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I reviewed Shadbolt’s New Zealand Wars trilogy in an earlier edition of the Tatler. At Going West earlier this month we, the Going West Trust, announced the assumption of responsibility of Maurice Shadbolt’s house in Arapito Road, Titirangi, purchased by the late Waitakere City and the intention to develop a writers’ residency programme there. For those who are unsure as to his place in our literary history here is an abridged account of his life from an obituary published in the Independent written, by Janet Wilson. As novelist, journalist and


dramatist, Maurice Shadbolt was one of New Zealand’s best known writers, an important figure throughout a career that stretched from the late 1950s to the late 1990s. In his encounter with the


Maurice Shadbolt: story teller


country’s past, Shadbolt’s ambitions to write grand narrative and his flair for comic ‘metafiction’ came together, confirming his gift as a supreme teller of stories about historical


figures or contemporary figures about whom he could weave legends. Shadbolt came to prominence with his first short-story collection,


The New Zealanders, published in 1959 in London by Gollancz and praised by writers such as Alan Sillitoe and Muriel Spark. Although he won almost every major literary prize in New Zealand, some more than once, Shadbolt was always controversial and critics remain divided over whether he is a populist or a serious writer. His early success led to another short-story collection, Summer


Fires and Winter Country (1963), and his first novel, Among the Cinders (1965), a New Zealand Huckleberry Finn about a boy and his grandfather. The issue of how the artist functions in society was the subject of an engaging, enigmatic triptych of novellas, The Presence of Music (1967). Upon being awarded New Zealand’s premier literary award, the


Burns Fellowship, in 1963 Shadbolt wrote full-time for a year, but the need to support his rapidly growing family meant that he continued to publish non-fiction, notably The Shell Guide to New Zealand (1968) and the collaborations New Zealand, Gift of the Sea (1963, with the photographer Brian Brake) and Isles of the South Pacific (1971, with the explorer Olaf Ruhen). Subsequent novels were inspired by contemporary events. This


Summer’s Dolphin (1969) tells the story of Opo, a friendly dolphin who visited the town of Opononi in 1956. When his friend the Italian writer Renato Amato died suddenly, Shadbolt fictionalised his life story in An Ear of the Dragon (1971). To protest against the French nuclear bomb testing in the Pacific, Shadbolt with others undertook a journey to Mururoa on the boat Tamure: Danger Zone (1975) was the result. He lived in his house in Arapito Rd, Titirangi, Auckland, purchased


upon his return to New Zealand in 1961. Shadbolt lived in it for the rest of his life. From the mid-1970s, however, restless again, he travelled frequently to the UK and United States. Further work was fuelled by his ambition to promote national myths


of identity and introduce new ones: his single play, Once on Chunuk Bair (1982), is about New Zealanders in Gallipoli. Then followed the New Zealand Wars trilogy: Season of the Jew (1987), about the great Maori warrior Te Kooti and his campaigns of the 1860s, Monday’s Warriors (1990), exploring Titokowaru’s War of 1868-69, and House of Strife (1993), about Hone Heke’s rebellion in the Bay of Islands in 1845-46. In 1994 Shadbolt returned to his earliest modes, the short story and


novella. He also published three volumes of autobiography, One of Ben’s (1993), Dove on the Waters (1996), and From the Edge of the Sky (1999). Shadbolt died in October 2004.


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