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: