The Evil Friendship
By Vin Packer
Publisher: Fawcett Publications, Inc.
Series: Gold Medal Books s797
In 1954, two teenage girls in New Zealand murdered the mother of one of them. Peter Jackson made a 1994 movie called Heavenly Creatures about the crime and the relationship between the two girls. I never saw the film but have it on good authority it was a creditable piece of cinema despite its lack of hot lesbian scenes.
However, the story provided entertainment fodder long before the movie premiered. In 1958, Vin Packer (one of the many pseudonyms of lesbian-pulp pioneer Marijane Meaker) published The Evil Friendship. The book is inspired by, rather than based on, the actual events. The murderesses in the novel have been renamed Mary Drew Edlin and Martha Kent, and the story takes place in the south of England instead of new Zealand.
The two meet and form a clandestine relationship relationship in that hotbed of rugmunchery and denial, a private girl’s school. Bored with other students and school traditions, they retreat into a private world of make-believe. The fairy tales they concoct in their conversations and diaries create a catalyst for their budding romance.
As one can imagine, sapphic trysts are frowned upon by both the school and their parents, and the secret does not remain a secret for long. Alpha butch Evelyn Rush was formerly involved with the gym teacher Miss Nicky, a mustachioed dieseler with thunder thighs. Now has her she sights set on Martha. who wants nothing to do with her. Rush, spurned and spiteful, rats her out to the administrators.
The notification from the school puts a strain on the family life of the two girls, which was never perfect to begin with. Mary Drew’s mother insists that her daughter see a psychiatrist. Her father is against the idea, saying, “they sit on their behinds and come out telling everyone they’re crazy! What if I told everyone their teeth were rotten!” Coming from a dentist in England, his argument doesn’t work so well and Mary Drew is sent to the shrink.
Martha’s home life provides its own set of challenges. Neither parent is terribly upset. The father is too absent-minded a professor to deal with such mundane issues as child rearing and the mother’s attentions are distracted by an extramarital affair with an american houseguest. Matters get complicated when she decides to divorce her husband, move to America with the man, and take Martha with her.
What are our two young lesbian lovers to do? Martha wants Mary Drew to come with her but there are the obstacles of money and parental consent. To solve the first problem, they engage in a little blackmail and theft. The total haul doesn’t seem enough to cover expenses, but the girls have an idealistic view of money matters one often finds in people their age. To fix the issue of parental objections, they decide to bump off Mary Drew’s mom, the one who was kicking up the biggest fuss.
The story is told in a combination of narrative from the day of the crime, flashbacks to events over the past year, and proceedings from the trial of the two girls (spoiler alert: they get caught).
I haven’t poked as much fun at this book as I have in past reviews because the plot and the writing are so much better, and I’m not saying this because I think lesbians are hot. The transition from a platonic friendship to romance seems natural. Sexual details are seldom explicit for “Palace of Pain” scene, where a little bondage and cutting might merit a second read if you’re into that sort of thing.
The good and the bad that came out of their relationship was born from innocence. It was an innocence that allowed their love to blossom and one that made it worth preserving no matter what the cost.