PRISON OF ASSOCIATION – CRIMES AND PUNISHMENTS

Anne Perry, the accomplished British mystery writer has written 60 books and sold over 26 million copies. She is also a convicted murderer who was sentenced to life in prison for the brutal murder of her best girl friend Pauline Parker’s mother in 1954. (Her fellow crime writer Ian Rankin interviewed her circa 2007. The interview was uploaded to YouTube .)

Unlike Karla, who has never managed to stay completely off the radar, Juliet Hulme, the name Anne Perry was born with, got out of jail in 1959, changed her name, moved to the Oakland area in California, became a devout Mormon and eventually the famous and wealthy writer she is today. In the process she variously lived in England, the United States and even Toronto, Canada, as the Globe and Mail proudly points out. She now lives in a stylish renovated piggery in the remote fishing village of Portmahomak, 50 miles north of Inverness, on the Scottish Highlands.

It was Peter Jackson’s 1994 film Heavenly Creatures that was Anne Perry’s undoing. The provincial media in New Zealand never completely forgot the sensational case and in the excitement over the movie redoubled their efforts to find out what became of her.

Even though as teenagers Juliet and Pauline had been so close the threat of separation drove them to commit matricide, they never spoke again after their early release from prison in 1959. Ironically, in 1994 Pauline Parker was also found to be living under an assumed name on a horse farm about five miles down the road from Perry’s piggery.

As reported in the Toronto-based Globe and Mail on Saturday, October 6, 2012, Joanne Drayton, an academic and literary biographer currently living in Christchurch, New Zealand has recently written a book entitled “The Search for Anne Perry” and is on a geographically small “tour” of Canada with Ms. Perry herself.

She said “I felt compelled in a way to challenge the way that she [Anne Perry/Juliet Hulme] was perceived. It just seemed to me you can’t leave someone in a prison of association forever. You have to acknowledge that someone has moved on and changed and evolved and developed a useful contributing life apart from the thing they got horribly wrong.”

Parker and Hulme hatched a plot to murder Parker’s mother because she would not allow Pauline to accompany Juliet to South Africa in the wake of Juliet’s parent’s divorce. This enraged the two teenage girls and they devised a plan to override Mrs. Parker’s decision.

Juliet brought a half-brick in an old stocking on a walk with Pauline and her mother in a remote park just outside Christchurch and the two girls battered Mrs. Parker to death with it.

The matricide shocked and reviled New Zealand, as did Karla’s horrific crimes committed 37 years later with her then husband, Paul Bernardo. Similar to the sensational media coverage in southwestern Ontario the Kiwi media speculated that the perpetrators were insane, the Devil’s servants, sexual deviates who deserved to hang. Although sentenced to life the New Zealand government arranged for Juliet and Pauline to be quietly released after only five years.

As I pointed out in “Karla: A Pact with the Devil” Juliet and Pauline were able to disappear as were the very few other women convicted of horrific crimes throughout history who eventually get out of prison one way or the other. Winnie Ruth Judd is a good example.

When Anne Perry’s true identity was revealed in the wake of Jackson’s movie, she had just published her 19th book. Her oeuvre includes the critically acclaimed Thomas Pitt and William Monk series set during the First World War, and her annual Christmas novellas.

Joanne Drayton told the Globe reporter “Because it (the movie and the revelation of her true identity) happened to her we’ve become so, I think, fixated with…that part of her story. But it is only a very small part of her story.”

Very reluctantly Perry invited Drayton to the Scottish Highlands and they spent nine days talking about her life.

“The book is crafted around what Drayton calls a conversation between the adult Anne and the child Juliet, a journey as opposed to an interrogation. While Perry, now 73, participated, this is not an authorized biography. Apparently Perry has not read it.

Recently in what Joanne Drayton described as “a surprise move” Perry decided to appear with Drayton at two upcoming Canadian festivals, Wordfest in Calgary and Banff, October 9 -14and at the Vancouver Writers Fest, October 16 -21.).

“When people can’t allow you to be something better than the murderer ever, then it’s a permanent sentence.”

I don’t know about that. Since I did the research and wrote Karla I haven’t given Anne Perry a second thought – until now. Frankly, I don’t know what the fuss is about. She is whoever she is and it is what ever it is. It seems to me that all anyone is up to in these mysteries that become connundrums wrapped in mental confusion is selling books.

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FINDING KARLA: FRAUD, FICTION OR BOTH – PT. III

It’s my blog and I can cry if I want to… and blow my own horn. In my first post I pointed out that 2/3’s of Paula Todd’s “Finding Karla” e-essay was an error riddled rehash of Karla’s crimes.

In various media reports breathlessly lauding the Finkle/Todd excercise as the advent of a new form of personalized digital publishing (previously known as “vanity publishing”) – a story that was current about three years ago but news to Canadian media types such as Simon Houpt at the Globe and Mail and Greg Quill from the Toronto Star.

They must have missed all that reportage in the New York Times, Washington Post, The Guardian and virtually every other major organ in the United States, Great Britain and Europe about start ups like Byliner and the evolution of long-form journalism. But that’s another topic.

The problem with vanity publishing is exactly Finkle and Todd’s problem – you are your own fact checker and editor. Because they did not made the effort necessary to command the facts, they published a small essay that is severely fact challenged. If it were a dissertation Todd would be denied her degree.

According to Derek Finkle’s well-placed wink-wink-and nod to suggestible scribblers, their little digital vanity publishing experiment took about 75,000 people for $2.99 plus tax. Not a bad sleight of mind.

On the subject of Karla’s crimes, almost everyone alive with any knowledge of the case believes they have been retold too often. It is also somewhat ironic that the best and most succinct account can be had for free.

If I’m not mistaken, you can sample the first two or three chapters of any book you download (I know this to be true for iBooks) to decide if it’s worth putting out $9.99 or $12.95 or whatever. Thomas Pynchon’s recently digitally re-issued “Mason & Dixon” cost almost $14.00 including tax, but I was able to remind myself why it was worth every penny before I shelled out.

Apparently this was not the case with the Todd/Finkle offering but then again it was published as the short stuff i.e. as a Kindle Short. However, this sampling facility certainly applies to my last book on the case, “Karla: A Pact with the Devil”

I’ve included the link to the American Kindle edition below. In first three pages of the first chapter entitled “In the Beginning” is the best and most succinct summation of Karla’s crimes in existence. You can also read the first chapter on my website www.stephenwilliamsbooks.com by clicking the “Books” navigation button and then clicking the “Karla” button.

Given that we are approaching the 20th Anniversary of Karla’s conviction and the 10th Anniversary of her release from prison, it really should have been the last word on the subject.

Link to American Kindle edition. Karla: A Pact for the Devil is now available for the first time in the United States. Currently in Kobo and Kindle editions. Nook and iBooks and Sony reader shortly. Also internationally on Kobo and Kindle