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For week ended August 29, 1999 Posted 4 Sep 1999

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Anne Perry - Her life, like her stories, layered with intrigue

Summarized by Rosemary Pollock

Anne Perry - Her life, like her stories, layered with intrigue
Deseret News 29Aug99 L2
By Dennis Lythgoe: Deseret News books editor


'Tathea' a gold mine of Mormon doctrine
Deseret News 29Aug99 L2
By Dennis Lythgoe: Deseret News books editor Anne Perry, a London native and internationally known mystery writer, has recently written "Tathea", a hefty Mormon epic that allows people who normally do not read the scriptures to be spiritually touched by her book. Perry is an author of 30 popular mystery novels with some seven million copies in print. She is 60-years-old and lives alone in England. While living in California in 1967, Perry was converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"I knew I was a Christian, but I couldn't be anything I'd come across. They all taught things that were good but other things I couldn't believe. I was left stranded until I came across the LDS Church, and I said, 'That's IT!'" "I got down on my knees before I went to bed, and I asked my Father in Heaven if it was true or not, and when I woke up in the morning, the room was absolutely filled with light - and I don't mean sunlight."

Driving 23 miles to church on Sunday, Perry enjoys teaching the young women in her small LDS branch in the Scottish highlands. "I taught the Old Testament, which I love with a passion," she says of her time as a Gospel Doctrine Teacher. Perry also enjoys speaking, even on short notice. " The shortest notice I've ever had was when I was sitting on the front row, and the branch president said, 'The next speaker will be Sister Anne Perry.' I like the challenge. I don't have the gift to tell stories spontaneously, but if I can talk about what I believe, I love it."

Perry loves to write and spends six days a week which results in two popular mystery novels a year. "If you wish your reader to be totally satisfied at the end of the book," Perry said, "you must take the story as far as it can go. You must say everything that can be said and leave it when there is nothing else to add." Perry hopes that someday her novels will be adapted to the movie screen.

Perry sees "Tathea" as her most challenging work. "This is my most important book," she says, "because my heart and soul is in it. I try to put what I believe through everything I write, but it is usually subliminal. The values are there, but as human values, not as religious values."

"Tathea" is centered on its title character, the empress of an ancient land, who is allowed to read the "minutes" taken during "The Council in Heaven." Symbolism abounds as she uncovers a golden book written in an ancient tongue. She has been accused of clothing Mormonism in an epic form to spiritually reach some of her millions of readers.

She is now working on a sequel that will hopefully be finished by October 2000. "It's 500 years later, and Tathea has been waiting for the book to be unsealed, and she finds a pregnant woman with a 13-year-old boy, and she believes the boy she is going to give birth to will be the person she's been waiting for - the one worthy to open the book again. Then the woman is killed. It's a little while before she realizes it is the boy who must bring it up, and his mission is to lay peace on the island for a sufficient time to raise the warriors who will be righteous and strong enough to fight Armageddon."

Perry's life has not been without criticism or scandal. In 1994, a journalist revealed Perry's original name to be Juliet Hulme. During that same year, a New Zealand made for TV movie, "Heavenly Creatures," told the tragic story of Juliet and her best friend Pauline, who killed Pauline's mother with a death blow from a brick in a stocking while walking in the woods. Perry is distressed that the story has come out and does not deny it. She claims, that the film is deliberately inaccurate. "I don't think anyone would like to watch someone else's fantasy of what the worst time of their life was like," she said. "I was 15 and ill at the time.." Perry, or Hulme at the time, served five years in prison after being convicted of the murder.

Worried about "Tathea" being published for LDS readers only, Perry turned to Ballantine, her regular publisher for approval. "When it was declined," says Perry, "I was under the misimpression that if it went to Shadow Mountain, the book would probably only be distributed to members, and I'm not trying to preach to the converted." After talking to her friend, Elder Hugh Pinnock of the LDS Quorum of the Seventy, he encouraged Perry to call Sheri Dew, editor at Deseret Book. "I didn't want to go to any editor who would alter it," said Perry. Speaking of Deseret Book she said, "They know the gospel as well as I do, or better." It has just been published by Shadow Mountain and is in its first printing of 25,000 copies.

"Writing is great fun, and when you're lucky enough to have a publisher who takes you to meet your readers, that refuels you for another year." Speaking of her work, Perry said, "It pays the rent, the taxman and my 10 employees, and I love working. I take a half-day off about once a fortnight."

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information