Friday, July 27, 2012
The Search for Anne Perry By Joanne Drayton
It is amazing to have discovered a voice for Juliet Hulme in the writing of Anne Perry, and New Zealand needs to listen. It is time to move out of the 1950s, the details of which have been frozen in time and ground over long enough. In today’s context this is punitive and embarrassing. Anne Perry’s life story needs to grow, to leave behind the terrible mistake of a young teenager and mature to acknowledge the remarkable adult contribution and achievements of one of the world’s most well-known crime doyennes.
- Taken from an email from Joanne Drayton to Meg Davis, literary agent to Anne Perry.
On 22 June 1954, Juliet Hulme and her friend Pauline Parker, set out for an afternoon in Victoria Park, Christchurch with Pauline’s mother, Honorah Parker. Unbeknownst to Honorah, this walk was going to end with her murder.
Both girls were subsequently charged with murder and tried in a court case that was widely covered by the press in New Zealand, and overseas. The mainly sensationalist, lurid, and tabloid media coverage of the trial turned it into something of a public freak-show.
Having been found guilty Juliet spent five and a half years in prison. Upon her release she changed her name and left New Zealand, never to be heard of again.
However, the 1994 release of Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures changed everything. With interest in the murder reignited, a journalist sought, and managed, to track down Juliet Hulme, who was now living under the name of Anne Perry.
At the time of Heavenly Creatures’ release, Anne Perry was leading a successful life as a bestselling crime fiction writer at the peak of her profession. In her illustrious career, which was now in its third decade, she had sold more than 12 million copies of her books.
While Anne’s identity has been revealed to the world for some years now, she has never spoken to a biographer about her life in-depth. However, in a ground-breaking move, the famously private Perry agreed to be comprehensively interviewed by acclaimed biographer Joanne Drayton, allowing her unparalleled access to her friends, relatives, colleagues and archives.
This unique access has allowed Drayton to write the first comprehensive biography of Anne Perry, bringing together the two somewhat incompatible lives of Juliet Hulme the murderer, and Anne Perry the bestselling author in a literary biography with a twist.
Drayton’s careful analysis of Perry’s writing reveals that her books were more than simple crime stories; spiritual and philosophical complexities thread the way through Anne Perry’s works and the characters she creates. Has Anne in fact been revealing more about herself in the characters she is creating?
Although the murder happened decades ago, it continues to fascinate New Zealanders and, thanks to Peter Jackson’s interpretation (which is used as an NCEA text), this murder is perhaps the most famous crime in the country’s history across the generations.
For the first time a biography of Juliet Hulme has been written that hasn’t had to entirely rely on second-hand accounts, and doesn’t start with a murder and end in a trial. Drayton has managed to drag the story of Juliet Hulme out of the 1950s and track the consequences of living with and beyond a terrible crime. The Search for Anne Perry provides a well-rounded portrait of the amazingly complex woman who emerged from that crime, the woman who is Anne Perry.
This is the most revealing and candid biography of a woman who has fascinated New Zealanders for more than 50 years.
JOANNE DRAYTON is an Associate Professor in the Department of Design at UNITEC, Auckland, where she lectures in art history and theory. Her critically acclaimed Ngaio Marsh: Her Life in Crime (2008) was a Christmas pick of the Independent when it was released in the United Kingdom in 2009. Her other biographies include Edith Collier: Her Life and Work, 1885–1964 (CUP, 1999); Rhona Haszard: An Experimental Expatriate New Zealand Artist (CUP, 2002); and Frances Hodgkins: A Private Viewing (Random House, 2005). She has curated exhibitions of Collier, Haszard, Hodgkins, and DK Richmond, and publishes in biography, art, and design history and theory. She was awarded a National Library Fellowship in 2007 to write her biography of Marsh, and lives in Auckland with her partner and two cats. She is currently carving a post-colonial chess set in response to the Lewis pieces in the British Museum, and her interests include long-distance running, art, music and reading.
The Search for Anne Perry by Joanne Drayton