Anne Perry's public appearances


Dayton, Ohio Feb. 30 1995 [jb]--When asked to comment on the observation that the Pitt series has always focused on real social problems, but now increasingly mentions "The Inner Circle," she said that "Traitors Gate" deals with "loyalty which other people can't understand, and being judged by others for not living up to their expectations." She also spoke of the Monk series as dealing with, "being judged for actions which you honestly can't remember."

Corte Madera, California, March 29, 1995 [jp]--Anne Perry made a stop here on her recent book tour. Corte Madera is an affluent bedroom community in Marin County, located on the northern shore of San Francisco Bay. The audience was polite, attentive, well- informed and mostly women, of all ages; I was one of about twenty men in an audience of about 150. I sat about ten feet from the small lectern at which Anne Perry spoke and answered questions.

Ms Perry arrived exactly on time and was given a warm reception. Despite her gruelling schedule up and down the West coast, she appeared well-rested and energetic. She is still a slim, attractive woman with striking features and the confident bearing which caught the attention of the press forty years ago-- I would refer FAQ readers to the contemporary news accounts (and even academic papers) that made extensive reference to Juliet Hulme's appearance. Her eyes are, indeed, grey-blue and her brows are particularly expressive and animated when she speaks.

Anne Perry's accent is just north of Kate Winslet's and about an octave lower but, otherwise, Ms Winslet's delivery extrapolated a few years would be quite close to Ms Perry's. Anne Perry speaks with precision and reads aloud with flair and considerable polish, if a little softly. We were to find out that she reads all of her manuscripts aloud, to friends and neighbours, during the revision and editing stages of her writing, which is all done in longhand, still.

My overall impression of Ms Perry from her public persona is that she is gracious, certainly not retiring, and she is extremely bright and quick, with a formidable intellect. I am quite sure she does not suffer fools gladly. For the benefit of any teachers reading this, Ms Perry has that extra, hard-to- define spark and fire in her eye that all teachers search for in their brightest students. Teachers will know what I mean.

This evening, Ms Perry began by reading a passage from her latest novel "Traitors Gate" to steady her 'butterflies' and get warmed up. The passage described a conversation between two of her characters. They were discussing the late father of one and his possible connection with an 'Inner Circle' of politically powerful members of the establishment who were engineering economic conquests abroad. The passage came to a suitably dramatic close, with the two vowing to get to the bottom of the mysteries surrounding the man's death and the 'Inner Circle', and Ms Perry stopped reading, to considerate applause. It was easy to see she was comfortable; her returning smile was genuine and relaxed.

She took off her glasses and set them aside, and asked for questions. She had been reading for about ten minutes and, in all, she would answer questions and discuss points with the audience for another hour, and then hang around to sign books for nearly an hour after that. Quite a trouper, but it's also a good measure of how much she was enjoying herself.

I asked the first question: "I am a scientist, so naturally I'm very interested in your father's influence on your work. I'm familiar with his career--he was certainly a very prominent and influential scientist--and it almost sounds as if you could have been describing him in your passage..." At this point we traded comments and information about her father and his career, and we eventually zeroed in on a more exact description of his accomplishments and his standing in the community.

Given what I had learned of Henry Hulme's history, and the considerable evidence for his lengthy and possibly bitter estrangement from his daughter, I was initially reluctant to pose this question. But there were two small clues contained in Ms Perry's bibliography (see 7.11) which suggested that there had been a reconciliation between them before Dr Hulme's death in 1991, so I decided to go ahead. In the end, I was glad I did and, strangely enough, I got the impression that Ms Perry was, too. I got the sense, from what she told me and from how she spoke, that this may be one of the positive things to have come out of her past identity being revealed--the fact that she is now free to talk about her father in public and recognize the family connection between them, though under the right circumstances. It is still a new thing for her. In her answers to my question, and in our later brief discussion, Ms Perry referred to Henry Hulme only as "my father," not by name, because I had made it clear I knew who she was talking about, and she referred to Bill Perry as "my stepfather" during her comments this evening.

Ms Perry told me that her father had been prominent because of his accomplishments, but he was never considered to be a member of the social elite; this confirmed my impressions of his social standing and his background. She spoke knowingly and quite proudly of his scientific achievements, of which I was familiar from his C.V. and his publications. To summarize, briefly, it became apparent from her responses that she had a less-precise technical knowledge of Dr Hulme's scientific achievements between 1955 and his retirement in 1973, but she was very familiar with the technical aspects of Dr Hulme's science up to 1954. This indicated, to me, that their relationship had not been a particularly close one during her father's Aldermaston years. These included the years Ms Perry spent in the U.K. and abroad.

I mentioned that I thought I had seen familiar elements in some of the characters in her books and wondered if she had included her father in any of her characters. Ms Perry told me that the character referred to in the quotation she had read from "Traitors Gate" was not based on her father, since her father had not been a member of the social elite, but that there was one character she had deliberately patterned on her father: Oliver Rathbone's father (a character appearing in Ms Perry's "Monk" series of books). This admission caused quite a stir in the audience. Ms Perry also mentioned this association in our later conversation, for emphasis, so it is clear that she didn't want me to walk away with the impression that all men in her books were patterned after her father, or some such thing. Oliver Rathbone's father first appeared in the novel published the year after Dr Hulme's death (see 7.11) and dedicated, cryptically at the time, "to my father."

Then Ms Perry told me three stories about herself and her father. (The stories she told have been reconstructed from my notes and are not a verbatim transcript, although I have tried to keep key phrases intact.) She started off with a story mostly about her 'recent' past. This was a brief anecdote about how her father had always had a love of precise language and how he had actually always been very supportive of her becoming a writer. She said he had strongly encouraged her writing when she was young. And, in fact he had even gone so far as to support her, financially, at the beginning of her career as a writer, bailing her out of some lean times before she was able to make ends meet with her writing. By matching her C.V. with her father's, it's clear these events occurred after Ms Perry returned from America, in the early to mid 70s, after Henry Hulme's retirement.

Her second story was about her father giving her a bath when she was a small child. When she was three, she said--so this story took place in Greenwich in 1942, during the War, some time after little Juliet had suffered her terrible trauma during the blitz. Ms Perry made an aside that this was the kind of thing fathers used to be able to do, but she wasn't sure they were now, in today's politically-correct climate. She said: "My father had been bathing me and I had been playing. I dropped the soap and it disappeared in the soapy water, at which point I had had enough and went to stand up to get out. My father said. 'Careful. I wouldn't do that if I were you.' He was worried I would slip. And I have been told, though I don't remember it, that I turned to him and said, quite matter-of-fact: 'Nonsense, daddy. If you were me you would do exactly what I do.' And I stood up anyway. Which my father found terribly amusing." She continued: "Well, apart from illustrating that I was a precocious and bold child, I suppose, it shows how much my father liked the precision of language." And it showed, to me, that Ms Perry likes to think that she and her father shared a common view of the physical world and that they two shaped their ideas about it in similar ways. She went on to say how her father had always stressed to her that clear thinking and clear language were not just parallel ideas, but were intimately connected.

Which brought Ms Perry to her third and final story about her father. I must admit, I was not prepared for her candor in this setting. This story was told in such a way that it was almost anonymous, so members of the audience who weren't completely familiar with the materials contained in this FAQ, for instance, would not have been able to place the time, location or characters. But, by this point in our give and take, I am quite certain that Ms Perry had a good grasp of my familiarity with her history and that of her father, so I must conclude that she told this story deliberately, knowing that it would be perfectly obvious to me who it was about, and where and when it took place.

From the contents of her final story, it took place in Christchurch, in late January 1953, just before the start of Fourth Form. I did not ask Ms Perry to confirm this, but Medlicott paraphrases Pauline's diary entries from late January 1953 and they confirm that Pauline was determined to do well at school when she returned, and that her studies were on her mind. Ms Perry's final story is about Juliet, Pauline and Henry Hulme, and Christchurch Girls' High School, and the headmistress, Miss Stewart, and a math teacher, Miss Milne. I have been able to confirm Ms Perry's identification and her impressions of both Miss Stewart and Miss Milne (see and below)

After mentioning that her father was a terribly precise thinker, she said "I remember going to my father with a problem and 'humming' and 'hawing' and just not being able to get across what I wanted to say. At which point I just said 'Well, I can't explain it very well, but I know what I mean.' And he said to me 'No. You don't know what you mean. If you did, you would have the words to explain it clearly.' And, clearly, he was right. Words, the precise words, are important and they can only come once an idea has been grasped, fully. He was very good at getting to the essence of a problem, and he was able to explain things in a way that was exact but vivid.

"I remember it was just before school. We were terribly worried about one class, mathematics, and one teacher in particular. We knew that we were going to get this particular teacher and she had a ferocious reputation--everyone was afraid of her and we were scared stiff of her. She was _so_ demanding, and so precise in her requirements and her grading, like my father in that regard. We knew we were going to get all kinds of difficult subjects, like manipulating and solving quadratic equations, and we were terrified. Her name was Miss Milne. If there was one teacher who commanded our respect it was her. Well, we all watched out for the headmistress, too, but that was because of who she was. That was Miss Stewart--a small, round woman, and we only respected her because we had to. But Miss Milne was different. We respected and feared her because of what she knew and because of her high standards.

"Well, we went to my father and he explained everything to us and put us at ease. You see, he understood that Miss Milne was the way she was because she had a deep love for mathematics, and a reverence for the subject that made her have these high standards, out of respect for it. It hadn't occurred to me that a teacher could have a deep love for what she taught, and just want to share it, but in a precise, correct way. This completely changed the way I looked at her. After that, from then on, I came to admire her deeply, and respect her even more.

"And my father had the same kind of love for mathematics because he was a mathematical physicist. I remember we went to him when we got to solving quadratic equations. He showed us that the equations weren't simply objects on their own, to him. He drew the graphs and curves for us, and showed us their beauty. Before that, to me, they had just been lines on a page. But, you see, he saw the beauty of the curve in the equation, and how both applied to Nature. And he showed us that it wasn't all that difficult to solve the things. I actually grew to like quadratic equations that term and got quite good at solving them."

Ms Perry finished off this part of the question session with some final thoughts about her father's part in her writing and that was that. I thanked her for discussing things so frankly and she moved on to other questions: about the socially-relevant themes in her books, about her upcoming novels, about her influences (Chesterton ranked high) and the writers she reads (she said she often likes to relax with fantasy or science fiction because the ideas can be so big) and did she write poetry? ("only when I was very young"), about her writing habits, about her life now, and about plans for theatrical release of her projects (she said that the BBC had bought the rights to the first ten "Pitt" books, and had made noises about producing "The Cater Street Hangman" and there have been other signs of interest from other film production companies. So Anne Perry may yet get to write for Hollywood...).

Then, after she had been through the questions, she signed a lot of books. When I came up, we talked again about her father, and I left after some final pleasantries.

Any independent confirmation of Ms Perry's CGHS memories?

Miss Milne was my math teacher for 2 years, I confirm A. Perry's comments about her. [mc]
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