Inside People

updated 10/17/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/17/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

WHEN SENIOR EDITOR KRISTIN McMurran got the Friday afternoon phone call from Dutton Signet offering her first look at a "highly secret, confidential manuscript," she had two hunches as to the identity of the subject: O.J. Simpson or Princess Diana. The possibilities narrowed to one that weekend when news reports hinted at the imminent publication of Princess in Love, Anna Pasternak's story of ex-cavalry officer James Hewitt's account of his alleged romance with Di. By midday Monday, McMurran had secured the rights to the Pasternak excerpt you will find on page 42. "We felt we owed it to our readers to let them see for themselves what all the fuss was about," says McMurran, who in her five years as PEOPLE'S excerpts editor has overseen extracts from such bestsellers as Arthur Ashe's Days of Grace, Magic Johnson's My Life and Andrew Morton's Diana: Her True Story in 1992.

Meanwhile our own royal watcher, associate editor Michelle Green, was busy putting into perspective "this incredible twist in the dramatic tale that has been Diana's life for the past two years." Green has been sifting fact from fantasy about the Windsors ever since she wrote a story on Prince William's first birthday in 1983. "The saga keeps getting darker and darker," she says. "It makes for more compelling stories, but at the same time I feel a certain empathy for Diana. She's had a lot to cope with."

Sadly, an unexpected telephone call can also bring the worst news anyone can hear. The six-page article that begins on page 76 details the terrible damage inflicted on innocent victims and those who survive them by repeat-offender drunk drivers who cannot be kept off the road. We were closing this disturbing story on the same Monday I received news of the death of Mary McGuire.

My family had known Mary almost from the day of her birth; she and my older daughter played together and went to each other's birthday parties every year in Princeton, N.J. (Her parents are book editors, and Mary used to receive gift dolls from the likes of Vladimir Nabokov.) She grew up to become a vibrant, compassionate young woman with a big smile and a bigger heart. At the University of Pennsylvania, she started a peer-run telephone hotline to help students who need someone to talk to. After graduating last May, she was doing volunteer work for Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit organization that helps low-income families build their own homes. In September, Mary joined Habitat in San Antonio and was looking forward to using her fluent Spanish there.

But on Oct. 1, after a day of scraping mud and grit off the floor of a house she was working on, Mary was driving a group of friends home late at night. She was at the wheel, acting as the group's designated driver, when her car was broadsided by another vehicle that, witnesses told police, had run a stop sign. None of her four passengers was seriously injured. However, Mary was killed instantly. The driver of the car that hit her has been charged with intoxication manslaughter, driving while license suspended and driving while privilege suspended. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison, but that is little relief. It has become disturbingly evident that, short of locking the most incorrigible drunks for years at a time, there is little the courts can do to keep them from drinking and driving again. Inevitably, the cost of this failure is paid in the most precious and terrible currency we haveā€”the loss of the futures of young people like Mary McGuire.

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