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Anne Perry’s Hideous Past

Sandy brought to my attention novelist Anne Perry’s very dark past. In 1954, Perry, then a 15-year-old called Juliet Hulme, living in New Zealand, helped to bludgeon to death the mother of her friend, Pauline Parker. Both were convicted of murder and sent to prison. The grisly story was the subject of Peter Jackson’s film Heavenly Creatures, in which Hulme was played by Kate Winslet. She was released from prison in 1959 and set about reconstructing her life.

It’s no wonder books grapple with questions of sin and repentance, the price of redemption and forgiveness. In interview with the Guardian, Perry said “It is vital for me to go on exploring moral matters.” Notwithstanding the fact that she published over 50 novels and sold over 10 million copies, her real-life story is all the more shocking and engrossing. She served 5 years in an Auckland prison for complicity in the atrocious crime. For more than 30 years after her release, Perry lived quietly in Scotland—until a journalist in New Zealand revealed her past in 1994.

In 1954, the teen-age Hulme felt as if she had been pushed to the limit. Three days before she took part in the killing of Honora Parker on June 22, her parents announced that they were to divorce—triggered by Hulme having found her mother, Hilda, in bed with a lover. She turned to her close friend, Parker, a working-class girl from a humble background. Some felt it was a curious friendship for Hulme, whose family were well to do, her mother glamorous and clever. The two friends believed they could stay together if Pauline’s mother would let her leave New Zealand. Her refusal triggered Parker’s murderous rage and Hulme believed she owed it to her friend to help lure Mrs Parker to a Christchurch park and cosh her with a brick in a stocking.

4 Responses

  1. Did you watch the movie? We stumbled upon it because it was listed in our book 1000 Movies to Watch Before You Die. Whenever we are bored, we crack that thing open and see what is available on Netflix. I had no idea until I watched it that this was Anne Perry! Holy smokes! Excellent movie, very provocative, and early stuff for Winslet and Jackson. It’s the kind of multi-faceted discovery (Perry’s background, her books, her history, and that movie) that just makes your brain tingle, eh?

  2. I started reading Perry’s books because I was fascinated with the idea of a murderer actually writing murder mysteries. I’m not sure how to feel about what she did or whether I should support her writing — her crime is pretty horrific. On the other hand, her books are so complex and often she shows real sympathy for the murderer (the early Monk series particularly). So I keep reading.

  3. Wow, I did not know that. I have heard of Anne Perry but never read her books. Now I think I am morbidly curious about her work.

  4. I had NO idea of any of this. Really, really interesting. Thanks for sharing.

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