephoned Tamarkin, and when he was released a second time on Christmas Eve, Tamarkin says she was not surprised that he was quickly arrested yet again following a bar fight. "In our early conversations he was really low-key, naive. I could never understand his lack of anger," she says. "But gradually I have gotten an in-depth look at his anguish, frustration and despair."

A Chicago native and former high school English teacher, Tamarkin has always brought a particular passion to her reporting. In 1975 she traveled to Saigon as a single mother with her 4-year-old daughter, Elisa, to write free-lance articles about the war's final weeks. Married the next year to then Chicago Daily News foreign correspondent Bob Tamarkin, she lived in Thailand and in Nairobi, Kenya, before returning with him to Chicago in 1977. She has had two plays produced in Chicago and is the coauthor of a book on Chicago educator Marva Collins. Visits to prospective colleges with Elisa, now 17, have kept Tamarkin busy in recent months, but her reporter's notebook is never far away. "I have been accused of being too serious and obsessive about my work," she concedes, "but I like a story that has a risk element, a certain danger."

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