Because in 1994 Anne Perry’s books were not yet selling in the numbers they soon would sell, many of her current fans (if they were old enough even toBecause in 1994 Anne Perry’s books were not yet selling in the numbers they soon would sell, many of her current fans (if they were old enough even to have heard about it at the time) missed the big announcement that year about the author’s true identity. Some forty years after having been convicted of one of the more infamous murders in the history of New Zealand, a New Zealand journalist revealed that Anne Perry is none other than convicted murderer Juliet Hulme – the same Juliet Hulme who in 1954, as a teen, helped Pauline Parker, her best friend, beat the girl’s mother to death with half a brick that Juliet brought from home for that specific purpose. Peter Graham’s Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century is a meticulously researched account of events leading up to the murder, the murder itself, the trial that followed, and what happened to the key players in those events once the two killers had been released from prison to go their separate ways.
Juliet Hulme, daughter of a prominent English couple, came to New Zealand as a young girl when her father was recruited for a university position in Christchurch. Her lack of social skills did not stop the physically striking Juliet from making an impression on her classmates, albeit it, for the most part, a negative impression. Pauline Parker, on the other hand, was blessed neither with physical attractiveness, nor with any social skills of which to speak. The angry and socially inept Pauline wanted badly to find a soul-mate to whom she could reveal her thoughts and dreams, and Juliet wanted just as badly to find someone she could recreate in her own image. The two girls were made for each other because each of them got their wish.
Pauline Parker’s mother, Honorah Rieper, did not die an easy death. Barely aware of what was happening to her, the woman nonetheless valiantly attempted to fight off her attackers, and it was only when Juliet held her down by the throat that Pauline was finally able to finish off her mother. There was never any doubt as to whom the woman’s murderers were, but the defiantly gleeful manner in which the two teens confessed to what they had done still managed to shock and surprise the country.
Five and one-half years later, after the two young women were released from prison, they assumed new names and began the new lives far from Christchurch, that they hoped would shield them from further notoriety. And it worked for forty years.
There is a lot of material out there, including one major movie (Heavenly Creatures), a documentary made inside Anne Perry’s Scotland home (Interiors), and several books that attempt to explain how two fifteen-year-old girls could so callously murder the mother of one of them. In Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century, Peter Graham explores each possibility, one by one, reaching his own conclusion that the strong homosexual ties between the two girls, compounded by a perfect meshing of two distinct personality disorders, created exactly the perfect storm needed to make such a thing possible.
Perhaps most shocking today, is how differently the two women have responded to what they did in 1954. On the one hand, Paulette Parker has lived a life of repentance and appears still to be much bothered by what she did to her mother. On the other, Juliet Hulme (Anne Perry) still shows no remorse whatsoever and has constructed a version of the events that she uses to explain why she had no other choice but to help her friend commit matricide. As Graham notes, Perry’s version of what led up to the murder is so obviously false that it cannot be taken seriously. Anne Perry appears to be much the same person that she was in 1954.
When asked if she ever thinks of the woman she and Paulette murdered, this writer who has made a fine living for herself writing bloody murder mysteries for the last four decades said this:
“No. She was somebody I barely knew.”
And yet, as late as 2006 according to Peter Graham, Anne Perry and her publisher were known to grant interviews about the murder just prior to the publication of a new Anne Perry book, under the theory, I suppose, that “no publicity is bad publicity.”
To this point, they seem to be correct about that. ...more
William Dathan Holbert, who loves to call himself (and hear others call him) “Wild Bill,” is an extremely dangerous man. He’s one of those young men wWilliam Dathan Holbert, who loves to call himself (and hear others call him) “Wild Bill,” is an extremely dangerous man. He’s one of those young men who can turn on the charm when he needs to, and become as cold as a robot when he has reason to kill the same people he’s charmed into trusting him– and he considers the killer-side of his personality to be the real him, not the charming side. Killing several people over a relatively short period of time is not something easily hidden by a murderer who continues to choose his victims from a relatively small pool of candidates – but Holbert did it. And he was able to do it because the community from which he chose his victims was largely made up of American expats with so many things they wanted to hide about themselves that they respected the principle of privacy more than they respected each other.
Bocas del Toro is a fairly remote section of Panama that over the years became a haven for Americans who wanted a fresh start, men and women who were running from, or hiding from, someone back in the United States who had good reason to want to get their hands on them. False papers, including birth certificates, visas, and passports were common, along with the fake names that went along with the fake paperwork. Most everyone had a wild story to tell about themselves and their supposed wealth, and most everyone knew not to believe a word they heard from their fellow expats. It was not uncommon for expats to leave the community with little or no notice and few goodbyes to their “friends” in Bocas, so when Wild Bill started eliminating a few of them by his own hand, it took months before anyone there (including local police) even wondered what might be happening.
In 2011, the author’s Financial Times editor assigned him to write a piece on Panama’s apparent real estate boom. Because acquiring real estate worth hundreds of thousands of dollars was behind each of Bill Holbert’s murders, it was only a matter of time before Nick Foster got wind of his story. Once he did, Foster decided to tell the story of the man and woman who came into Bocas del Toro like two grim reapers and only quit killing when family members of some of Holbert’s victims finally exposed them. The result is The Jolly Roger Social Club: A True Story of a Killer in Paradise.
The Jolly Roger Social Club is a well-researched and documented account of the killing spree that Holbert and his demented partner, Laura Michelle Reese, inflicted upon Boca’s expat community. The author explores the backgrounds of both killers, their victims, and other members of their community in great detail in an effort to make clear exactly how something like this could happen, and he is largely successful in doing that. The book also offers a concise history of Panama, its origins, and its close ties to American politics and business. The author’s prose style, however, is a little too densely packed to make it the kind of true crime exposé that reads smoothly or quickly. Despite that, this book has a lot to say about psychopaths and how they choose their victims and their spots, and I found it all fascinating. (Review Copy from Publisher)...more
Skip Hollandsworth, a regular columnist for Texas Monthly magazine, became so intrigued by a true crime story from Austin’s past that he turned it intSkip Hollandsworth, a regular columnist for Texas Monthly magazine, became so intrigued by a true crime story from Austin’s past that he turned it into his first book, The Midnight Assassin. The book recounts a series of murders that happened there in 1884 and 1885, murders that were so horrendously bloody that they rivaled those committed three years later by London’s Jack the Ripper. The murders in the two cities were in fact similar enough that some newspapers of the day speculated that London’s Ripper may have tested and developed his skills in Austin before bringing them with him to Europe.
It all started when someone began slaughtering Austin’s black servant women. Most of the victims lived in detached quarters adjacent to the homes of their white employers, and in each case, the killer escaped the area without leaving behind any clues that could identify him. Early witnesses, some of them children of the murdered women, could not even agree on whether the killer was a white man or a black man.
Austin’s 17,000 citizens were concerned about the murders, but because the victims were all African-American women, it was easy enough for them to write the crime spree off as being the work of a gang of “bad blacks.” For a year, the rest of the city had little fear that the murders might spread into their own community and homes. That all changed on Christmas Eve, 1885, when within the space of a few minutes two prominent white women were butchered in their homes. From that moment, Austin’s politicians and policemen pulled out all the stops in their attempt to catch the murderer before he could kill again - even hiring two sets of Pinkerton detectives from Chicago (one set being real, the other fake).
The Midnight Assassin is as much a social history of the city of Austin as it is a true crime story. Barely twenty years after the close of the American Civil War, the relationship between the state’s white and black populations was still eerily similar to what it was before the war was fought. Slavery might have been a thing of the past, but most African-Americans still struggled to live on what little wages their white employers were willing to pay them. It was no coincidence that from beginning to end almost single person considered to be a potential suspect was black.
Austin was a city on the make it the 1880s. As state capital, the city had an image to live up to – even if it was one largely in the minds of politicians who saw the unsolved murders of white women as a personal threat to their own careers. Upcoming elections, personal feuds, and business considerations made it imperative that the murderer be caught, but it never happened. The first serial killer in American history was never identified - and he probably never will be – but The Midnight Assassin is still one heck of a ride. ...more
That college campus rapes are common in this country will surprise no one. It only makes sense that this would be the case anywhere that so many youngThat college campus rapes are common in this country will surprise no one. It only makes sense that this would be the case anywhere that so many young people are experiencing sudden personal freedom in an atmosphere chiefly characterized by easy access to alcohol and drugs. What is shocking and surprising is just how poorly local and campus authorities handle reported assaults.
John Krakauer's Missoula, via a detailed look at the university town of Missoula, Montana, vividly illustrates just how difficult it is for rape victims to get justice in America's courts - especially if their abusers happen to be college athletes of local or national renown. Missoula, home of the University of Montana, typifies the problem rape victims are likely to encounter in too many college towns across the country, and what Krakauer learned in his investigation of the city is important. And sadly, what the author found explains why such a low percentage of rape victims even bother to report the assaults they suffer.
There is plenty of blame to go around for this chosen silence, some of it even accruing to the rape victims. It is all too common that the victim of rape is under the influence of drugs or alcohol to the extent that memory of the rape is clouded and almost dreamlike. Such victims are often not certain that they do not share some responsibility for the rape, and because the majority of rapes can be characterized as "acquaintance rapes," victims are reluctant to go public with the crime. They may have known their rapists for years and now find it difficult to ruin the lives of someone they had considered a friend, someone they trusted to protect them, not do the opposite.
Missoula explores the specific cases of several women in that city, women who had the courage to bring charges against those who stole forever their sense of security and confidence in their surroundings. All of the women whose cases are highlighted struggled with the decision to go public with what happened to them. In most cases, they hid the truth from their parents and boyfriends as long as they could, and it was only when the psychological damage they suffered became obvious to others that they spoke of what happened to them. And that is when their problems grew worse.
That is when the women had to deal with Missoula prosecutors who refused to bring a rapist to court unless they believed there was absolutely no way to lose the case. The Missoula County Attorney's Office, as led by Kirsten Pabst and Fred Van Valkenburg, refused to file charges in the vast majority of rape cases presented to it by the Missoula Police Department for consideration. Pabst, in particular, seems to have disregarded evidence that indicated a high chance that a crime had occurred because she was more concerned about keeping her personal Win-Loss record as near hundred percent as possible.
Even worse, the women, if those who raped them were University of Montana football players, faced the wrath of the local community. How dare these women cause the record of the football team to be less than it would have been were the criminals who raped them allowed to remain on the playing field? The victims were personally shunned and humiliated in public to a disgraceful degree intended to destroy them and to protect the men who raped them.
Almost unbelievably, many of the people responsible for the horrible miscarriages of justice detailed by Krakauer are still in place in Missoula. Some, particularly Kirsten Pabst, have actually benefitted from their abuse of the public's trust in them. Pabst's behavior is so reprehensible and damning that she actively tried to keep Missoula from being published in April of 2015. Her behavior, however, so greatly benefitted the football fans of Missoula, Montana, that voters there rewarded her with a more powerful position than the one she held at the time of the Department of Justice investigation that condemned her handling of rape investigations.
Missoula exposes the ugly truths about college campus rape. But the book is also a disgusting reminder of how so many are willing to reward criminal behavior if looking the other way results in more wins for the local college football team -rape victim be damned. ...more
The New Orleans police department has long had the reputation of being one of the most corrupt in the United States. If it is not actually the most coThe New Orleans police department has long had the reputation of being one of the most corrupt in the United States. If it is not actually the most corrupt department in the country, in the minds of most observers it is certainly always in the running for that title. And in the wake of what happened on the Danziger Bridge six days after Hurricane Katrina struck the city in 2005, the NOPD proved that in their case public perception was fact because, sadly enough, the NOPD turned out to be a clear extension of the overall political corruption and ineptness that describes the history of New Orleans city government.
Hurricane Katrina struck a city without a clue. Both New Orlean’s mayor and its police chief failed the city terribly by not having a solid plan in place for the aftermath of the hurricane. In fact, as Ronnie Greene points out in Shots on the Bridge, those providing emergency services to the citizens of New Orleans after the storm were left largely on their own. And this seems particularly true of a police department that failed to set up even a central meeting place/control point from which to coordinate its efforts to control crime during what turned out to be perhaps the most chaotic period in the city’s history.
The Danziger Bridge, only seven-tenths of a mile long, allows access between two New Orleans neighborhoods separated by the city’s Industrial Canal. And going from one neighborhood to another is all that each of the victims of the police slaughter were doing on the morning they were unfortunate enough to cross paths with a bunch of adrenalin-fueled cops who completely misread the situation on the bridge. The policemen believed that they were responding to a scene where an unknown number of snipers had shot at least one of their own. They were anxious to get to the bridge before more policemen could be killed or injured – and when they got there they exited their vehicles with guns blazing.
Before the gunfire ended (and it did not end even when all the victims were helpless and on the ground), six people, traveling in opposite directions in two distinct groups, had been shot. Two of them were dead: a middle-aged mentally challenged man who was chased off the bridge and killed while trying to understand what was happening around him, and a seventeen-year-old boy whose body was chewed up by the number of wounds it sustained. One woman, whose arm was literally shot off, saw her daughter shot in the stomach and her husband suffer severe shrapnel-related head wounds. All the victims were black and none of them had a weapon of any type on them. Some of the cops were white; some were black.
Then the cover-up began, and the NOPD lived up to its embarrassing reputation as being one of the most corrupt police departments anywhere. Read Ronnie Greene’s Shots on the Bridge for the rest of this tragic story – especially the way it was so consistently mishandled in the court system. We can only hope that someone in the city of New Orleans learned something from the mistakes made in this case – and is now in a position to help ensure that nothing like this ever again happens there. ...more
Finally...a book that gets inside the head of author Anne Perry in which Perry herself explains what was in her head when she, along with another teenFinally...a book that gets inside the head of author Anne Perry in which Perry herself explains what was in her head when she, along with another teen girl, brutally beat that girl's mother to death with a stocking-enclosed piece of brick.
Because I've been wondering for years about Perry's rather strange decision to make her living as a murder mystery writer after having been convicted of committing one of the more horrible murders in the history of New Zealand, I had high hopes that "The Search for Anne Perry" would answer some of my questions and doubts about Perry. What I did not expect was to come away with much sympathy for Anne Perry - but even that happened.
Joanne Drayton managed to get the full cooperation of Anne Perry for this biography despite the fact that Drayton is from New Zealand and that the book would first be published there (the U.S. edition is new but was, I think, published in New Zealand in 2012). For that reason, "Search" is filled with Anne Perry quotes that help explain how such a terrible murder ever happened, how Perry survived five years in harsh prisons, how her Mormon faith allowed her to move on with the rest of her life, and why she believes today that she should be forgiven of her crime. Drayton offers her on analysis, too, often by quoting characters from Perry's books in which it seems that Perry is speaking through those characters.
My only complaint - and I did find it irritating - is that Drayton, in the process of quoting those characters often insists on going through much more plot detail than is necessary to make her points about Perry. She sometimes even includes spoilers (unnecessarily, in my opinion) that Anne Perry readers probably would rather not learn. But that's a minor quibble. This book ultimately delivered the goods for me, and for that reason, I am recommending it to others who might still be wondering about Anne Perry's murder conviction and how she kept her past hidden (even from her agents and publishers) for as long as she managed.
Son of a Gun, the new memoir by Justin St. Germain, at first glance appears to be simply a son’s eulogy to his murdered mother. But it is much more thSon of a Gun, the new memoir by Justin St. Germain, at first glance appears to be simply a son’s eulogy to his murdered mother. But it is much more than that because of how St. Germain uses his mother’s story to reflect also upon the precarious blue collar struggle so many people face today, one in which one missed paycheck can throw an entire family into the kind of tailspin from which it might take years to recover – if they ever do manage the trick.
Former Army paratrooper Debbie St. Germain was an extraordinary woman who met what some would say was a predictable end for a woman whose taste in men was always a little iffy. When she was only 44, her fifth husband, a burned out ex-cop who saw himself as something of a modern day Wyatt Earp, murdered her. That he and Debbie claimed nearby Tombstone, Arizona, as their hometown made it easier for her killer to maintain his deluded self-image. Tombstone is, of course, the site of Earp’s infamous “Showdown at the O.K. Corral,” the short burst of gunfire that ensured his reputation as one of the fiercest gunfighters of his day.
Debbie met her fate in September 2001, just days after the horrors of 9-11. At the time, Justin was a 20-year-old student living with his brother in Tucson where the two were struggling to make ends meet. Justin knew that he would never have been able to afford school without the financial sacrifices his hardworking mother gladly made on his behalf. But that was the least of his concerns; now his mother was dead and he and his brother were stunned by the suddenness of it. Despite their shock - especially since he was nowhere to be found after the murder – the boys were certain that Ray, husband number five, was responsible for taking their mother from them.
Some ten years later, the author felt ready to try to make sense of what happened to his mother. He returned to Tombstone and began talking to people who knew his mother in ways a son can never know her. He studied police case records in hope that he would learn more about Ray, the unbalanced loner with whom she was living on an isolated patch of ground on the day he ended her life. Justin St. Germain learned much about his mother and her death that he did not know, including what hers and her killer’s final moments were probably like, but he already knew the most important thing about her: she did not leave him. And he is determined to be the man she wanted him to be.
Bottom Line: Son of a Gun is a touching memoir that takes a hard look at a gun culture whose victims are most often individuals very much like his mother, people struggling not so much to get ahead but simply to stay even. This is their story. ...more
Bill Moushey and Bob Dvorchak, authors of Game Over: Jerry Sandusky, Penn State, and the Culture of Silence, have definitely struck a nerve with thousBill Moushey and Bob Dvorchak, authors of Game Over: Jerry Sandusky, Penn State, and the Culture of Silence, have definitely struck a nerve with thousands of Penn State alumni and Happy Valley residents. It appears, based entirely on the “reviews” of the book I see posted on Amazon, that the pair faces a vicious backlash based more on emotion than on reason – and that almost all of the negative “reviews” posted there have been written by people who did not bother reading the book before damning it. It seems that it will be left to those without ties to Penn State, and a minority of Penn-Staters themselves, to gauge the objectivity and effectiveness of the book.
On one level, Game Over is an excellent recap of the news that starting leaking out of Happy Valley, PA, in early November 2011. Those that may have come to the story a little late will find the chronology presented to be especially helpful. Others are likely to focus more on the additional details attached to the original revelations, disgusting as some of those details are. Readers should, in fact, be forewarned that several descriptions of Jerry Sandusky’s alleged assaults of the young boys under his sponsorship and care are disgustingly graphic in nature and leave little to the imagination.
On a second level, what Game Over reveals about the culture espoused by Penn State administrators, its athletic coaches, its students, and the community that supports and benefits from the school’s presence, is almost as disturbing and horrifying as the crimes Sandusky is alleged to have committed against his young victims. That there was, and to a lesser degree still is, a “culture of silence” surrounding Penn State that allowed this kind of criminal behavior to continue for decades, cannot be disputed. Moushey and Dvorchak present their case in detail, naming names and shaming those who deserve it, in the process. Only the court system can determine the guilt or innocence of the various parties involved in all of this, but Jerry Sandusky should not be the only one facing a judge and jury of his peers before this is over.
From what the Game Over authors have to say, it appears that the second worst “crime” committed during this whole period, may lay at the feet of Coach Joe Paterno, the man who really ran Penn State while all of this was happening. If true, Paterno helped bring shame to the university and forever sullied his own reputation and famous catchphrase: “Success with Honor.” Paterno’s silence seems to have been the signal to Penn State’s coaches, administrators, and others that the entire Sandusky matter should be kept within the confines of the Penn State “family,” and that outsiders were not to be trusted with this information. Joe Paterno had just that much clout in Happy Valley – he had, in fact, almost been granted sainthood by the locals, making a cover-up of this magnitude a relatively easy thing for the school to pull off.
Much remains for the courts to determine, including: the culpability of two principal university administrators in the cover-up; the part in the cover-up of some inside The Second Mile (Sandusky’s charity for poverty stricken boys); how much Sandusky’s wife knew of crimes said to have taken place in her home; and whether Sandusky remained at Penn State (even after resigning from its coaching staff in 1999 while at the top of his game) simply because his charity provided him with a ready supply of victims of just the right age.
As James Murtha, a 1977 Penn State graduate, put it, “…in retrospect, you could almost predict how this would turn out because of the way Penn State does business. Isolation is one of its charms, but it’s also part of the problem. They all drink the Kool-Aid up there. They lost all focus. The only way to solve a problem is to admit that you have one. It’s crisis management 101. When I saw the way they handled it, I wanted to projectile vomit.”