The Hang Fire Books Blog

The rantings of a bookdealer in Brooklyn, New York.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Evil Friendship by Vin Packer

I recently finished The Evil Friendship by Vin Packer (pseudonym of Marijane Meaker) in preparation for her appearance at the 2007 NY Paperback Expo. Sadly she couldn't make the show but the book was great, so no hard feelings.

Evil Friendship is based on the 1950s New Zealand Parker-Hulme murder case in which two school-girls--joined in an obsessive relationship--murder the mother they see as a threat to their happiness. This case was the inspiration for Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures and an incident from the life of a widely-read mystery novelist (who probably gets enough internet grief so you'll have to google her yourself).

My only previous knowledge of the case came from Heavenly Creatures so I can't say how close this book cleaves to the facts, but there are some interesting differences from the film. Meaker relocates the girls to rural England and introduces other lesbian figures into their lives. One a sadistic school-girl who joys in the fact that her ex-crush slit her wrists in despair at being dumped, the other an older butch gym coach who's filled with sad longing and is lead-on and emotionally black-mailed by the students.

It's interesting to see the girls in this more explicitly lesbian context and--stuck between these archetypes--it's understandable that they need to escape into a fantasy world. And as much as I like Heavenly Creatures the fantasy world Jackson creates was its biggest weakness. The animated clay sequences are too detached from the rest of the film and the effects haven't aged well. Meaker gets the escapism across in a much subtler way that feels much more tied to the girls lives, class and the other characters in the novel.

Evil Friendship is a good read if you’re interested in early lesbian fiction or psychological suspense in the Highsmith or Simenon vein. I’ll definitely pick up more of Meaker’s work. Given the variety of her titles (and pseudonyms) she seems to be an extremely versatile talent.

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1 comment:

ASP said...

I just watched the movie and it really intrigued me. I'd like to read this book and now you've convinced me!