Our dear friend Anne Perry died this week, on April 10, 2023, after a lengthy illness. She was 84.
Anne has meant so much to SiWC for so long, it’s hard to find the words to say goodbye. As one of the foundational presenters at the conference, so many of my memories of Anne are intertwined with conference events. She’s been a cast member of Slade’s Shock Theatre since the very first performance. She’s given more memorable keynote speeches and workshops than I can count. And the connections she forged over the years with other writers were invariably kind, insightful and above all, encouraging.
To her fans, Anne was the author of more than 100 works of fiction and non-fiction, totaling more than 26 million books world-wide. But it was in Surrey at our conference that Anne felt most at home, safely surrounded by people who loved words and stories as much as she.
Today, we invite you to remember Anne – whether through her books, something you learned from her, or a personal interaction. The world is a richer place for having had Anne in it, and we shall all miss her terribly.
Editing to add this picture of Anne, deep in discussion with Michael Slade. A favourite memory!
When I think of Anne Perry, four character strengths come to mind.
One, she was fiercely intelligent. Easily one of the smartest people I have ever met, with a sharp sense of humour.
Two, her work ethic was jaw-dropping. At least two novels a year, and one Christmas novella, all conceived, researched, written, edited, produced, and promoted within that timeframe. Year after year after year.
Three, her verbal ability. Flawless prose (and some poetry) delivered in her understated way, with no um’s or ah’s, while she thought deeply at lightning speed.
Four, she was loyal. I knew I could count on her, and she never let me down.
Anne Perry and I joined the SiWC crew the same year, two decades ago. We knew right from the start – as all of you do – that SiWC was something special: the best writers’ conference in the world.
Writers teaching writers, not trying to sell books.
Anne was so loyal to SiWC and that tradition that she flew from rural Highlands Scotland (and later Los Angeles) to Surrey, British Columbia every year to partake. She came the greatest distance of us all. Now that’s dedication!
What no one mentions in all the media pieces I’ve read since her death is her acting ability.
From the moment I pitched SHOCK THEATRE to her (see the attached candid photo with the imaginary stage set between my hands), she embraced it with gusto, and made every one of the performances through the next 15 years jump to life.
Oh, she could play the villain! From THE THING ON THE FOURBLE BOARD in the original production, to ice-cold, conniving Madam Zaroff manhunting for sport on Amazon Island in THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME, a role so memorable that she reprised it with a brain-eating Earwig in BOOMERANG.
And then she could play the hero – what a gift Anne had for accents – as Dr. Van Helsing going after the Blood Countess, Diana Gabaldon, in last year’s DRACULA.
Added to that, Anne was a quick-witted team player. We were in the middle of a SHOCK THEATRE production set in the jungle when the sound effects audio failed. Oh no, dead air! But Anne, Diana, and the inimitable Jack Whyte instantly and seamlessly played off each other, and began to create all the jungle creatures verbally.
That kind of intuitive camaraderie is precious. And memorable, for those who were there. <g>
Anne was so enthusiastically dependable that I could set a clock by her.
I’d send the script off, note the time, and wait for her reply.
Almost invariably, within hours, back would come her response in such a way that I knew if I said, “You’re on in 5 minutes,” she’d be ready to hit the boards.
Study the photo again. You can see it in her eyes.
My mental image of Anne will always be that: Total focus on the matter at hand … as she did with everything.
This coming October, we won’t have Anne, and we won’t have Jack, but we will have the New Blood in the Diabolic Players.
There will be a SHOCK THEATRE 16, because “The show must go on.”
And we’ll put on this year’s performance IN MEMORY OF ANNE PERRY, who gave us all at SiWC so much for so many years.
RIP, Scream Queen!
Edited to add: From the New York Times, as posted April 14, 2023:
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Over the past 9 years at SiWC, the MANY members of Table30 have countless memories and learning moments with the distinguished Anne Perry. At what will now be known as her last conference with us, I had the absolute pleasure to have dinner with Anne and fellow beautiful authors Katherine Johnson and Brenda L. Murphy. It was one of those accidental and magical moments that tend to happen when you least expect. Everyone had pretty much departed, the conference over, the foyer empty, the lounge quite loud, and Anne walked in. We invited her to join us and spent the next 2 hours entertaining each other with stories from each of the vastly different regions us 4 live in. We will never forget her sharp wit, direct teaching, excellent humor, and, of course, the words she leaves as her legacy. Did we really get to interact with her as a colleague all these years? Yes, we did. Because that was her way and the way of SiWC. And for that we will always be grateful. Rest easy, dear lady.
Carol J. Garvin
I think Anne was at every conference I’ve attended, just as Jack Whyte was–both were always such an integral part of the weekend’s landscape. I had an elderly aunt who adored Anne’s mysteries and was thrilled when I gave her an autographed copy for Christmas one year. Thereafter, at every conference, Anne made a point of asking after her, and signing another new edition which for several years, until my Aunt’s passing, became my much anticipated Christmas gift. 🙂
What lovely memories, Kate and Carol. Thank you for sharing!
Anne was a lovely and remarkable woman. My memories of her are sparkling threads in my SiWC tapestry. 💛 She’ll be so missed. Love and hugs to all who loved her.
Such sad news again today. I agree with Carol: I still remember coming to SiWC the first time and being humbled in the presence of so many famous writers and talented people (incidentally, I still feel the same way 20+ years later). Lisa and I were fortunate enough to sit with Anne Perry at lunch one day–where I was somewhat surprised to see that even literary legends had to eat. Over our years coming to Surrey, we learned that everyone, from multi-million-copy-selling authors to unpublished dreamers, had a great deal in common. We shared the same hopes, faced the same challenges. We worried about our kids, our pets, and the state of the world. And, of course, we all share humanity, including its bitterest, inescapable component: mortality. Anne, famous for her detective novels, knew, as we all do, that there is always one final mystery to be explored.
Today, once again, we are all diminished. Still, it’s my deepest–perhaps childish–hope that somewhere, right now, Jack Whyte and Anne Perry are teaching the choir invisible the words to the “Hippopotamus Song” or rehearsing another cringeworthy Shock Theatre.
Rest in peace, Anne, and thank you for sharing your love of writing and humanity with us.
Anne spoke of Surrey with delight, warmth, affection. In your midst, she felt welcomed and loved. I attended one of the conferences and had the pleasure of teaching with Anne. In the years I’ve known her, she was happiest with you. I posted this on my Facebook page midweek:
It is my greatest sorrow to write that my dear friend, author Anne Perry, died Monday night. I had the honor of being at her side, and she died peacefully. Anne and I became friends ten years ago, and that friendship grew with every day. We were more than trusted and cherished friends to one another. I enjoyed the process of brainstorming with her about characters and plots of each novel (two full novels and a novella every year!). After she wrote a chapter, I downloaded it from somewhere in that cloud and edited. It was the most joyful “job” anyone could have. Many people have told me that Anne was the most brilliant person they’d ever known, and I concur. Whether it was literature, theology, politics, philosophy, world history, she was encyclopedic. A writer once asked her if she was familiar with the poetry of A.E. Housman. She smiled and recited around a dozen of his poems. Her brilliance was great, but her kindness and compassion even greater. In those years of friendship, which usually included several daily phone calls, seven days a week, I never heard Anne say anything cruel. (Except for comments about a few politicians making trouble in her adopted country.) Her absence will leave a dark hole in my life that can never be filled. Anne, if you can hear me, thank you for making my life richer, and me kinder. You will always be in my heart.
Several years ago (before covid) I volunteered at SIWC. I had the good fortune to be the person to drive Anne to the Vancouver Airport. I pulled up outside the Sheraton and she popped into my car. I was in the middle of an opera phase. Me – “Hi Anne – do you happen to like opera?” Anne – “Absolutely. Turn that up.” So, she and I sang loudly to La Traviata all the way to the airport. It was absolutely delightful. She hopped out of the car, all smiles, and we promised to see each other the following year at SIWC.
I am saddened by her passing. She will be greatly missed for all that she was in the world. Farewell songbird.
Anne Perry was one of the most gracious and welcoming authors in my time attending SIWC – which is saying quite a lot. I had a very memorable blue pencil with her, where she used my manuscript as a stepping stone to a wide discussion of Byzantine history and aesthetics, which went long after the scheduled time, as I was her last booking. It was a delightful discussion for this historian turned fledgling writer.
The stories everyone is sharing have certainly inspired me – I can only hope to some day mirror something of her knowledge, work ethic, and generosity myself.