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I freely admit that I first read an Anne Perry book after learning of her involvement in a sensational New Zealand murder case. But before you judge me too harshly, consider a summer in the Mojave desert. There is nothing to do because of the soul sucking heat that drives everyone who cannot get out of town into their swamp cooled or air-conditioned houses. Much like Alaskans, we hibernate for a good part of the year. Only for us it is summertime. Ed and I spent our days reading, mostly mysteries, and we were always on the lookout for new, to us, authors and series.

One Sunday we saw an interview of Anne Perry on 60 Minutes or Dateline (back before there was an internet) during which she discussed her murder conviction of 1954. I had never read a book written by a murderer before, and couldn’t resist the temptation to see if our local library stocked any of her work. They did and we read.

Before I get to the actual books, a few words about the notorious past of Anne Perry:

She was born Juliet Hulme, on October 28, 1938 in Blackheath, England. Daughter of a physicist, she spent most of her early life separated from her family in attempt to mitigate the impact of the climate on her poor health (tuberculosis). She was living with her father in New Zealand when she and her only friend murdered her friend’s mother, Honora Rieper, on June 22, 1954. She was 15 at the time and as a minor was not allowed to speak in her own defense which, according to interviews, bothers her still. The murder was a particularly violent one; the victim was struck on or about the head at least 45 times with a brick in a sock.

Anne Perry and her friend were convicted of murder on August 29th of the same year and sentenced to be detained at “Her Majesty’s pleasure,” which was an indeterminate sentence. Though she didn't know it at the time, she serve five and a half years including time at Mt Eden Prison, a notorious adult prison (she was the only minor) where convicted prisoners were still being hanged as late as 1957. Her first three months there were spent in solitary confinement in order to break her spirit before she was released into the general population. Upon her release she left New Zealand, taking her step-father’s surname, and after some years in America, Canada and England, she settled quietly in a Scottish village where she wrote her Victorian mystery novels.

Ian Rankin, a Scottish mystery writer, interviewed her about her past. A transcript can be found here.

 


 


Peter Jackson, of "Lord of the Rings" fame, made a movie about the murder, "Heavenly Creatures," casting a young Kate Winslet as Perry in 1994. The movie, made without her knowledge, outed Anne Perry as a convicted murderer. Hence the news interview that we watched one Sunday evening. She did not ever try to capitalize on her notorious past or profit from it, but tried very hard to live quietly with it remaining a secret from friends, neighbors, her agent and the public at large.

Although others disagree, I felt that she had served her time and had paid the debt that society demanded and so I would, over the years, buy her books of Thomas Pitt and William Monk. They were good books. And just a few weeks ago I used two of her Christmas novellas in a Monday Murder Mystery diary. It wasn’t murder that put me off her work, it was religion. Why is below the fold.

I loved Anne Perry’s early Charlotte and Thomas Pitt mysteries for the detail of the era as well as the mysteries themselves. Even the secondary characters, like Charlotte’s mother, sisters and great Aunt Vespasia were captivating. Set in the late Victorian era (1880s & 90s) these books followed the adventures of Charlotte, a daughter of the upper middle class, and her husband, Inspector Thomas Pitt. Although the son of a gamekeeper and a cook, he was raised on the estate of a nobleman sharing and enjoying the education of the son of the house.

In accurately depicting the time, Perry made it come alive as she demonstrated the restrictions placed on young, and old, women. Newspapers were considered unfit for their eyes, and discussion of war, murder or sex was strictly prohibited. Class and society are exposed and examined in the series as it deals with prostitution, poverty, usury, politics and all of the other social ills of the era.

Her first Pitt mystery, The Cater Street Hangman, written in 1979, introduced us to Charlotte Ellison, the rather outspoken middle daughter of three. Inspector Pitt is the officer assigned to investigate the murder, by garrote, of Lily Mitchell, a maid in the Ellison household. She is the third young woman to be murdered in the same manner in the same neighborhood. The author sets up enough potential suspect to keep the reader guessing and fully engrossed in the tale.

But as the series went on, Perry introduced a conspiracy element into the novels that I found puzzling at first, and ultimately boring. I don’t have a problem with conspiracy novels and enjoyed novels like Robert Ludlum’s Ostermann Weekend. But I never felt that Perry made it believable and it seemed that the mysteries themselves suffered by the inclusion of the conspiracy plot.

So I started reading the William and Hester Monk series instead. In the first of that series, Face of a Stranger, we are introduced to William Monk in 1856 as he regains consciousness after a terrible accident has left him with no memory of his past. It is only through a receipt in his pocket that he is able to find his way to his home. Running a bluff, he struggles to solve the murder of a young nobleman who was a hero of the Crimean War. It is during his investigation that he crosses paths with Hester Latterly, a strong woman who had been a nurse alongside Florence Nightingale during that war. I enjoyed the thought of a detective who did not know who he had been but suspected that he might not have liked himself. The mysteries were well done and were set much earlier than the later Victorian Era mysteries of the Pitts and they seemed somehow grittier. Then I just kind of drifted way from her writing and don’t remember why.

Last month I included two novellas, A Christmas Guest and A Christmas Secret for the Christmas Eve diary. Anne Perry writes an engaging tale, and I still like most of her characters. But it reminded me that she had written a five book series on WWI that I had wanted to read ever since Downton Abbey awakened my interest in the first few decades of the twentieth century.

The first book, No Graves as Yet, introduces us to the Reavely family in the summer of 1914. Matthew is an intelligence officer, a vocation of which his father, an honorable man and retired politician, never approved. His older brother, Joseph, is an Anglican priest who teaches at nearby Cambridge. The daughter of the family is still living in the family home when the parents are killed in what appears to be an automobile accident. At the time of the accident, his parents were on the way to see Matthew about a document that his father claimed would reveal "a conspiracy to ruin England and everything we stand for."

So, I should have known and stopped right there, but I soldiered on even though she used one of the literary devices that I hate the most, that of calling the bad guy the “Peacemaker” or any other made up name, like the Grey Mask. Good guys, bad guys, without any communication, they all seem to agree upon this name to call the unknown head of the conspiracy. I don’t know why some authors do this. It makes me crazy because I cannot imagine a world in which this would actually happen. It seems like a kind of lazy writing to label someone “Peacemaker” instead of crafting the plot in such a way that the name would not be needed. But that is a minor quibble.

In addition to the questionable deaths of his parents, Joseph Reavely also has to deal with the murder of his favorite student at Cambridge. That mystery investigation reveals the underlying sins of the student body and faculty of the University and is concurrent with and perhaps connected to the death of the Reavely parents.

As long as the story focused on the murder at the university I enjoyed it. Enough that I started reading the second novel in the series, Shoulder the Sky. This one opens in the trenches during WWI itself. Joseph is now an Army chaplain serving the troops on the front line. There is of course, a murder (as opposed to the deaths due to the war itself) that Joseph feels he must investigate. But he is troubled by the fact that his religious beliefs provide no answer to the question, “Why does God allow these awful things to happen?”

Since that is not a question I find particularly troubling, I was not especially interested in how he works his way through it. But then it appeared that his sister would play a more visible role in this novel as a volunteer driver for the commanding general in Reavely’s area. But alas, Joseph’s internal torment was more than I could deal with and I gave up about a third of the way through.

While researching Ms Perry’s background for this diary I found an extensive interview that she did for a New Zealand television show that is also named 60 Minutes. Running about 45 minutes, the discussion spends some time on her childhood crime. I admit that I was kind of puzzled by how it was all about her and her journey to redemption, with not a single word about the victim. That seemed kind of, I don’t know, heartless maybe? But it was only towards the very end that I realized why I put down Shoulder the Sky. Anne Perry, a devout Mormon, wrote the five novel series to show how a man’s faith in God is tested and lost and how he regains it.

When I was a teenager I knowingly read The Robe, The Shoes of the Fisherman, Dear and Glorious Physician and a whole bunch of other novels that today would be considered “Christian Literature.” When I first got my kindle I inadvertently downloaded some free books that turned out to have heavy Christian themes (I now know what to look for) that made me feel tricked into buying them, even though they were free. But that sense of betrayal was nothing compared to how I felt when I realized that I was reading Christian literature instead of mystery. OTOH, it explained why I found so much of it tedious. The themes she wished to explore were of absolutely no interest to me.

That is not to say that they wouldn’t be of interest to others. If religious faith is your cup of tea you might enjoy this series. But if you are looking for a good mystery set in the Victoria era with a touch of romance, I would recommend The Cater Street Hangman instead.

Readers & Book Lovers Series Schedule

DAY TIME (EST/EDT) Series Name Editor(s)
SUN 6:00 PM Young Reader's Pavilion The Book Bear
Sun 9:30 PM SciFi/Fantasy Book Club quarkstomper
Bi-Monthly Sun Midnight Reading Ramblings don mikulecky
MON 8:00 PM Monday Murder Mystery Susan from 29
Mon 11:00 PM My Favorite Books/Authors edrie, MichiganChet
TUES 5:00 PM Indigo Kalliope: Poems from the Left bigjacbigjacbigjac
alternate Tuesdays 8:00 AM LGBT Literature Texdude50, Dave in Northridge
Tue 8:00 PM Contemporary Fiction Views Brecht, bookgirl
WED 7:30 AM WAYR? plf515
Wed 8:00 PM Bookflurries Bookchat cfk
THU 8:00 PM Write On! SensibleShoes
Thu (first each month) 11:00 AM Monthly Bookpost AdmiralNaismith
Thu (third each month - on hiatus) 11:00 PM Audiobooks Club SoCaliana
FRI 8:00 AM Books That Changed My Life Diana in NoVa
SAT (fourth each month) 11:00 AM Windy City Bookworm Chitown Kev
Sat 4:00 PM Daily Kos Political Book Club Freshly Squeezed Cynic
Sat 9:00 PM Books So Bad They're Good Ellid

Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 05:00 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I gave up on Pitt, too, a while back (18+ / 0-)

    but I love Monk and Hester.  The trouble is that it is good to read them in order as Monk learns more about himself as they go on.

    She tackled some important things in the stories and the character of Oliver is very interesting, too.  

    This is the order:

        The Face of a Stranger
        A Dangerous Mourning
        Defend and Betray
        A Sudden Fearful Death
        The Sins of the Wolf
        Cain His Brother
        Weighed in the Balance
        The Silent Cry
        Breach of Promise (aka Whited Sepulchres)
        The Twisted Root
        Funeral in Blue
        Slaves and Obsession
        Death of a Stranger
        The Shifting Tide
        The Dark Assassin
        Execution Dock
        Acceptable Loss
        A Sunless sea

    I did not wish to read the ones about WW I.

    Thanks for your diary!

    Join us at Bookflurries-Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

    by cfk on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 05:16:14 PM PST

  •  I checked out one of the later mysteries and (11+ / 0-)

    could not get beyond the first couple of pages. The prose was repetitive and boring.

  •  Heavenly Creatures is a good movie (11+ / 0-)

    I've never actually read any of her work.

    That's not even "gun control". It's more like "massacre control".

    by Inland on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 05:20:39 PM PST

  •  Enjoy your thoughts and (11+ / 0-)

      research on mysteries.  Always a pleasure.  Thank You.

  •  Thanks for this well-written, interesting diary, (11+ / 0-)

    Susan.  I enjoyed reading it.  However, speaking for myself, nothing would induce me to read a book by Anne Perry.  She may have paid her debt to society in the eyes of the law, but in my eyes no one can "pay" for taking a human life.  I'm not going to buy her books or even borrow them from the library.

    As far as I'm concerned, this life is the only one we can be sure of. It's imperative that we respect each other and strive to be as kind as possible to our fellow creatures. 'Nuff said. :)

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 05:28:05 PM PST

    •  Thanks for reading the diary. After the Christmas (6+ / 0-)

      diary, I felt I needed to give more background on who she was and what she did.

      Only in the darkness can you see the stars - Martin Luther King, Jr

      by Susan Grigsby on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 05:35:17 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Great writing is its own end. (7+ / 0-)

        If we only read writers who were also good people, we would do very little reading...just as we wouldn't see many brilliant actors if we only watched actors whose lives were meticulously moral.

        What am I trying to say?

        I am trying to say that to succeed anyone -- ANYONE -- in the arts needs to have a cast-iron ego.

        They will suffer so much rejection, you see.

        And that cast-iron ego comes at a cost.  The great writer, or actor, or musician, or whatever is probably NOT going to come across as a nice person.

        To make the argument that the media has a left- or right-wing, or a liberal or a conservative bias, is like asking if the problem with Al-Qaeda is do they use too much oil in their hummus. Al Franken

        by Youffraita on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 07:34:02 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Appreciate your point, Youffraita--however, (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Susan from 29, viral, Youffraita

          being a git in one's personal life is not quite the same thing as committing murder.

          Charles Dickens was such a git that when he brought home a young woman he was courting to meet his family, he explained that his grown children were his "brothers and sisters."

          John Milton was a real shit to his wife.

          Dante Rossetti used to scare little children by growling like a bear when they bothered him.

          And on and on.  However reprehensible some people might be, personality traits are one thing and murder quite another.

          One exception the "genius as git" pattern is Master Shakespeare.  In his time he was known as "gentle Shakespeare."  In a highly litigious age, he never sued anyone for anything.  Of course, he did leave his wife, and that, one might say, was not very nice.  He loved his children, though.

          "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

          by Diana in NoVa on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 07:03:05 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I also want to add that (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Susan from 29

            I would have more respect for her and her works if they were not grounded in the past but dealt with the present. It feels like an evasion of sorts.

          •  She was fifteen, correct? (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            WB Reeves

            Yes, it's wrong to commit murder.  But, yes, her age at the time of the murder does make a difference.

            Children should not be tried as adults, not even in murder cases.  The evidence is overwhelming -- I'm not going to get into all of it now b/c it's late & a proper search would result not in a comment but a diary -- but adolescents just aren't quite right in the head (my term: the researchers have more elegant phraseology).

            To make the argument that the media has a left- or right-wing, or a liberal or a conservative bias, is like asking if the problem with Al-Qaeda is do they use too much oil in their hummus. Al Franken

            by Youffraita on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 11:21:21 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  and it's interesting background, thanks (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Susan from 29, Aunt Pat, kurious

        I'd read several of hers before I knew any more about her than appears on the jacket blurbs.

        We are often so identified with whatever thoughts we may be having that we don’t realize the thoughts are a commentary on reality, and not reality itself. -- Gangaji

        by Mnemosyne on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 07:45:38 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Just out of curiousity (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Susan from 29

      Do you feel the same about books written by soldiers or police who've killed in the line of duty?

      Nothing human is alien to me.

      by WB Reeves on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 09:15:22 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  From what I remember of the movie (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Susan from 29, pitbullgirl65

      she was the one that was the leader of the pair that committed the murder. It makes me a bit queasy to read her books and that she is actually profiting by them. I also don't care that much for Victorian mysteries.

  •  I'd read all the way up to (10+ / 0-)

    Shifting Tides before I found out about the author's history. I'd made up my own backstory for Anne Perry, based on nothing and completely erroneous as it turned out.

    There happens to be a writer of nursing textbooks named Anne Perry.  I thought they were the same person and that she was someone who turned her work experience into fiction in the same way as P.D. James or Patricia Cornwell, both of whom worked in forensic science before writing crime stories.  What better Mary Sue for a nurse educator writing mysteries than a nurse who served with Florence Nightengale in the Crimea.

    Well I guess she did base her fiction on her own life experiences. Ewww.  

    Monk fanatic that I was, I didn't know if I could stomach reading the next one that came out knowing what I knew now about the author.

    I went on to read the next two novels in the series and enjoyed them.  But I no longer saw Hester as the character the author was identifying with.  It was William Monk, trying to come to terms with a dark past he could barely remember.

    Light is seen through a small hole.

    by houyhnhnm on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 05:40:07 PM PST

    •  I think you may be right about her identification (8+ / 0-)

      with Monk. She claims that she was on mind altering medication for her illness and may only have sketchy memories of what she did but knows it was wrong.

      Then again, she feels that she found redemption in prison when she assumed responsibility for the crime and decided that that was not who she wanted to be, and a measure of forgiveness within the LDS Church.

      Only in the darkness can you see the stars - Martin Luther King, Jr

      by Susan Grigsby on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 05:57:54 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Good diary! (11+ / 0-)

    I was surprised to see who you were writing about.  I had read a number of her books before I found out about her past.  I, like you, enjoyed reading about the period, and liked the characters for the first few books.  I got tired of them, though, because they were always so preachy and stuffy and moralized about everything.  I quit reading her books after awhile, and then discovered the WWI series.  They're okay to read now and again.  As for her past, well, I read her books trying to find the person who had murdered someone.  The way she writes and who she once was just seem so incongruous.  As for making a character judgment about her, I just don't feel like it's my place.  She has to go on living with herself.  That's her problem, not mine.

  •  you might share your tips (5+ / 0-)

    on what to look for to avoid those "Christian-themed novels" that show up so often on free book lists.

    I've had the same issues you highlight here about a complete lack of interest in those plots.  None of those conflicts are even remotely interesting to me.

    Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

    by a gilas girl on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 07:03:03 PM PST

    •  Used to be I would find clues in words like (5+ / 0-)

      "searching" "something missing in her life" etc. Now Amazon has very conveniently added tags to the books that appear on the bottom of the page that readily identify the Christian novels. For some reason Anne Perry's WWI series is not identified as such even though her interview on New Zealand's 60 Minutes makes clear that a man's religious journey is what they are all about.

      Only in the darkness can you see the stars - Martin Luther King, Jr

      by Susan Grigsby on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 07:57:53 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I, too, read some of (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Susan from 29, Aunt Pat, scilicet, hazey

    the Pitt series, but I think only about four or maybe five. And I think I've read one or two of the WWI series. But, as you say, one loses interest, and pinning it on the proselytising kind of explains it.

    We are often so identified with whatever thoughts we may be having that we don’t realize the thoughts are a commentary on reality, and not reality itself. -- Gangaji

    by Mnemosyne on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 07:43:50 PM PST

  •  I read about a dozen Anne Perry Novels (5+ / 0-)

    all told. Both series. Found them entertaining enough but they wore thin for me. The notion of an amnesiac detective always seemed a little contrived and calculated. In the end, I didn't find Monk compelling enough to keeping reading as she revealed more and more about his past.

    I saw Heavenly Creatures before I ever read a word of her stuff but I as I recall it didn't have anything to do with my taking her up. A fantastic film, though I don't know how factual it is. It paints a fascinating and seductive portrait of submersion in shared fantasy and obsession and the extremes to which it may lead. If the film is to be credited, it is the love story of two adolescent girls in the repressive environment of 1950's New Zealand whose mutual passion leads to murder.

    I suppose I'm just an old school Lefty. I don't think the actions of children, however terrible, can be judged by the same standard as adults.  

         

    Nothing human is alien to me.

    by WB Reeves on Mon Jan 21, 2013 at 09:53:16 PM PST

    •  interesting point about judging children (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pimutant, Susan from 29, hazey, WB Reeves

      Young teens do have the wildest craziest emotional storms, can create adrenaline-fueled feedback loops that destroy all perspective.

      Anne Perry is so well-liked by other writers, considered so kind and modest, that I guess I tend to think of her as following in the footsteps of Hester Prynne. I would have no problem reading her books. But at some point long ago I put her into the category of writers who don't write the kinds of books I like. I didn't remember why, though. So I was very interested in the descriptions here of her different series.

      As ever, thank you Susan for the care you put into your diaries! I always learn something from them.

      "Drawing on my fine command of the English language, I said nothing." Robert Benchley

      by scilicet on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 09:13:47 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  It wasn't only their youth that made me hesitate (6+ / 0-)

        to judge too harshly, it was their isolation caused by childhood illnesses and difficult family lives that they both shared. Together they developed a fantasy life of intricate detail that became obsessive. And there was the matter of the medications that Anne Perry was taking and whether or not they had something to do with her behavior.

        Turns out that there was only one juvenile facility for girls in New Zealand at the time and since the two girls were to be held separately, Perry wound up in an adult prison which had some very barbaric standards for rehabilitation, including an introductory three months of isolation in solitary confinement. Forget all of the rest of her life and focus on the events of those five months in 1954: June 22 was the murder, conviction was two months later, on August 29 and then she was locked up, alone, for three months to ponder her sins.

        The marvel is that she survived to become any kind of a human being, much less one who could write stories that would enchant millions.

        Only in the darkness can you see the stars - Martin Luther King, Jr

        by Susan Grigsby on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 10:57:47 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  My thoughts (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    scilicet, Susan from 29, grannyboots

    I originally began reading Anne Perry with the Cater Street Hangman.  I enjoyed most of the Pitt series and the Monk series.  I have never read the WWI series as I was not interested in that time period, and will probably not read it in the future.  What I really enjoyed, especially about her earlier work, was the murderer was usually a fairly complex character.  

    When I found out about her history, I wondered if her experience helped her see the fatal flaws and decisions that lead a murderer to believe that what is unthinkable to everyone else, is somehow reasonable and even inevitable.  

    I don't want to give away the ending in Cater Street Hangman, but the motives for the murders are so much more than greed or casual violence.  I've often wondered if Anne Perry's better books are better because she can understand the humanity of the murderer.

    Truth is generally the best vindication against slander - Abraham Lincoln; 1864

    by Debis Diatribes on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 02:01:40 AM PST

  •  I Like Perry's Novels (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Nikki4me, Susan from 29, grannyboots

    And honestly don't understand the overly indignant attitude of people who have not one thing to do with New Zealand, the murder, Juliet Hulme or anything else. As far as I'm concerned, there is an inviolable separation between artist & audience which is only breached by the art itself. What they are in real life is not my concern although I may seek out that information out of curiosity. To sit there and judge make asinine pronouncements about who you are not going to read a book or listen to a piece of music because the artist is something you don't like is simply stupid. Alfred Hitchcock was a piece of shit as a human. John Phillips (if his daughter Mackenzie is to be believed) was an incestuous pedophile who pimped his daughter out to other musicians. I may be repulsed by the artist but the art transcends.

    Don't even get me started about Wagner.

    This head movie makes my eyes rain.

    by The Lone Apple on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 03:00:01 AM PST

    •  Hi, and welcome to Monday Murder Mysteries! We (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      grannyboots

      love to see new members join our book discussions.

      I do ask that you temper your words so that they do not attack someone you disagree with on a personal level.

      To sit there and judge make asinine pronouncements about who you are not going to read a book or listen to a piece of music because the artist is something you don't like is simply stupid.
      We don't generally speak to each other this way in this series. If you look upthread, you can find an opinion in agreement with your own, but one that was expressed with respect for the  person holding the differing opinion. http://www.dailykos.com/...

      We are Book Lovers, not fighters. ;-)

      Again, welcome to Monday Murder Mystery.

      Only in the darkness can you see the stars - Martin Luther King, Jr

      by Susan Grigsby on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 10:15:44 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  My apologies (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Susan from 29

        Sadly what I wrote was a toned down (if not a grammatically correct) version of what I would normally say in a book discussion. As a denizen of the old Usenet, I am probably used to a more verbally violent form of conversation -- more Parker than Poirot.

        Perhaps it's best if I read rather than contribute for now.

        This head movie makes my eyes rain.

        by The Lone Apple on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 06:08:38 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm sorry you feel that way, it was not my intent. (0+ / 0-)

          Right now there is so much acrimony at Daily Kos that I may be a little hypersensitive to it spilling into R&BLers. And if I was, to the point where you are not comfortable discussing books with us, I apologize.

          Only in the darkness can you see the stars - Martin Luther King, Jr

          by Susan Grigsby on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 07:15:04 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  I had no idea about Perry's past (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Susan from 29, dewtx

    This was interesting. It's making me think about some of the bloody details of the books -- were they from personal experience? I read several of the Thomas Pitt novels but found they did get repetitive (how many times can Charlotte give someone "a dazzling smile"?). I never got into the Monk series. But I always wished I had an Aunt Vespasia.

    •  The head housemaid syndrome (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Susan from 29, viral

      I also gave up on Anne Perry's books due to
      repetitiveness.  Everytime Pitt went to a house to interview a witness, we were told that the head housemaid is always tall and good-looking.  Descriptions of Victorian-era decor got old- lots of dead birds under glass.  And the remarks about fashion-if your collar was not this week's style, you were outed as an outsider!  I stopped reading this series 15 years ago, and I'm still vaguely annoyed by the memory.

  •  "hanged" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Susan from 29, grannyboots

    "hung" is for pictures, "hanged" is for people.

    •  Thanks, I corrected that. Errors like that in (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      grannyboots

      other people's work drive me crazy. Thanks for the easy way to remember it. Someone once told me that people lie down, ducks lay down. (Which isn't entirely correct, but it gets across the idea that you lay an object down.)

      Only in the darkness can you see the stars - Martin Luther King, Jr

      by Susan Grigsby on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 10:19:10 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Enjoyed the books... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Susan from 29

    ... though I've by no means read them all.  What fascinated me was her meticulous depiction of the era and how people lived; that they were murder mysteries was only secondary.  

    I did not know about her past.  But I also don't know enough about what really happened (or why) to feel qualified to make any judgments -- the courts of New Zealand were the venue for that, and they did.  

    I know or have met a lot of professional writers (and other kinds of creative artists).  Some very good writers are absolute jerks to be around, and some writers are delightful people but I don't care for their books.  All people have pasts, and many have Issues.  And people make mistakes, sometimes very serious ones -- and sometimes they learn from them and move on with life, if they can.  And that can be a good thing -- at least the best possible outcome under the circumstances.

    But the books are fascinating for their setting and the characters. She clearly did a LOT of research, and she made the era come alive, at least for me.  

    •  I tend to agree. I am not comfortable in judging (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      fumie, JanetT in MD

      how she was judged, but I am reassured by the fact that she was not the one trying to make a profit from her crime. She never wanted anyone to know that she was that person then because she felt she was a different person now.

      And I agree with you on how she depicts the era. You almost feel the need to lift your feet to avoid the unswept streets of her characters.

      Only in the darkness can you see the stars - Martin Luther King, Jr

      by Susan Grigsby on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 10:24:09 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think continuing to associate Ms. Perry with (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Susan from 29, viral, pitbullgirl65

        her crimes all those years ago is similar to my reaction to seeing the Jack Reacher movie with Tom Cruise.

        I've read all the Reacher books and like them. Cruise does an OK job, I guess, but I know WAY too much about 'Tom Cruise' for this role to be believable by me.

        I also know WAY too much about Reacher from the books. It just isn't the way I imagine Reacher.

        I learned of Ms. Perry's past somewhere along the line, but since so many 'great' artists were unattractive human beings I don't worry about it. Although the Pitt books have interesting settings, I'm finding the plots less compelling.

        *There are two sides to every horseshit.* Kos

        by glorificus on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 01:44:36 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Interesting diary. Thank you. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Susan from 29, dewtx, glorificus, Zoskie

    I have read some Anne Perry - I like to read authors who give me lots of books - but I find her prose to be flowery.  And she proselytizes; total turnoff.

    As for her background - I live in a glass house and try to do unto others.  I also believe in redemption because if I didn't, my own life would not be worth living.

    "May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house." - George Carlin

    by Most Awesome Nana on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 09:41:06 AM PST

  •  Many thanks (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Susan from 29

    For your critique and the informative responses following. I can build my reading list.

    Um, just for fun, you might want to take a peek at a short series about a character called India Black. I'd like your take.

  •  Bad Fortune. Good Fortune (3+ / 0-)

    I had the misfortune to have the signing table next to Ms. Perry's at the Murder in the Grove mystery conference in Boise a few years ago. Watching the disparity between the two lines was, to put it mildly, humbling.

    I then had the great GOOD fortune to be seated with her at one of the lunches. She could not have been more gracious Lovely woman. Love her books, too.

    My books, both e- and tree: http://tinyurl.com/7duag4c

    by JDRhoades on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 01:22:22 PM PST

  •  A little Anne Perry story (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Susan from 29

    I was in  her line at a mystery convention...and gave her a book to sign which she looked at quite distastefully but signed anyway.  When I got it back, I discovered the problem.  After seeing it was yellowed, I was puzzled until I remembered I had loaded up a bunch of books from the bottom shelf of the book shelf and guessed that our dog had marked his territory there.  She could be grateful I didn't share this with her.   At the time I didn't know she was convicted of murder.

    I commented to her that I was glad she didn't go with the obvious pairing of Hester and Monk and kept me wondering(at that time Hester had another suitor).  She said she wasn't sure who Hester would end up and she seemed to thaw a little.

    I quit reading after one that involved counterfeiting.  One of the two...can't remember if it was Hester or Monk....was horribly disturbed by counterfeiting and really was overwrought about it.  I like being astonished by mysteries and Face of the Strangerdid that.  The following books didn't quite reach that level for me but they were good, solid reads.  Somehow that book seemed a step down.

    "Forever is composed of nows." Emily Dickinson

    by Leftovers on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 01:27:22 PM PST

  •  Good Diary! Ruth Rendell is the queen (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Island, Susan from 29, viral

    of psychological suspense. I don't know if you've read her but she knocks it out of the park.
    The Bridesmaid, Tree Of Hands, & A Judgement in Stone are some of her works. She also writes under Barbera Vine. The Brimstone Wedding is outstanding.
    She has tremendous sympathy for the underdog.

    She also has a Det. Wexford series.

    I think she has almost 50 novels out. LOVE HER!

    I couldn't read Perry after I watched Heavenly Creatures (awesome movie btw).
      I just couldn't stomach the irony of a murderer writing murder mysteries.

    "I have to go... There are two gay men knocking on my door asking me if I need any abortions or marijuana. Diary, this may be my last entry" Facebook hysteria after 2012 election

    by pitbullgirl65 on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 04:31:24 PM PST

  •  My favorite living author (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Susan from 29

    After first discovering years Anne Perry's books years ago, I learned about her past.  Selfishly, my first reaction was, I hope she doesn't stop writing because I would desperately miss the characters.  The discovery of her past also made me reconsider the things that I have done of that can still make me cringe with shame.  I have students in my classes who have done some really terrible things (no murderers that I know of, yet), but I don't pass judgment on them.

    If we explore the personal lives of many famous creative people, we'd probably be repulsed by the likes of Charles Dickens, Poe and Scott Fitzgerald.  Their works would be denounced because of their monstrous egos and addictions.  I admit to having a difficult time separating Woody Allen's work from his personal life. I guess it's called being a human.

    I still love the books.  The Pitt family, Monk and Hester have all become like dear friends.   A few months ago, I heard on a mystery readers' blog that a TV series featuring Thomas Pitt is in the works.  I emailed Anne to ask about it, and extended an invitation (or plea, really) to visit my city of residence.  I included my phone number as a kind of joke.  Damned if she didn't email me and call that afternoon.  We chatted for 20 minutes.

  •  I just finished (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Susan from 29

    The Cater Street Hangman.  I enjoyed most of the book, but the ending felt rather unfinished to me.  It seemed like there were a couple of red herrings in the book that were never resolved.

    I might give another book of hers a shot one of these days, particularly now that I've read her backstory.  Thanks for sharing it.

    There is no snooze button on a cat who wants breakfast.

    by puzzled on Tue Jan 22, 2013 at 06:48:40 PM PST

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