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Anne Perry [AI Text]

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I'd like to to look a little bit at Anne Perry's crime writing and then look at some of the the resonances with her life with her story and also finish, perhaps with a little bit of my own experiences in dealing with this biography and the issues that you have to navigate. So I'm looking at resonance and redemption, resonance being the relationships to her own life, redemption, probably being something that not only an peri is seeking but also her [00:00:30] characters. So the adolescent murderers Juliet Hume and Pauline Parker were vilified occasionally in historical fashion by the New Zealand press. In 1954. The prosecution's catch cry of dirty minded little girls resounded through the media, as did, uh, psychologist Mele cots grossly insane. This is the polarity offered by a trial set out to establish guilt or innocence on the basis of badness [00:01:00] or madness. So the irony was that, um, both aspects of this dichotomy would outlive the trial and continue to fan public outrage and contempt in almost equal measure. The essentials All consuming label, however, was evil. This contained bad and mad, but was bigger and beyond human redemption entries, um in diary like an evil mirror, read [00:01:30] a headline from The New Zealand Herald during the trial. The barbarity and hopelessly irrational confidence of the accused, the youth. Parker's diary reflected the deterioration of the two girls like an evil mirror. Another one. Girls hear murder verdict. Unmoved, read a headline. This is the New Zealand truth after the sentencing, So effectively until 1994 the world knew Anne Perry as the writer of best selling crime [00:02:00] fiction, which would eventually stack up to over 6. 26 million book sales. Uh, worldwide, but hard on the tail of the release of Peter Jackson's film about the sensational 1954 Parker Hume murders, Heavenly Creatures, came the shocking revelation that Anne Perry had started life as Juliet Hume, the teenager convicted of jointly murdering her friend's mother. Life would never be the same for [00:02:30] Anne again, and a new light was cast now not only on her life but also about her writing. A murderer had gone on to become a celebrated writer about murder, so this seemed quite extraordinary, I think, understandably. But these were no simple crime stories. Spiritual and philosophical complexities thread the way through Anne Perry's works and the characters she creates. This talk today looks at some of the resonances between [00:03:00] the 1954 Parker Hume Murder and Anne Perry's crime detective fiction writing. So Juliet Hume was released from prison in New Zealand. I offered to write a book for Harper Collins based on a literary biography which obviously had to contextualise that murder. So in in many respects, the book does a lot of this, the the work. But here's a sort of it's a kind of thumbnail sketch of some of the relationships. So Juliet Hume was [00:03:30] released from prison in New Zealand in November 1959 with a new identity. She was actually called Anne Stewart. Uh, she later adopted her step father's name. Perry, uh, she joined her mother and stepfather in the UK and worked there until, after many unsuccessful attempts, she was granted entry into the United States. She worked in the state of California for five years, returning uh to the UK in 1972 when her Step stepfather became critically ill. [00:04:00] So she bought a cottage in Darsham and Suffolk and decided to try and become a published author. She wrote many failed manuscripts before one was finally published. Two things turned Anne Perry's writing life around, uh, one part of the solution came to her from her stepfather, Bill Perry. Um, a repeated criticism that she got back from publishers was that Anne's la was that Anne had a lack of a good plot, and he suggested, Why [00:04:30] don't you write a murder mystery set in the time of Jack the Ripper? So the Ripper story had fascinated people, uh, the world over since 18 88. It was an entree into the macabre mind of a murderer, and the compulsions of serial killing and the fact that the identity of the killer remained undiscovered seemed very. It's gone on being an appealing mystery for everybody. And then there was the potential for 19th century costuming, the Victorian detail, the romantic allure of the period. [00:05:00] And this was a perfect fit for a history buff like Anne. So this was a great sort of suggestion, but it was the plot, uh, trimming structures of the detective form. That bill recommended, uh, which gave crucial definition and shape to her writing. So the second part of the solution came from a writer friend who recommended that she get an agent. So the second manuscript Anne Perry submitted to NBA, this is she [00:05:30] submitted one that was sort of a fantasy history novel. Terrible. And along with this, um, she submitted the cat street hangman and interestingly enough, they read it and instantly responded to her, and she got a call back, Um, within a week or so and they said, we really like this and within, I think, two weeks from that stage, she had a contract, so it had an amazing traction for her. So this book was first published in 1979 [00:06:00] and at this stage, she was already 39 years old so that 26 million books has occurred in in that in that framework, she writes, I don't have a character unless I have a face for them. She might almost have been looking at a full length mirror when she found the face in physical appearance of Charlotte Ellison. This is scenes from Prince Ed Woods, ardent company production of this particular book. And so I guess this is a way [00:06:30] of visualising it. But you know, I don't have a character unless I have a face for them, and this is a very similar character in many physical respects to Anne Perry. So in Charlotte's long auburn hair, grey blue eyes, pale skin, tall, statuesque figure and ample and often proudly displayed bust, there is something of a match for Anne um, Thomas Pitt. That's her. Her official detective was another matter. In his visits to the home of the upper class [00:07:00] Ellison family in Cater Street, Charlotte sees him sideways with the same contempt and might well have felt he came into. And this is a quote into the morning room, filling the doorway, coat flapping hair untidy. As always, his affability irritated Charlotte, almost beyond bearing. His tatty scarf was wound once too often around his neck. His pockets bulged with a provision kit of essential detection hardware that includes actually a length of string [00:07:30] and two marbles. Um, Pitt is from the wrong side of the tracks, or rather, the estate, because his father was a gamekeeper, unjustly accused of poaching and sent to to Australia. Interestingly enough, so this history provides Pitt with two things. A posh accent because he has been educated with the son of the House and a drive to write injustice. It was an ideal combination, perhaps, for an ambitious, uh, working class [00:08:00] man in a late Victorian English police force that was changing to a professional organisation from a sort of nepotism and privilege. So she had her two characters, and she would see her story in London and build her plot around a murder in a family. Um, I guess that, you know, people often say right about what you know. It was in that context that she knew the positions of all of those people involved. It was [00:08:30] not surprising that it had an instant traction, and it's not surprising that the genre gave her the structure to contain the energy and imagination that she has in such abundant amounts. So the the family is actually Charlotte Ellison's. The victim, interestingly enough, is her older sister, Sarah. She obviously had to stop pretty soon, uh, killing off members of that family because otherwise she'd have none left. This, in a way, is the one where it starts off, and she creates these [00:09:00] characters. She didn't know where they were going to go, and then, of course, she has to work out different ways of continuing the story without necessarily killing off large numbers of the Allison family. The the Ellison household is ruled over by Charlotte's Papa Edward, a true Victorian patriarch. Uh, she can steal only glimpses of the newspaper because it is considered an appropriate reading for a young lady. This means she must either flout the house rules or convince Dominic, Sarah's husband [00:09:30] to let her slip in and read the newspaper or possibly read it in the butler's pantry. In a way, Anne Perry uses this as an opportunity to explore feminism, the strictures of women, the controls over this world and the very patriarchal kind of family unit that that she opens up the story. And so the news, as always, is terrible. It's the 20th of April 18 81 and Benjamin Disraeli has just died [00:10:00] Charlotte's, and this is a quote. Charlotte's first thought was to wonder how Mr Gladstone felt. Did he feel any sense of loss was a great enemy, as much a part of a man's life as a great friend? Surely it must be. It must be the cross thread in the fabric of emotions. Anne Perry opens with this powerful reflection on friends and enemies and continues [00:10:30] throughout the novel to make searching and profound comments about human behaviour. She explores power and sexual inequality, incisively giving the most misogynistic. I think this is interesting lines to the women who who police patriarchal boundaries she considers class difference and poverty and the lack of educational opportunity. She shows how greed and callousness may cause human [00:11:00] deprivation, but also how this is maintained by those who turn their backs or live in unfeeling ignorance. She is most cuttingly critical, however, of the hypocrisy of established religion. There are few characters more abhorrent than the pompous Reverend Preble, who is called on to minister to grief stricken friends and family after a series of apparent random gros of young women whose flesh and clothes [00:11:30] are ripped in a sexually perverse manner. Pre, who believes that women and sexuality are evil, is hopelessly insincere. His poor wife, Martha, convinced by his fundamentalist reading of Genesis, is filled with self loathing and hatred. In conducting his interviews, he finds himself increasingly attracted to the independent and forthright Charlotte, who at first openly despises Pitt but comes to realise that [00:12:00] a slovenly working class persona is only superficial and that it is the person inside who counts. This epiphany is the beginning of her maturation. As a character at the end of the novel, she agrees to jump the social divide and join Pitt in pen. As the wife of a detective, feminism had generated room for a fully functioning female detective. In the early days of the 20th century, women were on the cosy margins [00:12:30] of the genre. Wifely like Dorothy says Harriet Vane, Nia Marsh, Agatha Troy and Marjorie Ellingham. Amanda Fitton elderly, like Agatha Christie's gossiping sleuth Miss Marple or fashionably impotent. Like Christie's Prudence Cowley of the Tommy and Tuppence series. These characters were traces of oestrogen in a testosterone driven field. But by the 19 seventies, the [00:13:00] world had changed and detective fiction needed to change, too. Now, women protagonists needed to drive plots and define action, not act as adjuncts, victims or shrews. It was a perfect pairing. Hope Deon and Saint Martin's press saw the market opportunity, and Anne created Charlotte Pitt. The hangman had at its core the explosive implications of murder in a family, [00:13:30] the suspicion, the revelation of infidelity, the death, the grief, the shame which were at the heart of Anne's own story and had also an amateur detective in Charlotte Pitt that had parallels in appearance and personality to her own intimately. She knew these experiences. She knew these elements intimately, and she could tap into them easily to write this book or relatively easily. And it's amazing. She [00:14:00] and published one book a year with Saint Martin's Press, who had the world rights to her books as well. And she produced about 10 books in total before she was able to become more self determining. So it was her agent, Meg Davis, who worked out the solution to create an entirely new series. So this one was specifically for Random House's Ballantine imprint. And this is a quote from Meg, uh, providentially. Anne [00:14:30] had this thing in a cupboard that was the face of a stranger. The concept for Monk, a new series detective who was a recovering amnesiac. So quite interesting concept there, Meg remembers. Anne's original idea had been that at the end of the first book, Monk actually discovers that he is the murderer. It's interesting, she she says, that he did in fact commit the murder, and he has got to go underground. This was the idea that he'd have to go underground. [00:15:00] And then as an underground private investigator, um, he can take on hopeless cases and sort them out by other means. So it was not within the structure of the system, So it was actually a very interesting format premise. It's interesting, though, that Leona, this is the person who was was the editor for Ballantine was reluctant to make Monk the murderer at all. And finally, she actually vetoed this idea. Um, so Meg remembers her rationale. She felt that Americans wouldn't cope [00:15:30] with the kind of darkness it had to turn out, that he had left the guy for dead, but in fact didn't literally kill him. And, weirdly, for Americans that let him off the hook and everything was fine. But it does mean that he could walk away and still be a member of society and solve crimes in a more traditional kind of footing. So you can imagine how this is problematic for readers. You can imagine how problematic it was when this woman discovered that in fact, it wasn't just the character [00:16:00] that committed murder, but the author. So The main premise provided a perfect a psychological landscape in which Anne could locate some of her own reflections on the struggle between good and evil and the many situations that make this absolute polarisation inappropriate, fluid and sometimes even sort of accidental. So that the Pitt series to date had been a measured examination of subjects in which Anne took a relatively liberal position on [00:16:30] feminism, marriage, the family poverty, religious hypocrisy, incest, rape, prostitution, homosexuality. You know she does a lot, you know, I think what's interesting is she understood what it felt like to be Monk. She knew what choice and consequence was because what happens with Monk is, he discovers as he's regaining his memory, he discovers that he wasn't a very nice person. In fact, he discovers that he was a horrible person [00:17:00] who created fear. So what he gradually does is discover that this person that he was was someone he can't respect. He can't love. And so it's a very interesting thing because he has no memory. So he starts to have to discover himself through other people's responses. So she knows about choice and consequence and what it's like to see other people's in other people's eyes, rather, the monster [00:17:30] that is the perception of you. So he's recovering his memory through other people's eyes. She knows how that feels. If she had been allowed to make Monk a murderer, his life would have been pretty much a fictional projection of hers. But Leona and Leona Nela and Ballantine books were not brave enough to trust the American readers to accept a murderer as a likeable, positive person. So [00:18:00] the face of a stranger opens on the 31st of July. So she takes us back to 18 56 the other ones in the 18 eighties in a London hospital where a monk has lain close to death for three weeks. As consciousness dawns, he realises he can remember nothing. He does not know how he got there or even who he is, and this is a quote. Panic boiled up inside him again, and for a moment he could have screamed [00:18:30] Help me, somebody who am I. Give me back my life myself. He thinks he has a past, but he can't remember it. He has an identity, which he's unaware of. He's effectively No. One, and I think there's an interesting parallels to the way that, um Juliet Hume as Anne Stewart left New Zealand. But he does have an innate sense of self preservation, so he keeps [00:19:00] this knowledge to himself. Revealing his amnesia would only make him vulnerable. And somewhere back in the dark recesses of his damaged mind, he knows vulnerability is dangerous. On his release from hospital, he finds his rooms at 27 Grafton Street. He meets his housekeeper, Mrs Worley, and discovers himself for the first time in the mirror. And I think it's quite an interesting concept. He discovers himself in the mirror. The face [00:19:30] he sees looking back is a strong one he is dark with, and this is a quote, a broad, slightly aquiline nose, wide mouth, eyes, intense, luminous grey in the flickering light. It was a powerful face, but not an easy one. If there was humour, it would be harsh of wit rather than laughter. He estimates that he is anywhere between 35 and 45 years old, but it is in the in the [00:20:00] reaction of others that he begins to see the inner man. Colleagues are frightened of him. They cower at his cruelty and despise his single minded, selfish ambition. No one cares, and no one likes him. But is this really fear? After all, he was hearing only one side of the story. There was no one to defend him, to explain, to give us reasons and to say what he knew and perhaps did not. [00:20:30] And his greatest fear as he turns to work, returns to work at the Metropolitan Police force and begins to unravel the deadly bashing of Major Grey. As he goes through this first book, The Face of a Stranger, He's he's looking to see, whether he to find out whether he is the murderer himself, and that that's very much the worry for him through the whole book until the murder is resolved. It would not surprise Runcorn, his superior officer [00:21:00] at work, if he was revealed as the murderer. He feels some intense, unspoken animosity towards Monk that was never entirely untangled. Even in this book, Runcorn guesses Monk's identity crisis by spotting gaps in his memory. Towards the end of the book, Monk tells Hester Laie, who will later become his wife, a a usually independent, sometimes acerbic woman about his amnesia. So one person guesses, he tells [00:21:30] her, although throughout the book it's interesting Monk's murder case right through right Through that case, they squabble these two and monk and she is, you know, quite critical of him right through it and finds him really despicable at times. But when he admits that he has this missing memory, she's completely sympathetic. She thinks to herself how extraordinary and terrible. I do not always like myself completely, [00:22:00] but to lose yourself. I cannot imagine having nothing at all left of all your past or your experiences. And the reason why you love or hate things is the light side to Monk's darkness. Perhaps in that respect, she is rather too ideal. But she does possess a challenging, perceptive quality that Anne admires. She has a heartfelt content for hypocrisy and incompetence [00:22:30] and will not suffer fools. And this is a quote. She is highly intelligent, with a gift for logical thought, which many people found disturbing, especially men who did not expect it or like it in a woman. So that's a quote from the book. He is among the first women to join Florence Nightingale at Skari in Turkey, close to the carnage of the Crimean War. Her fine brain makes her invaluable in the administration for the hospitals and in dealing with the critically [00:23:00] injured. And it also when she returns and becomes part of Monk's life, it makes her a darn good sleuth. So for Anne amnesia, it's just a convenient means of revealing things retrospectively, a perfect device for the detective fiction writer because it leaves tracks of information obscure and suspenseful. But it is not the matter of forgetting that you have murdered someone that ignites her interest here, I think. And this, [00:23:30] I think, is quite personal. This in in a way that the notion of amnesia is quite a short lived, um, sensational thing. What I think matters to her in the face of a stranger is Monk's loss of self, the absence of an identity, the lack of a voice to explain the horror of seeing himself through others, eyes as brutal and cruel when he has to believe that this is [00:24:00] only part of the picture. So that's a bit of a look at her work and some relationships to her life. It was almost impossible thing getting Anne Perry on board with this book and I'm afraid it required some. I wouldn't say unethical but pushing the boundaries of what what I think is ethical. She turned me down twice. I took that as no, and but I felt like it was a story I needed to tell, and I had done a lot of work on it [00:24:30] previously. And it's part of my life. My mother was at school with Juliet Hume and Pauline Parker. I taught at girls high briefly when the decision was being made to whether they would lend the uniforms for Peter Jackson's movie. And I was, um, sitting in the theatre when Peter Jackson sort of bumbled onto the stage and and sort of introduced his movie. And so I'd sort of been there at quite a lot of the important moments of the story. [00:25:00] And so I felt like I wanted to tell it I. I did say I'd accepted the the negative reaction. Then, on on a flight back after filming uh, arts programme from on Marsh, I suddenly realised that I, perhaps her books were so rich and so interesting, and there was so much in the public domain. Perhaps I could write a book and it was sort of it was a epiphany for me. And so I I immediately went to the local cafe and I pounded out a proposal [00:25:30] and sent it into Harper Collins. And I think they were almost they were reluctant to accept it, Uh, because she wasn't participating in it. And what happened after that was that I had a, uh a crisis. I was so enthusiastic to get back in this contract. When I finally got it, I was looking forward to it. So so long and then I I just couldn't read her books anymore. I just couldn't go back there. I couldn't pick it up again. And I I couldn't really work out Why? And then I the more I sat there and thought [00:26:00] about it, the more I realised that it was because it was it was sort of like a rape. I felt it was dealing with someone's intimate life and intimate story without any of their awareness or participation or involvement. Well, actually, without any engagement at all. And so I rang up cons and I said, I don't know that I can carry on with this and and I was mulling it over, and my partner said, Why don't you just say you've got a contract? Go back to them again? And so I, um I did, And by the return [00:26:30] email, I got, uh, next morning, send us the proposal. So I actually did have quite a lot of the murder in the proposal at the front of it. And I felt that maybe that was some story that that was kind of the story she already knew. I did produce a little bit of that and send it back to half Collins. No, that was fine. And then I sent it to them and I got an email from Meg Davis and she said, Thank you very much. I'll send that on to Anne and we'll get back to you. [00:27:00] Um, that's very helpful. And 21 minutes later, there was another email and it and it said, um, an I meet you in London. It was a very strange thing. And I think that, um, people say to me, What was it? What was it that that turned her around? And I didn't actually ever ask her, because I was terrified that if she thought about it, really hard, she might say no. So this is what I did have as a sort of concluding paragraph. Um, it is amazing [00:27:30] to have discovered a voice for Juliet Hume in the writing of Anne Perry, and New Zealand needs to listen. It is time to move on from the 19 fifties, the details of which have been frozen in time and ground over long enough. In today's context, this is punitive and embarrassing. Ian Perry's story needs to grow to leave behind the terrible mistake of a young teenager and mature to acknowledge the remarkable adult [00:28:00] contribution and achievement of one of the world's most well known crime, DS. But one of the things that Anne Perry is very strong about and and is is just the lack of voice, the sense of powerlessness. I think that was what really got her involved. But of course they weren't very positive about me. And, um, what happened was we met, and two hours into this meeting I said, Would you mind if I turn the tape recorder on? And she said, No, that's fine. [00:28:30] And I think that was it II. I thought there would be some sort of orchestra playing somewhere. But no, there wasn't. It was just turning on. It was just an acknowledgement that now we could start. Um, kind of. I had full access to everything. I'm surprised I wouldn't have done it. And I read this This email. This is between Anne Perry's agents and her publishers. I don't think this particular author is the right person. That's me. She's based in New Zealand, which will put Anne's heckles up. [00:29:00] She's published a biography of Nia Marsh. She sent her academic CV, which would suggest her approach will be more focused on Anne's work and less on her life. However, she's not got much of a track record, and I think we could aim higher. That was quite bruising, actually, for my ego, and when I took it to me and I said, Oh, this is an interesting thing I read as she backpedalled, but not successfully enough to make me feel that much better, But so [00:29:30] essentially they felt that I had actually backed them into a corner, but they didn't know that my story or my back story to being there. I felt in many ways that really this has never been an authorised, Um, biography. This has probably been much more a hijack biography in a way. Certainly they still feel like that. But the issue is that she did participate, and I think that they were wrong about the fact that this person was the wrong person. In fact, I think a New Zealander was the perfect person [00:30:00] to write this biography, and I think someone from Christchurch, um, with those kind of connections who could actually put aside the world in which Juliet Hume was demonised and find the adult who's emerged from that world. And I think I think that was important and I think it was important and they didn't realise it because that wasn't their world. And I don't think they realised how much of Anne Perry is actually defined by her New Zealand experiences. [00:30:30] When I when I when I was there talking to her and I spent hours and hours and hours and hours with Anne Perry and I had hours and hours and hours of recordings, so many that I got, I bought an iPod so that I could walk around because I was getting, um, I was almost getting bed sores listening to the tapes, you know, from from my backside on the chair. So at one stage I said something about being crook, and she goes, she sort of has a wee bit of a laugh to herself, and I could see that she found it amusing, [00:31:00] and I suddenly realised that it was that expression that had made her smile. And I said, Everything about me must take you back to New Zealand. My accent must remind you of it. My expressions, everything must take you back there. And I said, Is that uncomfortable for you? And she said, Don't you think that the most defining shape and formative years of my life were spent in New Zealand? She said, This is familiar to [00:31:30] me, and I don't feel that angst ridden about it. In fact, I think going back there it was a wee bit like facing your demons in a way. In a way, she faced New Zealand and facing me, and I think it was much more comfortable for her than perhaps she expected, and perhaps less chilling in a way than I expected. What's been amazing for me is that one of the arguments I see echoed is the fact that Anne Perry controls [00:32:00] people. New Zealand is usually in the 19 fifties it was Juliet Hume controlling Pauline Parker. And in the 19 or the 2012, the same assumptions are being made. That is an appalling echo. It's a disgraceful echo for New Zealand not to be able to believe that New Zealanders have some ability to act [00:32:30] and think independently. This kind of echo is very uncomfortable and I. I hope you can see that, especially when I'm very used to, um, dealing, uh, with the, um, pressures of people wanting a certain story. Told, I've told my own story. I found my own voice in this, um, in this project and I've enjoyed it. I've enjoyed it thoroughly. I enjoyed talking to Anne Perry, and I've enjoyed writing and reading the books. And and in some ways it's been [00:33:00] a very, um, liberating and and enjoyable experience. And I've also in along the way met some fascinating people and some of them after the book has come out, which is interesting. And there's two people here today, um, Shona Murray and Elizabeth Simco, whose fathers were involved with the girls Care with Anne, particularly at A and at Mount Prison. But, um, I. I got a little bit from from Shona here, which I think is really, [00:33:30] um, really helpful, she says. Here it was interesting in in the book to read about Phyllis Freeman. She was a lifer, and she used to do the cooking at a She was Show, she writes, shows ultimate forgiveness for a person who used Strine to kill someone. But she writes here, my parents, belief in clean slates for people, whatever they had done became the foundation for [00:34:00] my teaching philosophy throughout my career, working with young people. And I think New Zealand should be proud of what it's done for both those women because it has allowed them to left New Zealand, uh, and lived useful, productive. And I think I I'd like to say redemptive lives. But, you know, maybe that's history will decide that, but certainly useful and decent ones, and I think that it's a credit to New Zealand that that's happened [00:34:30] lovely right through that face.

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AI Text:September 2023