Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Anne Perry: R.I.P.

Sad news. Anne Perry, 84, a prolific writer of historical crime fiction, passed away Monday in Los Angeles. She was in declining health after a heart attack in December. 

From the NYT:

“Give her a good murder and a shameful social evil, and Anne Perry can write a Victorian mystery that would make Dickens’s eyes pop,” Marilyn Stasio wrote in The New York Times, reviewing Ms. Perry’s 

“Highgate Rise” (1991), which centered on the death by arson of a social reformer who was also a doctor’s wife.

Ms. Perry’s books, including the Thomas Pitt and William Monk series of historical mysteries, have sold more than 26 million copies, according to her website. In 1998, when The Times of London named its 100 Masters of Crime of the past century, there she was on the list alongside Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, Dashiel Hammett and Arthur Conan Doyle.

“Heroes,” set in the trenches of World War I, won the 2000 Edgar Allan Poe Award for best short story. In 2013 and 2020, she was a guest of honor at Bouchercon, the international convention of mystery writers and fans. 

For her own infamous history, read the NYT obit or the Guardian. As most of you know, at the age of 15 in 1954, she was convicted of participating in the murder of her friend's mother. She served 5 years in jail. After that time she changed her name and moved back to England (the crime took place in New Zealand). She held a variety of jobs, until her first novel was published in 1979. Her criminal past was revealed publicly, however, in 1994 when Peter Jackson used her story in the film Heavenly Creatures, starring Kate Winslet. 

Perry's first novel in the Thomas Pitt and William Monk historical mystery series was The Cater Street Hangman (1979).There are 30 more books in the series. When that series finished, she wrote a new series about Daniel Pitt. Her most recent novel is The Traitor Among Us, the fifth in the Elena Standish series. It will be published in September. Her William Monk series (1990/The Face of a Stranger-first novel) was unique among detective fiction. Monk lost his memory after a carriage accident. The final Monk novel was published in 2018. She also wrote an annual Christmas novella. In addition, she wrote novellas, short stories, YA, and fantasy. 

I first met Anne in 1982 when Mystery Readers International hosted her at a luncheon at the Sherlock Holmes room in San Francisco. It was the absolutely best setting for 50 mystery fans and Anne.. top floor of the St Francis Drake Hotel with 360 views of San Francisco. Attached to the Sherlock Holmes bar where we held the luncheon was the fabulous Sherlock Holmes 221B Baker Street study replete with everything Holmesian. Anne gave a great lecture on crime fiction with focus on her writing and books. I met up again with Anne at a Literary salon at my home a few years later. Again, she was gracious with her time and knowledge. I chatted with her over the years at Bouchercon and Left Coast Crime. She also wrote articles for Mystery Readers Journal. Anne was very supportive of other mystery writers and generous to her fans. She will be missed.


Rebecca Cantrell said...

Anne Perry wrote a wonderful blurb for my very first novel, A Trace of Smoke. I was in LA at a bookstore and saw a poster of her and mentioned to my friend that she had blurbed my book. The American owner of the store piped up with "She's my cousin!" I told him that she'd done a wonderful job and I was very grateful to her, whereupon he insisted that I tell her myself and called her up in Scotland and put me on the phone. I stammered my thanks and she was incredibly gracious and kind. She was very supportive to me, a brand new author.

Kim Hays said...

I'm sorry she's gone. I read lots of her books and particularly like the Hester and William Monk series. But I didn't know about the Elena Standish series; I have to try to first one and see what I think.

Lesa said...

She will be missed. I know she was a favorite at the library, and at The Poisoned Pen Bookstore.

Anonymous said...

A beautiful obituary

Diane Capri said...

This is a lovely piece, Janet. I met Anne at conferences a few times. At one SleuthFest, we were seated at the same table for lunch. She was a lovely luncheon companion and I enjoyed our conversation about writing and mysteries and all things publishing. We also talked about her quiet life in Scotland. She told me she'd been concerned when the movie came out because of how her friends and neighbors might feel. But she said they were wonderful people who welcomed her just as warmly as before they learned about her past. Like millions of others, I enjoyed her books. RIP Anne Perry.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing this. I’ve learned as I’ve grown older that every day we have a chance to change our lives. I have no stones in my hands or fingers as I tap this out— only gratitude that Anne put pen to paper and entertained us with so many books and stories. She will be missed. I’m sending my condolences to all who love and care about her. Rest in peace, Anne. Thank you!

Catriona McPherson said...

Except I would say don't read the Guardian obit. They seem to have morphed into the Daily Mail over her death.

LCD said...

Nobody did the dark Victorian underbelly better than Anne Perry. You CARED about her characters. I will miss her books.