Anne Perry and her secret, John Creasey and his readers, and blooms for the bees: newsletter, April 28, 2023

April 28, 2023 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: books, history, newsletter, writers, writing.

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,845) on Friday, April 28, 2023.

Occasionally, people say in my presence that they do not want to live until the age of this number or that. Usually, it’s 90 or 95 or 100. The often unstated assumption behind that sentiment is that they will be infirm or in some way unable to take care of themselves. They don’t want to be a “burden” to others.

That I can understand. But it assumes an eventuality—even an inevitability—that I have trouble fully embracing. Many people look upon “old age,” whatever that is, as a condemnation or an end-of-life sentence that must be served. Even while still in their fifties, people start blaming “old age” for the things that happen to them. Most of the time, these are things that have happened, or could have happened, when they were in their twenties.

My point, I suppose, is that we talk ourselves into old age and sometimes into infirmity. Our attitude is that the bad things that are associated with accumulating a lot of birthdays are inevitable and that there is nothing that we can do about it. It’s the crutch that makes us go lame.

There’s much more to say about this topic, and maybe you have a thought to share.

Meanwhile, have a great and literate weekend.


Under the newsletter’s hood: Last week’s newsletter was sent to 2,949 subscribers and had a 35.1 percent open rate; 9 persons unsubscribed.

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Anne Perry and a secret kept for 40 years

When author Anne Perry was 15 years old, she was living with her English-born parents in New Zealand. This was in 1954. Her parents had decided to get a divorce and to move back to England.

It was then that Perry participated in a murder.

Perry had been ill for most of her childhood, and at the time of these events, she was taking some kind of heavy duty medication. Her best friend, a girl of her age, was also ill, although the nature of her illness is unclear. Perry’s friend asked her mother if she could join Perry and her family when they returned to England. Her mother naturally said no.

It was then that her friend decided that her mother needed to die, and she enlisted Perry in something of a harebrained scheme to make that happen. Four decades after the fact, Perry said she did not remember helping her friend kill her mother, but she did not deny doing so. The murder took place in a public park in Christchurch where the girls attacked the woman with a brick wrapped in a stocking.

The girls were quickly discovered by the police, and a trial ensued that gained international attention. The bizarre nature of the crime not only generated a lot of publicity but also lurid stories about the girls. They were said to be lesbian lovers, something that Perry later adamantly denied. The girls were found guilty and sentenced to prison. Where they were sent, Perry said later, was known as the toughest prison in the southern hemisphere.

Perry served five and a half years. The first months of the sentence, she said, were brutal. She was sentenced to “hard labor,” which meant she spent her days scrubbing floors. She collapsed and was given lighter duties after that. Although she was never beaten up, she did live in fear of the other prisoners. The one good aspect of the sentence was that she had a private cell.

When she was released, she was given a passport and a new name. She traveled back to England to live with her mother and stepfather. While the trial had been covered in the British media, Perry returned to England without fanfare and quickly sank into obscurity. She eventually took the name “Perry,” which was her step-father’s name.

As a young adult, she worked in a variety of less-than-meaningful jobs. She was an airline and ferry boat stewardess and a bank clerk, among other things. She also lived in the United States for a while and eventually settled in a small coastal village in Scotland. What she wanted to be was a writer of fiction, and she spent that time practicing her craft. And she began writing historical novels, but she realized that murder mysteries had more of an audience. So she combined her interest to write murder mysteries set in 19th century England.

Her first novel, The Cater Street Hangman, was published in 1979. It was meant to be a standalone novel, but its main character, Inspector Thomas Pitt, caught on with readers and eventually appeared in more than 30 of her novels. During the next 15 years, Perry published more than 20 novels, many with Pitt and his wife Charlotte as the main characters, and another series with William Monk, a policeman who suffers from a loss of memory because of a carriage accident.

Her books gained a wide audience and were regularly on bestseller lists.

Then, in 1994, what appeared to be a disaster struck Perry. The events of her past were made into a feature film, Heavenly Creatures, although she was not identified as one of the characters in the story.  After several months, some journalists discovered that she was the one who had been involved in the murder. Perry feared that the revelations would ruin her standing with her friends and her readers.

Fortunately for her, that did not happen. Her friends stuck by her, and her books continued to sell. She continued to write until the time of her death in April 2023 (earlier this month), and her total output included more than 70 books and novellas. In 2017, she moved from Scotland to Los Angeles to aid in promoting turning her books into films.

Perry never denied her role in the murder. Nor did she attempt to excuse it. Mostly, she said, she did not remember a lot of what had happened to her, and it was not something that she dwelled on. Not long after her past was made public in 1994, she gave a full interview to Terry Gross’s Fresh Air program. You can listen to that interview at this link:


The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries.”


Hopeful signs for spring and the bees

Here in East Tennessee, we are experiencing another cooler-than-usual spring, but the signs for a good spring are evident. We have plenty of crimson clover and honeysuckle in bloom, and the honeybees love both.

Crimson clover and white clover are two favorites of local honeybees. The crimson clover blooms early in the spring and provides an easy source of nectar for the bees to carry back to the hive. The white clover blooms later but lasts well into the summer. Its nectar, too, is very accessible to the bees and gives them an excellent foundation to build a light and sweet honey.

A good stand of both types of clover gives the beekeeper hope that the spring will be productive and the honey harvest in early July will be abundant. Nature is a fickle mistress, however, and much can happen between now and then.

One of those things that can happen is a late frost, and we have had a couple of those lately. So far, the damage has been minimal to these precious blooms. So, we remain hopeful.

Photos: A honeybee works some crimson clover blooms.


Group giveaways for April 

Kill the Quarterback and Murder Most Criminous are part of several group giveaways this month:

Wicked Reads

You Can Run But You Can’t Hide – Thriller and Suspense Giveaway (April 3 – May 8)

Murder and Mayhem Mailing List

April YA Sports Romance

Each of these giveaways includes more than 20 books of various sub-genres. You can download any or all of them in exchange for your email address. The email address will be shared among all authors participating in the giveaway. The purpose of these giveaways is to get books into the hands of readers and to increase email lists for the authors.


Check out last week’s newsletter

Vic C.: Wow, Jim: “Toff” and “Inspector West” and “Dr. Palfrey” and “Department Z.”

My intro to British authors (other than or possibly despite Charles Dickens) was Leslie Charteris and his creation “The Saint” which I still read today. Not long after that, I stumbled upon Creasey’s Toff and then the Baron (as by Anthony Morton.) My parents read Gideon (under the pen name J. J. Maric) and I followed suit. Eventually, I found Inspector West and Department Z. Since I’m an aficionado of science fiction, discovering Dr. Palfrey was a real pleasure.

In all, Creasey was able to change “voices” to present each of his characters with very little similarity. That, in itself, is no mean accomplishment, especially when you consider that he wrote hundreds of books. Also, as you indicated, he used numerous “pen names” and, because he changed styles, if you didn’t know ahead of time, you’d never know it was the same author. What a wonderful author and his having faded from popularity is really a shame.

Thanks for keeping us “up to speed” on the fascinating world of bees. Most people are not aware of the significant decline in their numbers and the likely repercussions to agriculture.  Sadly, they don’t seem to care and, like so many other issues concerning our environment, concern falls by the wayside. Sad. 

Terri M.: It has always amazed me that John Creasey isn’t as popular or as well known as Agatha Christie or Arthur Conan Doyle. I really liked and enjoyed your article on Mr. Creasey.  

I discovered The Toff (then The Baron, and Superintendent Folly, followed by the rest), when I was 14, and I’ve been a huge fan since. I started trying to collect his books in my early 20’s and soon found that they were very hard to come by. I wasn’t particular about whether they were hardcover, paperback or those cheap mass produced copies. I started going to libraries and going through their discarded boxes of  books. It always amused me, the surprise of the librarians, and used book sellers, that a young (at that time) female would be reading and collecting his books. 

At 65, I still keep searching. One day I will have his complete works, (in a perfect world), ha ha. 

Mary G.: I looked him (John Creasey) up in the online catalog for our county library (Kern Cty., CA) and found quite a few of his titles listed. The county’s part of a cooperative, so some were from other counties’ holdings. I recall enjoying them; hope you’re able to sample his works.

Steve W.: Here is a thought. When Walmart first started growing into our towns and cities, it was criticized for destroying many Mom and Pop local businesses. Which it did. But where is/was the criticism for iPhones which have destroyed entire industries ie. maps, cameras, photo development, and local retail sales. Just progress I guess, but where to?

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: Home stretch

Best quote of the week:

You can only protect your liberties in this world by protecting the other man’s freedom. You can only be free if I am free. Clarence Darrow, lawyer and author (1857-1938)

Pray-as-you-go podcast

If you are looking for a quiet, meditative, non-theological but scriptural podcast to start or close your day, try The podcasts are 10-12 minutes long, and they feature beautiful music, a scripture reading, and a very short devotional. It’s a great respite from an otherwise all-too-noisy world.

Helping those in need

Earthquakes in Turkey, fires in California, freezing weather in Texas, hurricanes on the Atlantic Coast, tornados in Tennessee: disasters occur everywhere. They have spread untold misery and disruption. The people affected by them need our help.

It’s not complicated. Things happen to people, and we should be ready to do all the good we can in all of the ways we can. (Some will recognize that I am paraphrasing John Wesley here).

When is the last time you gave to your favorite charity? The United Methodist Committee on Relief ( is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to this one or to yours.

Keep reading, keep writing (especially to me), and have a great weekend.


Jim Stovall

You can connect with Jim on FacebookTwitterLinkedin, and BookBub.

His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.

Last week’s newsletter: John Creasey, Constitutional what-ifs, the second Black MLB player, and a package of bees: newsletter, April 21, 2023



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