Saturday, November 23, 2013

Authors Affected by True Crime

Anne Perry's first book The Cater Street Hangman was first published in 1979.  Since then she has published more than 40 books, most recently Blind Justice, the latest in her William Monk series.  She won the Edgar award in 2000, and has been called one of the 20th century's "Masters in Crime".  However, in 1954, when she was 15, she was tried and convicted of the murder of her best friend's mother. 

At the time Anne Perry was known as Juliet Hulme, and she was living in New Zealand, with her British parents.  When they told her they were sending her to stay with relatives in South Africa, she and her friend Pauline Parker hatched a plot to murder Pauline's mother, hoping to be able to live with each other.  Hulme served five years in prison for her role in the murder, and when she was released she set off for a new life in England.  She worked as a flight attendent, became a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and changed her name.  The story of the horrifying murder, and her relationship with Pauline Parker, is the subject of a book released earlier this year called Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century by Peter Graham.  It was also the inspiration for Peter Jackson's 1994 film Heavenly Creatures which features Kate Winslet in her first movie role. 

Anne Perry is not the only author to have headlines take over her personal life.  In December of 1926 British author Agatha Christie disappeared for 11 days, leading to a country wide manhunt.  She was eventually found unharmed, living in a spa hotel under a false name.  To this day there are many theories as to why exactly she vanished, and why she did not come forward when she heard of her own disappearance.  Although she does not address this in An Autobiography, other writers have discussed it in other biographies such as Agatha Christie: A Biography by Janet Morgan.

Lois Duncan is best known for writing suspense novels for young adults such as I Know What You Did Last Summer, and Killing Mr. Griffin.  In 1989 suspense came into her own life when her daughter, Kaitlyn, was found in her car, killed by a gunshot wound to the head.  Lois and her family were living in Albuquerque at the time, and to this day, the killer has never been found.  Her book, Who Killed My Daughter? was written to encourage informants to come forward, and was featured prominently in the media at the time of its publishing. 

James Ellroy has become most famous for his books LA Confidential, and The Black Dahlia, and the movies they inspired.  In 1996 he published My Dark Places: An LA Crime Noir which detailed the murder of his mother which had happened when he was ten years old.  The crime was never solved, and for years Ellroy investigated her murder on his own without any results. 

Some of these backstories to author's lives can be something interesting to keep in mind while reading their books.

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