Monday, November 14, 2011

So Brilliantly Clever: a detailed look at a decades-old crime

Previously on Crime Watch I've talked a little about bestselling crime writer Anne Perry, who writes some very good historical crime fiction, but also has been entwined in historic real-life crime herself; she was one of the teenage perpetrators of the infamous Parker-Hulme murder in 1950s New Zealand that was made into an acclaimed film, Heavenly Creatures, by Sir Peter Jackson (the first film to star a young Kate Winslet).

Last year, a new documentary, Anne Perry: Interiors (filmmaker: Dana Linkiewicz), looking at Perry's reclusive life, her almost single-minded dedication to writing, and her tiny band of close friends and devoted supporters that she surrounds herself with, living in otherwise rural isolation near the small Scottish village of Portmahomack, was released, and had screenings here in New Zealand. At the time there were some stories in the local media, including some that spoke to lawyer and true crime writer Peter Graham, who had been working on a book on the Parker-Hulme murder, about his thoughts on Perry and the way she came across in the documentary.

Now Graham's true crime book, SO BRILLIANTLY CLEVER, is being released this week by Awa Press.

You can read more about the book here, and a good story in The Press here. Apparently there is also a story in this week's New Zealand Listener about Graham and his research into the long-ago murder.


  1. Craig,

    Does all this attention to a long ago crime really serve any worthwhile purpose or is this just another example of exploitation for monetary gain?

    Would all this attention come up if Anne Perry weren't a well-known crime writer?

    Perhaps I'm being too cynical because of what I see going on constantly in the US.

    If so, my apologies.

  2. I understand what you are saying Fred, in terms of the all the money-chasing books that come out so quickly after horrific crimes/major trials etc in the USA, but I think this falls into a different category - more like PD James book looking at an historic crime. From what I can see (I haven't read the book yet, but have a copy), it seems a pretty full-on, very well researched tome that is more comprehensive/academic-ish in nature - trying to search for further understanding about a big moment in NZ history (we're a small country, and there were few murders back then, so it's a very memorable thing even for Kiwis today), rather than a slap-dash effort put together to just make money off a tragedy.

    The Anne Perry angle is just an added bonus, in terms of publicity for what seems like a book that has had several years of research and writing go into it, in my view.

  3. Craig,

    I wonder what Anne Perry thinks about all this. Has anyone asked her?

    I should think she might find it very difficult to have her past brought up again after a half century or so.

  4. Craig,

    My apologies. I don't really mean to pick on you. It's just that I'm disturbed by this, and I'm not sure why. I guess I'm just trying to think out loud here.

  5. Kia ora Fred. I understand that the author, Peter Graham, did contact Hulme/Perry, but she chose not to add anything to the vast research he'd already done.

    Just looking at the book now, there's nothing at all on the cover/back-cover at all about Anne Perry (obviously it talks about Juliet Hulme, and mentions that the book looks at the lives of the girls now - but it doesn't mention Perry, or make any link to her on any of the covers) - so it doesn't look like the author is focused on that much, if at all - although that angle is something that of course some in the media may pick up on - I only mention it here because this blog is crime fiction focused, and she's a crime fiction writer.

    The book is more about a infamous occurrence in New Zealand history, and delves deeply into what happened and why, etc. I understand that it's really only the second book to look at the murder (although there have been films/docos and I imagine several academic and other articles), and as the first was more of a Lesbian-slanted 'expose', this is really the first comprehensive look, in detail, at something that many NZers have heard about, but in fact don't know very much about beyond the headlines etc.

    So I think there's definitely a lot of worth in that.

  6. Will this book be released in the UK?

  7. For people outside NZ, somebody told me you can get the book with free shipping. Here: ‎"For any US readers who want it: what I found was either a seller wouldn't ship internationally or it would cost $30 for shipping from AU/NZ. I did find a site,, that ships internationally for free...although will take 2-4 weeks. Hope this isn't against GoodReads rules to post that, but it was either that, or start begging GoodReads readers in that area for help!"

    1. I'm sure this bothers Anne Perry even today. She is such a fine writer. I've just finished her WWI series again and again found it quite interesting and touching. She's such a good writer. It sounds to me as if she were just another very mixed up child when this crime happened. Thank God she had/has the talents she does; I don't think the other child did and I am sure her life has not been as easy as Anne's. Still we must try to forgive, we must forgive.