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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 11 (February 1, 1935)

Among the Books

page 39

Among the Books

A Literary Page or Two

There was nobody I was more anxious to meet in the literary world in Sydney than “Kodak.” He was my god of laughter. I had read nearly every story, every paragraph he had written. I had a special “Kodak” scrap book, my “Lone Hands” would open almost automatically to disclose some wonderful yarn of “Kodak's.” As a youth I followed his trail of laughter through that wonderful magazine, through “The Bulletin,” and then through “Smith's Weekly.” In my opinion “The Lobster and the Lioness” was the greatest humorous short story ever written. Small wonder that I pictured my “Kodak” as the epitomisation of everything Bohemian.

Nobody warned me, so naturally when I met him I received a terrible shock. This serious little wisp of a man whom I was introduced to one evening in Castlereagh Street—his thin dyspeptic face, the terribly serious eyes behind those large glasses, the long black overcoat, the serviceable gamp clutched tightly in his hand; surely they were having a joke with me! Surely this was not Ernest O'Ferrall, the creator of “Bung's” great shock troops, of the real and only “Bodger,” of mishandled crayfish, of peroxide barmaids—of a thousand and one glorious laughs. I am afraid he saw disappointment writ large on my face, for he smiled. And then I understood. That sympathetic, understanding and gentle smile revealed everything.

It was because he had, perhaps, one glass of lager in a week that “Kodak” saw his drunks as they really are.

One critic had it that “Kodak's” drunks are not cosmopolitan but are specialised and definitely Australian; “Kodak” did not have to eat crayfish to realise their humorous potentialities, for to him a crayfish became a “cray” only when it poked its nippers through the clumsy parcel under a drunk's arm; he knew his Bodger because “Kodak,” like Bodger, was a suburbanite.

Ernest O'Ferrall died on a Sunday night. He said he wanted to die on a Sunday. “Right sort of a setting for death,” he observed. “Everybody had too much food or too much gadding about. Everybody hating the thought of getting up on Monday morning. It would be great fun slipping out of it all and leaving the rest of the world to do its morning hate.”

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The days are past when we have to look solely to English printing houses for kiddies' books. Angus & Robertson, of Sydney, have been specialising in this work for some years with great results. In literary contents, illustrations, format and price, their work compares more than favourably with old established houses in other parts of the world. Here are some of their recent books, all ideal gift volumes for children:—

“The Bubble Galleon,” by Ernest Wells, would capture the heart of any child (young or old). The washing up water will grow cold and the dishes greasy if this book gets into the hands of Tommy or Myrtle at the wrong moment. And won't they revel in the wonderful illustrations of R. W. Coulter. “The Amazing Adventures of Billy Penguin” is also a splendid piece of work in story and illustration. Brooke Nicholls does the former and Dorothy Wall the
A recent bookplate designed by Mr. M. Matthews, the well-known Wellington artist.

A recent bookplate designed by Mr. M. Matthews, the well-known Wellington artist.

latter. A fine combination of talent. All these sell at 4/6 each. A smaller book deals with the bush folk of the Commonwealth in rhyme. It is entitled “Australians All,” and is by Nelle Grant-Cooper. An appetising sugar-coated pill of natural history that any small Australian or New Zealander would eagerly reach for.

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The Christmas number of “Spilt-Ink” is one of the largest and most interesting numbers published of this enterprising little news sheet. An encouraging sign is the fair volume of advertising carried in its pages. Plainly “Spilt-Ink” has come to stay.

* * *

G. S. McAuslan, the clever young Dunedin artist, has published another issue of his “Cartoonist.” This little sheet is printed on a small hand press from lino cuts, the type being lent by a Dunedin printer. The three colour cover is the best item in the latest issue.

* * *

An etching in words of “The Journalist,” by Harold Begbie:—

When you're wrapt in easy slumbers in your comfortable crib,

He is scratching, scratching, scratching with a furious-driven nib,
He is listening, he is listening with a hot and aching head.
To the clicking of the cables from the ocean's quiet bed;
And the printer's buzzing devils push and bang his yielding door,
Snatch his scribble, fling the proof sheet, knock his coffee on the floor,
While his words, words, words are written swift as lightning, sharp and clean,
To the loud, harsh clanging thunder of the linotype machine.

* * *

The average reporter on a city daily can boast of a fair slice of excitement in the hunt for news. I doubt, however, if there is another scribe who can boast of being present in a Court to report his own conviction. Such was my experience. I was a cub reporter on the Wellington “Post,” and one day I was late for a sitting of the local J.P.'s at Petone. So as not to interrupt the case page 40 in progress I stood in the vicinity of the place where accused persons were usually accommodated. As I waited patiently with copy paper I suddenly realised that I was the subject of glances of stern rebuke by the senior Justice, a Mr. Wakeham.

The threatening looks developed like an angry storm-cloud, and the climax came when the J.P., pointing an accusing finger at me said in solemn tones: “You will be fined 20/- with the option of—”

I was so flabbergasted that I was about to record the fine on my pad when the associate J.P. pulled my accuser's sleeve and told him in gurgling tones “That is not the prisoner.”

It appears that the old chap who sentenced me had a muddled memory, and had quite overlooked the fact that the police had already informed him that the real accused had pleaded guilty by letter to the charge of drunkenness on which he had been released on bail the night before.

The fact that Blascheck used to tell a similar tale, though not about a pressman, must not be taken that I am building an imaginary experience on his recital. My experience was an actual fact.

* * *

One of my readers has written me asking how one “may create a plot for a story.” There are two answers. To anybody with the necessary discernment there are a half a dozen plots in the week's existence of an average individual. If you have not this discernment then you must call on your imagination. If you have neither you had better leave story writing aside. Sydney Horler, in his book “Writing for Money,” records how he was once dining with Edgar Wallace, and asked him how he conceived his plots. Wallace took his visitor to a window overlooking Regents' Park. In the far distance a light showed in an otherwise gloomy house. “Now listen,” said the novelist, “there's a girl in that room and … .” For the space of five full minutes Wallace detailed without stopping, a most intricate plot for a crime novel. “But how do you know this?” he was asked. “I don't know it, old man,” was the reply, “I've just invented it. I shall start the story after you've gone to-night.”

* * *

In a letter I have had from Mr. D. W. M. Burn (“Marsyas”) he mentions that many years ago, in the days of the “New Zealand Illustrated Magazine,” he was the first to penetrate the disguise of “G. B. Lancaster,” also to prophesy her coming eminence in New Zealand letters. Miss Lyttelton begged him not to divulge the secret of her sex till the position she hoped to reach was actually won. He ventured the opinion that “G. B. Lancaster” might be the first of our New Zealand prosaists to be called “great;” within a year or two that term was used by at least one English reviewer of standing when her first book came out.


“The Elfin Dell and Other Verses,” by Johannes C. Andersen (A. H. and A. W. Reed, Dunedin). These appealing verses are the personification of the man who wrote them. They breathe of the culture, of the deep appreciation of things beautiful, of the serenity and sincerity of that fine old gentleman who looks after his precious charges in the Turnbull Library. Really, I should not refer to Johannes as “old,” for although he conveys the dignity of years, his heart is ever young. That is why he captures so beautifully the wonderful songs of the birds and the manifold joys of the rare things of nature that live around us. In the elfin dell of his mind busy smiths are beating until we “hear the anvils ring” in the verse he gives to us. This is a book for all New Zealand verse lovers. The format of the book is in keeping with the verse it contains.

“Brave Music,” by Ernest Wells (Angus & Robertson, Sydney). This is a panoramic novel of great force and interest, a worthy successor to the same author's much-quoted “Hemp.” There is no escaping its compelling attraction. A murder is disclosed in the first page and we follow the murderer to his refuge from justice (but not from his remorse) to a lonely lighthouse. Here we listen through many chapters to the relentless beat of the “grey-beard waves” (so powerful are the word pictures of the sea that we can almost visualise portions of “Man of Arran”). Frequently the author hurries us away from his lonely lighthouse to introduce us to other scenes and characters and gradually the whole composite plot is laid before us and is unravelled in a gripping finale. It is a big, many-sided novel handled in a convincing and powerful fashion.

“Australia's Vanishing Race,” by Frederic Wood Jones, F.R.S. (Angus & Robertson, Sydney), contains the text of three broadcast talks given under the auspices of the Australian Broadcasting Commission on the much-discussed aborigines. The author is Professor of Anatomy at the University of Melbourne. The book is well illustrated.

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