Spoiler Alert

In many ways this week’s blog will be a continuation of last week’s, but it also contains a major spoiler alert. If any of my blog readers have never read Until Proven Guilty, Beaumont #1, you need to stop reading now. For everyone else? You’re good to go.

I wrote UPG, as I refer to it, in the latter part of 1982 and early 1983. It was published in June of 1985, the year I turned 41. In the book, homicide cop J.P. Beaumont crosses paths with a woman named Anne Corley. She’s rich, smart, and dangerous. Only at the end of the book does he discover that she’s a one-woman vigilante posse determined to meet out her own kind of justice to pedophiles.

As I said, the book came out in 1985. Four years later I learned that Juanita High School in Kirkland had started a “Reading for Pleasure” program. Every day the school shut down for twenty minutes while everyone there—kids, teachers, and staff—including cafeteria workers and custodians—were expected to read for FUN. Not required homework reading; not work-related reading—reading something for pure enjoyment.

As a provider of reading for fun, I wanted to back this program, so I called the school and spoke the principal telling him who I was and what I did and saying that, on October 27, I wanted to give myself Juanita High School for my 45th birthday. I said that on that day I wanted to come to the school and do an hour-long assembly in front of all 1600 students and that I would do it for free. His first question was: Who are you again? He went on to say that the school had a very nice auditorium that held 400 students at a time. Wouldn’t I rather speak there?

I said, “No, I want to do one assembly not four. I want to speak to the entire school on October 27, and I’ll do it for free.”

“Let me get back to you,” he said. A week or so later, he called to say fine, but then, the day after that he changed his mind: “That’s the day the shop teachers have their pumpkin carving contest, so it’s a no go.” The next day he called again. It turned out some of the shop teachers were big fans of mine, and they were willing to move the date of the pumpkin carving contest. So we set it up. I was due to be there about mid morning—during the reading for pleasure time slot.

The night before my daughter took me aside and told me, “Mom, tomorrow when you go to Juanita High, wear a long skirt.” So I did—a flared wool skirt with tall boots. I’m glad I took her advice because she knew something I didn’t. “One of the shop teachers who was a fan had read UPG and knew Anne Corley drove a Guard’s Red Porsche. In honor of the event, the shop teacher borrowed a friend’s Porche and drove me into the gym homecoming queen style, handed me out of that very low car, and gave me a bouquet of flowers. That was the lightning-bolt moment when it came home to me that it’s really pretty wonderful to be a late bloomer!

I gave my talk. Gyms are notoriously tough places to do talks because the audience is on either side of the room seated on bleachers, but I spoke and they listened. At the end of my talk, one of the kids stood up and asked, “Where did Anne Corley come from?” And that’s when I was hit by yet another lightning-bolt moment.

In last week’s blog, I recounted what happened to me as a child at the hands of my paternal grandfather. In my late twenties I had told my father about it and in the early eighties I had discussed the situation with a few women friends. But I had never spoken out in public about it—not until then. But that young man’s question crystallized something in my head and and heart. Years after creating the character, I suddenly realized that Anne Corley was me—my alter ego going out into the world and wreaking vengeance on SOBs who might otherwise get away with preying on little kids.

But that morning I told the story in public—what had happened, when it happened, and how—in front of an audience of 1600 high school students. Afterwards, when I was signing books a young woman, a freshman most likely, came up to the table and said, “The same thing happened to me. What should I do?”

I pointed her to the nearest counselor and said, “Go talk to her. Tell her.”

Harvey Weinstein was found guilty this week, but only because some of the up and coming movie stars he victimized were finally willing and able to come forward. Is he in jail? No, my understanding is he’s faking illness and lounging around in a hospital room somewhere, wearing PJs and watching TV. I want the man under lock and key.

As for Anne Corley? I wasn’t at all conscious of what I was doing when I created that character. She grew out of my heart and my soul, but I wrote her for all the rest of us—the ones who weren’t rich and famous and could call our abusers out or see them punished.

I know there are more than a few of you who are reading this, and you know what? Anne Corley’s for you!

28 thoughts on “Spoiler Alert

  1. Thank you again for sharing this part of your life with us. You gave that girl a place to start changing her life when you told her to talk with a counselor at her school. Ann Corley was a complex character when I first read that book. Today you helped me understand her better. I love the mental image of you riding into the gym in a Porche . Such an example of a strong woman. I hope someone took pictures.

  2. I feel a lot of serious anger about the child abuse, rapists, and sex trafficking happening and the abusers getting a slap on the hand. I’m more a bullet to the brain reaction. What saddens me even more are the doctors, teachers, and clergy that are involved. There is no excuse and they should pay the ultimate price for their betrayal and lack of humanity.

  3. Hi, I read UPG a million years ago, but I now plan to get a new copy and read it again. I, too, was a victim of my paternal grandfather and harbored my secret until my first marriage (it was impacting my relationship with my husband). Once my secret was out, it became easier (for my healing) to talk about it. My grandfather was dead by then, I know because I made sure it was him in the casket. I wrote a book a few years ago for a NaNo competition, and it was about a grown woman that had been abused, and how it caused a split personality…and the one created protected the woman no matter what it meant – even murder. It’s titled As if Yesterday (because it sometimes it feels that way). So, I guess my point is, no matter how we write our stories, it helps to heal our souls.
    Have a wonderful weekend.

  4. I just love everything about you! I laugh, I cry and I squirm over your characters and their stories! I have read all of the JP Beaumont series and am finishing my third Ali Reynolds book today! Thank you for your books and for your blog. Mostly, thank you for being so real!

  5. Thank you for your post. I appreciate you telling your story. I’m an avid fan of your books and feel like I know the characters personally. I’m looking forward to reading your next book.

  6. I think Weinstein is being transfered to Rikers Island today. No picnic there!

    Is a short story or more on Anne Corley in the works?

    The most amazing thing about your blog is that the high school had multiple shop teachers! I wonder if they still do? I hope so.

  7. I started re-reading the Beaumont books again. One of the advantages of old age is that I have forgotten parts of it. I skip the details on traffic problems in Seattle . At the end of this first book he inherits the Guard Red Porsche which will see him thru future adventures. I’ve love to have a car like that.

  8. Thank you. You will never know what difference your words made to the students or how many were led to take action, but you may have literally saved a life, or more than one. You spoke to them at an age where many young people are truly facing what happened to them. For some, the choice is suicide. For few the choice is to get help. Know that it happens to others, especially then, may have change how they look at themselves and what happened to them and may open a new door.

  9. I would have loved to have been there at Juanita High! I have read UPG more than once–in fact, I have gone through all the Beaumont books twice. Having seen you speak many times, I am once again reminded how wonderful your talks are and how they impact people. Keep up the good work–you never know who will be affected by what you tell.

  10. What I have learned since is that the vast majority of kids who come in contact with the criminal justice system have a history of childhood sexual abuse–usually unaddressed childhood sexual abuse.

  11. Kids think it’s their fault. Or they’re afraid of being punished by the perpetrator.
    I know.

  12. I love your books and blogs. I did hear on the news last night that Weinstein was finally moved to RIKERS WHERE HE BELONGS.

  13. I have met you a couple times at book signings as did my parents before me. My son is doing time in Monroe Correctional Facility. He plead guilty to something he is so ashamed of. I started him on your books! He reads them in a day and a half and I order them through Amazon. Beaumont books to start since he lived in Redmond since age 15. There are only 6 of your books there in the library so Hopefully he can donate more of your stories so prisoners have the chance to follow you. Thank you from him and of course me! I am on the waiting list for your next book. Thank you for sharing so much of your life.

  14. I met a woman in Salt Lake who said her son started reading my books while he was incarcerated and the stories helped him get on the straight and narrow once he got out.

  15. My sisters and I were so wondering and laughing about the Weinstein thing with his walker with tennis ball shoes. We all knew it was a ploy, since almost everyone would have the wheelie kind, even in the senior housing where one of them lives. HW switched over to the better kind of walker. Putz.
    I have read Until Proven Guilty at least 4 times through the years. I still marvel about the telephone number bit, better detective work there never was.

  16. My dad was touch feely all my life from the time I was at least xix on. My mom had mental problems, so I never told her as she had spent so much time in hospitals, and I did not want to send her back to that hell. I had been to visit her. Their marriage was extremely stormy with him being abusive. My dad was in the military with a good rank, and then became a researcher and college professor. There were not low class people as people so often associate with this kind of relationship.

    When I was 43, my mom called me one time, and asked me to testify against him in court. I told her I could only tell what had gone on before I left hoe at 18, but I could do that. She was healing from where he broke her knee cap. She then blew me away by asking me if I would not do it because of his sexual abuse when I was a kid. I was so stunned, that the affirmative just came out without my thinking about it. How did she know? How long had she known? I am married with three children, and she is asking me this? Wow!

    My mom then stopped speaking to me. For 18 months there was radio silence from them. I sent Christmas, birthday, mother’s and father’s day, and anniversary gifts and cards and there was nothing from my parents at that time. Finally, after my mom went through a mastectomy with me knowing nothing of it, she contacted me so I would have the history. Well, I had had a lump removed myself, but she had also had one (malignant but caught early for us both) when she was 29, so mine was watched. I never told her about mine, but when we saw them the next time we went to our home state to visit my in – laws, but mom mentioned false memories. I never argued with her about it. She lived another 15 years after that, denying to her death that my dad could have done this. At least to him. about six weeks after her death, a lady she knew sent me a letter that my mom had given her to send me after her death. She acknowledged that my dad was a rat, had been, and I had been the strong one to get out of the situation.

  17. I meant to add that I identified with Anne Corley when I read the story. I hated the ending, but I loved the story. It was a realistic ending. It allowed JP to become who he has become over the years. I have loved the stories as well as your other series, and I loved meeting you in Austin for the sad turnout at the library, but I am so thankful you did it.

  18. First – I love your books especially Joanna Brady. But now I catching up on the Beaumont books. I read UPG some years ago and have never forgotten Anne Corley. Sorry you had to go through what you did to create her but you have used that for the good. And I too think Weinstein should be in prison for the rest of his life.

  19. I love your blog! I always either laugh or cry when I read it. I just want to say, me, too! Thank you!

  20. Starting when I was in the 3rd grade visiting my grandparents at Christmas, my grandfather started saying things like “if you show me yours, I’ll show you mine.” They lived next to a wash and we often wen on walks in the sand on the bottom where he then proceeded to explain the facts of life to me. This continued for a few years when we visited at Christmas. Remember that this was back in the late 50’s, early 60’s. I was too embarrassed to tell anyone about it. Now I wish I had. I repressed the memories until I was in my 50’s talking to a therapist about some work issues when I suddenly recalled the incidents and described them to her. Well, of course it was sexual abuse even though I had convinced myself it was not. I described some problems my sister had with hoarding, shopping, and excessive weight – all signs according to my therapist. I talked to my sister – apparently our grandfather used to put her hand in the pocket of his overalls and ask if she felt the little “mouse” in there. I urged her to get help, but she claimed she was okay. By then my grandfather was long dead and my parents were in their 80’s. I could see no point in telling them. Long story short, by sister died from sudden cardiac arrest when she was 62 and it took several years to help my brother-in-law clean up the enormous amount of “stuff” she had purchased over the years, even at one point having put the family into bankruptcy (which I never knew until after she died). I miss my sister, and I think that dirty old bastard killed her.

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