Jim Perrin’s scheduled appearance at the Hay Festival 2011

When the author, Jim Perrin, initially wrote publicly of his relationship with our sister, Jac, our first knowledge of it was the article ‘Touching the Void’, (a title he plagiarised from Joe Simpson) which was published in the ‘Observer’ in July 2005. Roger Alton was at that time the editor.

We knew that what Jim Perrin had written of our sister was untruthful. She was not his ‘lover, wife and friend of forty years’, and it was pure sophistry to write so, and to deliberately give that impression. Much else was written which we knew to be misleadingly inaccurate, fanciful, and in parts, complete lies.

In his description of the day on which our sister died he could not recall the colour of the balloon given to her by her daughter which she had tied to the hospital bed-head for the seven days of Jac’s stay; and in the garden that evening, ‘The little lilac helium balloon that had floated above her head was released.’  The balloon was yellow, with a ‘smiley’ face painted on by Jac’s daughter.

Though of itself so small we felt this inaccuracy to be a telling detail but it is nothing in comparison with his description of our sister’s death. Despite what he has written HE WAS NOT THERE: he had left her, alone in the hospital. We were also particularly incensed by his other claims so we contacted the editor, Roger Alton (we discovered later they were  climbing friends!) to ask him to print our rebuttal: viz. Jim Perrin was not married to our sister as he implied in the article, nor was their ‘relationship of four decades duration.’ This, disgracefully, he refused to do…  We strongly believe that with this author ‘implication’ is a favoured form of deceit and many examples are evident throughout his book, ‘West:’.

The publishers ‘Atlantic Books’ had not indicated to Jac’s family, her children or to her sisters, that this book was under consideration. Given the untruthful and distasteful content and the libellous accusations we feel that it would have been a courtesy had they done so, but we know nothing of the conventions of the publishing world and in any  case we feel sure that there is a strong possibility Jim Perrin had convinced them of his probity: we think ‘plausible’ is Jim Perrin’s middle name…

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When we read Sir Andrew Motion’s review of ‘West:’ we were saddened that such an eminent poet and author could have been so taken in by the book, although doubtless he too believed at the time that it was a truthful account. Yet even so we commented in our response that we relished in what he had written a discernible element of ‘damning with faint praise’.

A positive outpouring of comments and reviews followed and very early on we came to believe that the majority of these were posted by Jim Perrin himself, ref. A Question of Identity and In Poor Taste.  So: encouraged, supported and actively helped by a concerned friend (whose suggestion it was),  we decided to set up a site of our own in which we could put the record straight as we knew our sister would have wished, and one in which he could not interfere…

We chose not to have a comments facility  for which we apologised (‘To Hatch a Crow’, 16/9/10) as we thought that Jim Perrin would doubtless bombard us with comments (either real or under aliases) and frankly we could not be bothered with him. However ‘Liz’ (long suspected by us to be a Jim Perrin alias) could not resist, recently, re-appearing and histrionically accusing us of being ‘cowardly to have disabled blog comments’. Most amusing!  (Ref. Amazon*) and which we thought rather neatly made our point. Doubtless Jim Perrin would have taken great delight in attempting to run rings around us, had we allowed him the opportunity…

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But a much more important issue has been raised. Since the inception of our site we have learned of many people who have been hurt and abused by Jim Perrin, men as well as women, both in their personal and professional lives. It is apparent that he has, among other traits, an extraordinary power of persuasion: our sister certainly found it so, sadly all too soon after she began her ill-fated relationship with him. Some of those who have discovered our site and contacted us have disclosed that they had never before been able to speak of their experiences and had concerns about revealing what they had suffered; how they had felt that they were ‘the only one’ (a classic result of controlling behaviour) and we know that our sister, in her turn, was definitely subjected to this.

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So far we have shown ample evidence of the way in which Jim Perrin has conducted himself:  we have also posted, written in his own hand, an ‘anonymous’ letter. None of what we have revealed has he been able to deny or refute, even had we allowed him (or his several alter egos) access to a comments thread.  As Jim Perrin would say: ‘thank heavens.’  This is a phrase he has frequently used when speaking with the voice of an alias.

There can be no doubt that Jim Perrin has a very controlling personality and we have much evidence of his bullying tactics and of his potential for aggression; all this within the short time, less than eighteen months, that he lived at our sister’s house. However in the wider arena we are now aware, as we said earlier, of many others he has hurt: yet he seems to have a remarkable ability to sail away scot-free from his various entanglements. We are so troubled that our sister was one of them; she herself bitterly regretted it later as we know, and her first happiness was of short duration before their relationship began to deteriorate and she realised the truth of the situation in which she found herself. We have mentioned in a previous post how she told us that she felt like the heroine in the old psychological thriller ‘Gaslight’.

Certainly it is our belief that Jim Perrin is the most plausible of men and we can quite see that those who believe him, and in him, and may feel loyalty towards him, will not wish to learn of the dark back-story to his life; or possibly he may have some subtle hold over them. Threats of legal action have, we know, been made in the past, even to Jac’s ‘Welsh’ sister (she trembled! He was bullying her at the time for the return of some letters which belonged by then to her late sister’s family…) and we suppose that could be a minefield: some who might know of his litigious leanings may decide that discretion is the better part of valour. But: Who Will Bell the Cat?

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Lately we have seriously wondered if Jim Perrin may not, possibly, have something a little askew in his thought processes. He seems almost to believe his own ‘hype’ and in our opinion he walks roughshod over many of the conventions of normal life. For instance: it is not generally considered to be a literary attribute of any great distinction to compose a vicious anonymous letter, this is one we know of, or to lie and then to claim the lies as autobiographical.

It is interesting that he has attributed to George Borrow ‘Fictivised Autobiography’ (as he writes in his notes in ‘West:’), and of course George Borrow is not able to refute this; although it would require exceptional and remarkably thorough research to provide the absolute proof for this sweeping statement and not just reams of psycho-babble. We wish he had left George Borrow alone (we hear that he intends to write his biography) but suppose he was just  too juicy a morsel; travels in Wales, wanderings, etc, etc. A ready-made subject and one who cannot answer back…

It is evident that Jim Perrin feels ‘fictivised autobiography’ is an acceptable device (NOT, we hasten to object, when he ‘fictivises’ his account of our sister) and as Jan Morris perceptively wrote in her review of ‘West:’  ‘It is best considered as a work of semi-fiction’. Certainly in ‘West:’, and concerning our sister, we know him to have lied outrageously; as well as lyingly describing  her family, her former husband and her partners. This cannot be acceptable surely: to write offensively and abusively about living and  recognisable people?

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We have contacted the organisers of the Hay Festival, where he is scheduled to talk about this very book on Tuesday 31st May, and we told them these details and invited them to read the posts we have written. We maintain that for Jim Perrin to aggrandise himself with this book, the associated interviews and articles, is completely reprehensible and certainly one member of the ‘Observer’ team wrote to us on 18/8/05 that ‘He should not be allowed to get away with it’.

However, we have learned that Jim Perrin has been asked about what we have said, that he has been ‘believed implicitly’, and of course the event is to go ahead. We were told by a member of the Hay hierarchy who was to interview him that ‘it did not matter’. However badly he had behaved ‘he could have been an alcoholic for all they knew’, (whatever that had to do with it, and in any event is not alcoholism classed as an illness? This thought was new to us!)  But: ‘it did not matter’ they said’ ‘the book is out there’ and that ‘[we] should ‘get over it’, and ‘get over [our] grief’…  And, as if that were not enough:  ‘[We] should be grateful that Jim Perrin had written of our sister, even in the way that he had.’  Three times in the course of our conversation this person said ‘I don’t care.’ We found her attitude to be appallingly crass.

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When ‘writing’ versus ‘the truth’ wins hands down it might appear that indeed ‘we should get over it.’  But we are not grieving;  it is six years since our sister died, six years during which Jim Perrin has been ‘dining out’ on her memory, or more to the point, his fabricated memories, so we are as determined as ever that the real story should be told.  Whatever is decided elsewhere, and by which influence others are persuaded, we know that our site will stand and that it will reveal a very different, and dark, side to those of Jim Perrin’s readers who currently have only the highest regard for him. He whom WE know to be a blatant liar and a fantasist.

No doubt he will be convincingly rhapsodic on the stage at Hay about the whole tragic story; in many parts the ‘invented’ story of our sister and of his very short relationship with her.**

We believe he angles to make a film! We hope that anyone so inclined will read our posts first and that the truth rather than a lack of funding may be their guide.***

Jac’s sisters.

*      Amazon, to their credit, removed all the ‘Liz’ comments as they were found, as we had indicated, to be spurious.

**     We were told, well after this event, that in fact notice had been taken of our legitimate concerns regarding Jim Perrin’s scheduled reading; and apart from a very  brief mention of the book  which had caused our family such distress the decision was taken that there was to be no reading after all and reference to it was kept to a bare minimum. As this was to be for Jim Perrin a marvellous opportunity to showcase his new book at one of the (if not the) most prestigious book festivals in the country, he must have felt thwarted…  and we are pleased, although it is now some years since, to acknowledge the actions of the organisers in taking the decision not to proceed as planned. (In fact the interview may be heard on YouTube, which is how it was discovered that Jim Perrin did not, as he had hoped to do, read from his questionable book.)

***  A later note: we are happy to say that Grant Gee, who had considered this, has assured us that he will now do no such thing…

Jac’s sisters.

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