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Monday, May 16, 2011

Anne Perry / Juliet Hulme (Revisited)

I'm going to do something today that I have never done before on Book Chase; I'm reposting a blog entry, complete with all the comments it has received in the more than than three years that have gone by since it was first posted here.

Some of you will remember this post - some of you probably commented on it.

I'm reposting it today because, as you will see in the last comment I've copied, the company owning the rights to a 2010 Anne Perry documentary, in which Anne Perry does finally address her New Zealand murder conviction, has provided me with a link to the film at which it can be rented for online viewing. Unfortunately, the link is to a British website, complicating things a bit for U.S. viewers.  For that reason, I'm posting a clip from the movie placed on YouTube by the producers of the film that includes a way for U.S. viewers to rent the film for $1.99.  I haven't seen it yet, but I do intend to watch it at some point - it is listed as "unavailable" at NetFlix, by the way, so no joy via that source.

I'm posting the YouTube clip because of what it will add to the discussion, especially for those who have been bothered by Ms. Perry's reaction to her murder conviction.  Whether it changes anyone's feelings (in either direction), of course, remains to be seen.  If anyone has seen the film - or sees it before I get around to it - I would appreciate hearing what you think of it and whether or not it makes you feel any differently than you did before.

The YouTube clip:


(Please note that this post is open for new comments directly below the last of the copied comments.)


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I've wondered for a long time if it's just me or if others feel the same way about reading murder mysteries by Anne Perry.  Does it bother you to contribute to the income of an author who makes her living as a murder mystery writer when she herself served five years in prison after being found guilty for her part in the brutal battering-to-death murder of her best friend's mother?

I realize that Perry, known then as Juliet Hulme, was only fifteen years old in 1954 when she helped her friend murder her mother, a crime requiring some 45 blows with a brick to the head, blows struck by both girls.  But that's hardly a child who doesn't know right from wrong.  Am I an exception to the rule because I get a queasy feeling every time I see an Anne Perry book on the shelves of my local bookstores?  I have to wonder how in the world she ever had the audacity to choose this line of work for herself, in fact.

There's no arguing with the fact that she's loaded with talent and has been a very successful writer over the years, but she's not for me.  Am I wrong for feeling this way and not being more forgiving of something that happened in her youth?

Comments to date:


45 comments:


Jill said...
It comes to mind when I read one of her books certainly, but I don't think that boycotting her work is necessarily the correct response.
Sam Houston said...
Jill, it's not at all that I want to boycott her work...or suggest that others do it...it's more that I can't read one of her novels without being distracted with nagging thoughts about her past. It ruins them for me despite the fact that I recognize her skills.
Wendy said...
I haven't read anything by Anne Perry, and I wasn't aware of her background...wow, it does give one pause, doesn't it? I would like to read more about this case...was she mentally ill at the time? What were the circumstances? It sounds like a brutal, brutal murder...and I have to wonder what she is like now. And as you note - why did she chose to write murder mysteries?!??! I also wonder whether or not the family of the victim has tried to block her success in any way.
Sam Houston said...
Wendy, the net is full of details. Just plug "Anne Perry murder" into Google and you'll get lots of details including articles from years ago, a Wikipedia article, and even one that came out in 1994 supposedly "outing" Anne Perry for the first time.
Wendy said...
Thanks, Sam - I spent some time browsing around. Found this articlewhich you might be interested in, which also talks about reader's feelings regarding this case and the fact that Perry writes murder mysteries. After reading a bit about the case, I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, it is possible that being so young she became lost in the fantasy world she and Pauline created (I guess some people still think she was mentally ill at the time of the murder); on the other hand, I'm not so sure she should be making a living by writing about murder. According to Perry, she has repented and wishes to move forward. I couldn't find anything about the victim's family and how they might feel about all of this.
Sam Houston said...
That's an interesting link, Wendy. Thanks for that. I'm a little like the author of that blog article from 2003 in that the longer I really think about Perry's situation the more confused I get about my feelings. However, I'm probably old school enough, in the long run, to be ultimately unable to forget that an inncoent person died in 1954 several decades before her time. Those years were stolen from her and her family and I just can't easily push that from my mind long enough to get all the way through an Anne Perry novel anymore without thinking of it. But, as I said, too, I'm not suggesting any kind of boycott of the woman's work. I would guess that her "secret" is still largely a secret and that she will continue to do quite well until her own death. What brought this all to mind is that she is here in Houston this week at one of my favorite bookstores, "Murder by the Book" to sign her latest...this one a best seller, btw. I wonder what she thinks when she walks inside a bookshop with that name?
Wendy said...
Well, I'm pretty much where you are, Sam. I generally feel for the victim rather than the perpetrator...you're right, a person was bludgeoned to death years before she should have died; are we just to forget that so as not to disrupt the murderer's "new" and successful life? I might have felt more sympathetic to Perry had she not tried to hide her crime for so many years (didn't this just come out in 1994?). I don't believe in boycotts in general...but, I probably will not read this author's work now.
Sam Houston said...
The link to Anne Perry was just made public in 1994 amazingly enough. I actually enjoyed several of her books before 1994 and even after because I didn't find out about her past until probably the late nineties, myself. But, honestly, I haven't been able to read one all the way since despite having tried two or three times to read her recent work. I haven't really looked at the details of the case but I suspect that the victim was in her late thirties or early forties when she died, just based on the age of her daughter. That's way too young to have your life stolen from you (not that there's an age that would be acceptable, of course).
J. Anne said...
Wow, I had no idea. You'd at least think she could write sci-fi or general fiction or something. There's a certain uncomfortableness wondering if she's so good at writing about murder simply because she's good at murder. I hope she at least has the decency to never write about a woman bludgeoned to death. Slighty off-topic here, but how on earth does anyone get off in 5 years for that kind of brutal, premeditated murder?
Bybee said...
There's also a movie "Heavenly Creatures"...Kate Winslet plays Hulme. The movie seems to suggest that Hulme and the other girl were so deep in a la-la fantasy world (very interestingly depicted in the movie) that the cheese had slipped off their crackers. I haven't read any Anne Perry books (don't like mysteries) but it comes to mind when I see her books. A mystery writer I know named Eve K. Sandstrom once remarked that she and Perry were part of a mystery writer's convention once that was a complete cluster----, and that Perry bore all the mishaps and silly mistakes with humor and grace when the other writers had lost their tempers and were ready to do bodily harm. "She's definitely 100% rehabilitated," Sandstrom said. Sorry for the extra-long comment!
Wendy said...
j. anne: I believe part of that was because they were only 15 when they committed the crime. But, I agree - five years seems ridiculous. Bybee: Apparently (from what I've read on a google search) Perry disputes that take on the murders (which was portrayed in the movie). She claims her friend was suicidal and she thought if she (Perry) didn't assist with the murder, her friend would have killed herself. Sounds a bit convoluted to me!
Lisa said...
Wow, I had no idea about Perry's background. Don't really want to pass judgment one way or the other, but I'm a little mystified as to why she would choose to write murder mysteries. If you want to be a writer, there's an unlimited number of directions in which to go.
Sam Houston said...
Annie, I see that Wendy has pointed out that she was only 15 when the crime took place. I have no idea what New Zealand's laws are like regarding murder by a juvenile, but I'm betting she did not real hard time at all.
Sam Houston said...
That's an interesting story, Bybee...I always enjoy "long" comments, so thanks. :-) I haven't seen the movie, but I'm going to have to see if I can find a copy. I vaguely remember hearing about it when it was first released but lost track of it pretty quickly.
Sam Houston said...
Wow, Wendy...killing your friend's mother to put her in a better mood so that she doesn't commit suicide? If that was her defense, I can't believe she got off so lightly. I suppose that's why this crime and Perry's success as a crime writer does strike me as a weirdly ironic combination.
Sam Houston said...
You're right, Lisa...why crime novels? She is a talented writer and I have to believe she had other viable options. Is this a case of writing what you know?
jenclair said...
I remember hearing the connection on an NPR report one morning before work when the connection was first made. I was stunned as I was quite fond of her series with Charlotte and Pitt and Hester and Monk. Eventually saw the movie with Kate Winslet. The knowledge has not prevented me from reading her novels, but the thoughts about her background always surface.
class factotum said...
I loved her books until I learned about what happened. I would absolutely not pay for one of her books and I have stopped reading them because they have become so formula.
Sam Houston said...
Was it the crime, factotum, that put you off her work or the predictability of her later work?
Sibylle said...
I read one of her books a while ago but mysteries are not my thing at all (I don't even like Agatha Christie), however, I was shocked when I saw the movie Heavenly Creatures and discovered she was in fact Juliet Hulme. I would feel really ill at ease buying any book by her. I'm so glad you feel the same, when I explained that to a friend who's an avid reader she couldn't care less. I can totally separate a person from her work but it's just that she's writing today, I mean, there are probably a lot of people who knew Pauline's mother and are still alive today. It's such dark humour that she's writing mysteries.
Sam Houston said...
Sibylle, people seem to react very differently to the news that "Anne Perry" is a convicted murderer. Some, like me and you, have a hard time reading her because we just can't appreciate the irony of her career choice and others seem to enjoy her more because of the black "humor" involved. We are a strange breed sometimes...
heather (errantdreams) said...
'Heavenly Creatures' is, in fact, a fascinating take on the events, and worth watching if you haven't seen it before. I don't know how I feel about the whole thing---largely because I don't know the woman, haven't seen any interviews with her, etc. It would, for me, depend entirely on what kind of person she is now. I do believe that people can change enough that she could become someone I wouldn't mind contributing to the royalty checks of. But really, without knowing a lot more about who she is today... I guess I wouldn't go out of my way to either buy or avoid her books without knowing one way or the other.
Dewey said...
As much as we all want to understand what would make someone do such a horrific thing, it happened in 1954 and there is realistically no way that we can ever understand what happened. Maybe she was mentally ill. Maybe the friend was suicidal. We can't really believe what we see in some movie or even what Perry says now, because it was so long ago that the realities of the event have probably been rewritten even in her own mind by now. People do tend to rationalize their behavior. Think about your own family's mythology and how something that happened decades ago gets changed over time. The first thing that jumped to mind for me was that perhaps this mother was abusive. I've read that most of the women in prison committed violence against people who were abusing them. Whether that's technically true or not, being abused might make the cheese slip of that girl's cracker, as someone put it. Why Perry helped, if that was the case, though, is still in question. Any way, as I said, it's all speculation at this point. Having said that, though, I have read some of her books, without ever having known about this, but they weren't very good and I probably wouldn't want to read any more even if this wasn't so unsettling as to be inevitably distracting.
Sam Houston said...
I can understand what you're staying, Heather, and I think that's a common reaction...and maybe the best one. I tried that approach for a while but the "creepiness factor" finally got the best of me.
Sam Houston said...
Dewey, the thing about the crime that bothers me most is the way that Perry chipped in to help her friend in such a brutal fashion. As you say, we never know what goes on in the homes of others and I would tend to, at least at first, give the benefit of the doubt to the daughter. But Perry was just a friend...making me wonder what their relationship was like and which was the driver in this murder, etc. You're points are well taken...thanks.
Anonymous said...
The point no-one has made is that she did her time. She has paid her debt as determined by the court that tried her, and she has a perfect right to have a new life doing whatever she wants. She also had a right to anonymity, and it's only because a journalist exposed her that you know this about her at all.
Sam Houston said...
What you say is true, anonymous. However, it changes nothing about the horrific nature of the crime she committed nor the very weird choice of occupations she chose for herself. She is, after all, a convicted murderer and why you think that she deserves anonymity completely escapes me. As far as I am concerned, she deserves anonymity no more than her victim deserved being beaten to death. Sorry.
Wendy said...
I agree, Sam - actually no convicted felon "deserves anonymity." Would anonymous feel the same way about a convicted sex offender who moved in next door and then went on to victimize another child? No - most people want to know if there are convicted felons walking around. Yup, Anne Perry did her time...but that doesn't negate the savagery of her crime; nor does it mean that no one gets to judge that criminal behavior.
Sam Houston said...
I agree with that, Wendy. What she did is part of who she is and if it bothers her to have it known to the public that seems like part of the punishment she deserves for what she did. Let's face it, she didn't pay much of a price otherwise, really.
Anonymous said...
I grew up in the city where Anne Perry (then Juliette Hume)and her friend Pauline Parker murdered Parker's mother. I was around 12 years old at the time and the event left an indelible mark in my mind. But I view Anne's subsequent success as a crime fiction writer as a redemption story (albeit an ironical one)and would wish her naught but all the very best. Had she been a year or so older she'd have hanged for her crime (New Zealand stilll had the death penalty then). In later years, I got to know one of the lawyers who prosecuted her and Parker to conviction. He's dead now, but my feeling is that he would have fully shared my view. You don't have to read her books if it makes you uncomfortable to do so but, after 50 years and more, how about a bit of forgiveness instead of dollops of distasteful 'damn her forever' thinking?
Sam Houston said...
Anonymous, your points are well taken and I appreciate your input. I don't agree with you that wondering if she should be forgiven is "distasteful," however. If she truly feels remorse for what she's done, that's one thing...but trying to hide from the crime is another and that does make her books a bit uncomfortable for me to read. It's much the same when I see an old movie in which O.J. Simpson has a role. I can't watch them anymore because I cannot forget what the man has done...regardless of the prejudiced jury that freed him to become the criminal he is today.
Anonymous said...
I know this is an old post but had to chip in. I've only just discovered that she is the one of the murderers heavenly creatures was based on - she was apparently the driving force behind it all as she was the more educated, articulate and forceful one. Personally, there is no way I would buy or read her books now. I find it distasteful and very strange that she then went on to write murder mysteries, some of them are quite vivid and brutal, it makes me wonder if she is living out her murder fantasies on paper now. Feel like asking for my money back from the publishers now!
Sam Sattler said...
Those are interesting points, Anonymous. I still cannot read the woman's fiction and I doubt that I ever will read her again. If she is as remorseful as some seem to think, she needs to tell her story in a nonfiction book instead of trying to hide from what she did as a young adult.
Terry C, NJ said...
Like everything else, if you don't feel comfortable reading her books, don't buy them and don't read them. That's all you can do. Ms. Perry doesn't want to "tell her story." It happened over 50 years ago. It's not going to bring Honora Parker back. If she doesn't want to talk about it, that's her right.
Sam Sattler said...
Terry, that's pretty much the approach I've taken. I don't read her anymore and I find that I don't miss her writing at all because it never appealed to me all that much anyway. Her mysteries were not the type I enjoy, honestly. Of course, as you say, it is her right not to tell her story of what happened all those years ago. But it is also our right to wonder what drove her and whether or not she is actually remorseful - or got off lightly. Frankly, anyone who could do something so brutal, even at her age, has something very wrong with them. I brought this up only because I was curious about what others think of her books, etc. I was surprised that her background was new to a good number of people. Thanks for your comments.
Ann4mation said...
I realize I'm coming very late to this discussion, but had to say that I feel very differently from most of the commenters. Like many of you, I read several Ann Perry novels without any idea that she was Juliet Hulme, portrayed in a movie that I had seen years ago called Heavenly Creatures. I only read a few of her crime series, which I remember as being good, but not enough to my taste to keep me compulsively grabbing up one after another as I've done with, say, Robert Crais, Dennis Lehane, Michael Connelly, or Perry's interviewer in the video I've just been watching, the fantastic Ian Rankin. I find it hard to believe that so many people question the fact that she hasn't advertised her past, and characterize it as "trying to hide it, keep it a secret." Wow -- I imagine that if that was part of my past, it would be hard to set foot outside my own home if I thought that everyone knew about it all the time. Not only would I be paranoid that everyone was staring at me and whispering, it would be TRUE! In any case, as a writer, if she wrote under her original name, people would no doubt buy the books because of her dark history, whether or not the books were good, so I can absolutely understand changing her name so that her writing could be judged and read on its own merit. The bottom line on this question for me is that I completely understand her desire to put this murder and conviction behind her and am amazed that anyone would characterize this "hiding it" and "keeping it secret" as anything other than a natural, instinctive survival mechanism. If any of YOU had committed a murder and done time for it as a teenager, I cannot believe that you would want it to be public knowledge. You would NOT announce it periodically to make sure it was remembered -- instead, you would be relieved when it was forgotten by the public, and most likely you would try to live a good life forever after, doing penance and atonement whenever and wherever you could. As someone else said, she was lucky not to get the death penalty -- she did her time, did what was asked of her. What more would you have her do? The other thing is that it seems that many of you would demand that she not write murder mysteries if you could command it. You think that it's in poor taste and will not read her books now, knowing her history. But perhaps, as I think someone else hinted, this IS part of her penance. It seems to show that she hasn't been able to escape her past -- that in this way, it is on her mind all the time, every day, and it has colored her whole life, even shaped her career, making it the subject of her life's work. Maybe in writing about crimes being discovered and punished -- murderers not being able to get away with their crimes -- she is replaying the moral scenario over and over again in her books. As far as anyone knows, Ann Perry/Juliet Hulme lives an honest and good life now, is a model citizen, a good person, and does no harm to anyone. As such, why must she be boycotted, or told to write something else? She probably has more guilt, regret and self-torment in her little finger than the rest of us can begin to imagine in all of our experience, and she lives with this every day. Maybe she was insane, maybe she IS insane, but regardless, she deserves forgiveness and compassion as much as anyone else living in this world. Ann Perry isn't a monster -- she's just a person trying to make a living doing what she can do with the talent that she has, and maybe she's paying the pennance with her art. Judge not, etc. Apologies for such a lengthy diatribe, but I had so many responses to what I read here...
Sam Sattler said...
Ann4mation, thanks for your detailed comments. I appreciate you taking that much time to respond and believe your points to be valid ones. My only point in doing this piece was to explain my reaction to Perry's murder mysteries and to ask if others felt the same way. I was a bit surprised that a significant number of people did not know the connection to her criminal past. To this day, I cannot pick up one of those novels without thinking about the crime. Perhaps that's a personal failing of mine but I have been unable to get past it. I admit to having grown a bit tired of Perry's style even before I became aware of who she is, something that might contribute to my willingness to pass by her work. Again, thanks for joining the conversation.
Anonymous said...
Just saw the extremely disturbing movie, Heavenly Creatures, did a bit of research, and came here. I have read Anne Perry's work, but I had no idea... The sheer audacity and arrogance of this woman surprises me. If you murder someone as a child, feel guilty and repentant about it later, would you make a living selling murder to the public? I can distinctly hear her laughing at the world. I killed someone, then I wrote about it and became famous - what a joke on the world! From the movie, I see one extenuating circumstance; the fact that the two girls (things?) had a disturbed childhood. But apparently Anne Perry was not too disturbed to become a famous murder writer. She took a life. Callously. If she had become a recluse, repentant, grieving for her crime, I could understand. If she had become that for even a short period of time, and then moved on, I could still understand. But apparently the murder never touched her life. Thats the callousness that disturbs me the most.
Melina said...
See, with the murder thing, I just feel like both girls felt threatened by the fact that they wouldnt be near each other. Were their actions appropriate? No, of course not. But how would you feel if someone tried to take away the one thing you loved? And some people never gain that one person, but those girls loved each other for them. People like to look at it like theyre lesbians but no, the simple fact was that they were enamored by each other and they wanted to devour every second with each other. I dont think this means you should disregard her works. She is a different person now. She knows what she has done and to this day refuses to discuss the matter and is that not a sign of guilt? Or shame? Experience shapes a writer. Writers take what their world offers them and can disguise it and other countless things.
Sam Sattler said...
Anonymous, as I said earlier, the thing that gets me is that these two women were not children when they committed the murder. They knew right from wrong and they made the decision to kill a woman in a very brutal and slow manner. I would respect Perry if she were to address the past in a direct way rather than, in effect, refuse to admit it ever happened to her. But that's just me.
Sam Sattler said...
Those are interesting points, Melina, but it reminds me again of how old the girls were when they killed. I don't know Perry's reasons for remaining silent all these years...maybe to sell as many books as possible?
Anonymous said...
I know this is an old thread, but feel like commenting. I'm supposed to read one of Perry's novels for my bookclub, but I agree with many of the comments here that it is difficult to read her work without constantly wondering about her own thoughts and memories of her crime. I also agree that there is something distinctly and unsettlingly odd about Hulme's choice of career. For anyone interested, there is an interview by someone named Rankin with her on YouTube that I found disturbing. She seems to me like a very plausible sociopath, one who prefers to call herself an "accessory" to the murder and who says "it simply doesn't exist for me now." I cannot imagine a normal human, even after decades, saying that about taking a life. Maybe if I had something that heinous to forget I would understand her better. Either she is not normal, or she is covering up her guilt and suffering with this mask.
Molly said...
Can not believe that after all these years, reading Anne Perry novels; mystery, WWI, Christmas novels, that I have discovered that her past life was a worse crime then any depicted in her novels. Talk about being under a rock all of these years! Had I known, I would have missed a lot of Victorian history. I have enjoyed all but a few of Anne's work. Some were just too graphic. What am I to do now that I know about her past? I don't have a clue. For some reason, I did not look at her "bio", just went by what was on the book cover..."Born in England, now living in Scotland." I recently viewed the movie "Heavenly Creatures". I agree with some comments on this blog; Anne, tell your story. The woman the girls killed seemed like a nice lady, she was hard working and wanted what was right for her daughter.
Sam Sattler said...
Molly, I've only seen parts of the movie, myself, and that was from YouTube clips but what I saw was somewhat disturbing. That, combined with the interview an anonymous poster mentioned in the comment just above yours reinforces my initial reaction to this whole thing. I suppose it's a good thing that "Perry" can move on the way she has but I don't find that normal...or right.
journeymanvod said...
You can watch Anne Perry's side of the story on VOD here: http://vod.journeyman.tv/store?p=3858&s=Anne+Perry+Interiors
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