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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 10 (January 1, 1936)

Among the Books — A Literary Page or Two

page 55

Among the Books
A Literary Page or Two

Until recently colour reproduction in the magazine field in this country was somewhat crude and unsatisfactory. Lately we have realised that there are block makers and printers in New Zealand who can produce in coloured illustrations results that compare more than favourably with the finished production in other parts of the world. This development has been most apparent in “The Mirror,” where the artistic four colour cover designs have aroused much favourable comment. The December issue of the “New Zealand Railways Magazine” appeared for the first time in a four-colour cover. Apart from the strong appeal to the reader, this development in colour block work provides an opportunity for enterprising advertisers. Four colour advertisements attractively designed and reproduced, have a tremendous pull over ordinary advertisements in black and white. This new development in the general pictorial and advertising fields in this country will be watched with interest.


A gracious acknowledgment of the tribute that many admirers paid to Miss Jessie Mackay just over a year ago, comes in her “Vigil and Other Poems,” a booklet recently published by Whitcombe & Tombs Ltd. The book is dedicated to these friends of Miss Mackay's, and when they have read the precious poems it contains, they must feel that a further debt of gratitude is due to the Lady of Cashmere Hills. Jessie Mackay has a place in the hearts of every lover of poetry in these islands, also in the big continent across the Tasman. One at least in Australia, Mary Gilmore, will thrill with pride over the beautiful poem dedicated to her in this booklet. In the twenty or so poems included, are melodies to charm the souls of people of many minds and moods—all in the flawless harmony so characteristic of the singer.



“New Zealand Pilgrimage” Alan Mulgan's Latest Book.

In his new book, “A Pilgrim's Way in New Zealand,” Mr. Alan Mulgan has certainly discovered a charming way to tell about a country. This is no dull, pedestrian guide book. It is, rather, an eminently readable piece of literature in which every page holds the interest by a combination of qualities in which are blended those of philosopher and poet, historian and descriptive writer.

Mr. Mulgan has it in mind that he must somehow explain New Zealand to England; and he does it by a series of chapters on principal national characteristics and features that combine naturally with the political and economic history of the country.

This is the way a book of the kind should be written. It avoids the “personal equation” factor and the undue attention to trivialities that mar many travel works, and it refrains from the necessarily somewhat tedious detail of the average guide book.

With all the information assembled in his mind, Mr. Mulgan has sifted and sorted and classified to obtain the essentials of his story; and then he has applied an exquisite sense of proportion to presenting the condensed essence of the most material factors of race, climate, outlook, geography, and experience, that have gone to the building of this self-contained, cultured, well-governed and highly productive country.

Many attempts have been made to present New Zealand in a readable form. Mr. Mulgan is to be congratulated on producing the best of the kind to date.

“Blue Coast Caravan,” by Frank Dalby Davison and Brooke Nicholls (Angus & Robertson, Sydney) is a plain but gripping story of a journey from Sydney to northern Queensland. Its very strength and interest is in its simple unaffected style. Because of this and the keen appreciation the writers have as to what will hold their reading public in what they saw and what they experienced on their journey, the book must appeal to everybody. Some of the chapter titles will indicate the interesting nature of the travels; In the Krambach Ranges, A Climb Through the Jungle, In the Mary River Valley, Days on Fraser Island. Among the Italians of the North, The Crocodile Hunter, To the Great Barrier Reef, Days on a Coral Island. The book is on sale at leading booksellers.

“Erie Water,” by Walter D. Edmonds (Hurst & Blackett, London) is an unusual and powerful story. I have read a fair number of novels of late, but I do not think any of them have held me so selfishly as this book. It might be described as a panoramic romance. We are given a big moving picture of that great achievement, the making of the Erie Canal, which as history tells, made New York. But while we are watching the creation of this colossal ditch, we are keeping an ever interested eye on young Jerry Fowler and his wife Mary, whom Jerrybought as a Redemptioner from an Albany sea captain. Mary takes her place as one of my sweetest heroines of modern fiction. The book is on sale at all branches of Whitcombe & Tombs.

“The Eunuch of Stamboul,” by Dennis Wheatley (Hutchison, London) is great reading for those who are looking for thrills unlimited. There's at least one on every page. It is a story of love and international intrigue in Turkey. The very human hero, Swithen Destime, loses his commission in the British Army because he assaults a Turkish dignitary who has behaved unchivalrously to an English girl. He is offered money and adventure page 56 if he goes to Turkey to report on political intrigues there. Of course, he meets the Turkish prince again and a horde of villains of the same kidney. My copy from Whitcombe & Tombs.

“Anything Doing,” by Spartacus Smith (Angus & Robertson, Sydney) is a humorous story of newspaper life. I have read painful stories of press life by writers who have never been through the mill of the newspaper world. Here, however, is a writer who is a newspaper man himself. He is competent to deal with his subject and handles it cleverly. Humour bubbles up on every page and the touch of love interest adds to the satisfaction of the readers. A capital yarn.

“Greek Fire,” by Dora Barford (George Harrap & Co., London) is described as “a novel of the sack of Smyrna, banditry in Greece and the search for a lost girl.” To attempt to outline the complicated plot unravelled in this exciting story would, however, take a page or two of this magazine. Although this is only the fourth novel written by this author it shows a clear working brain building up a story of clever literary architecture. The picture of the burning of Smyrna in the opening chapters is powerful. On sale at all branches of Whitcombe & Tombs, Ltd.

“Starlight Pass,” by Tom Gill (Angus and Robertson, Sydney) is an exciting tale of love and adventure among men of the forest service of the States. The main action of the story is sandwiched in between two thrilling fights between the mysterious hero, North, and the brutal Jean L'Abot. The first is staged as a legitimate boxing match, the second resolves itself into a fight-as-you-like test of brute force. The author is at his best in describing these encounters. There's not a dull page in the book. My copy from Whitcombe & Tombs Ltd.

“The Poisoned Mountain,” by Mark Channing (Hutchinson, London; New Zealand agents, Whitcombe & Tombs Ltd.) is a vivid, exciting story of adventure in the Kuen-Lun Himalayas. The author evidently knows much of the deep mysterious ways of the Indian ascetic. The amazing adventures of Major Colin Gray and his wife include such high lights as terrifying catacalysms of nature, the mysterious gas that is supposed to emerge from the mountains dealing death to all in its path, and gorgeous and sometimes awesome ceremonial in the Indian temples. The author has fine descriptive powers as well as a rare dramatic gift.

“Gunmen's Holiday,” by Maxwell Knight (Philip Allan, London) will capture the fancy of the reader who demands thrills. The author tells us just how a brace of Yankee gangsters might behave on a vacation in England. Plainly, gangsters are like busmen, they must get down to shop whether on holidays or not. Interleaved with all the excitement is plenty of humour and a fair slice of love. A book for a train journey, and that means you can read it any time. Whitcombe & Tombs are the agents.

“Australia and War To-day,” by W. M. Hughes (Angus and Robertson, Sydney) has had enough free publicity to make for its complete financial success. The purpose of the book may be summed up in the following excerpt from the author's introduction: … “recent events have rudely awakened us from our dreams of peace. We find ourselves unarmed and almost defenceless, confronting a world resounding with preparation for war. When all the world is armed, Australia dare not go unarmed. We must be up and doing without a moment's delay. Unless we are to stand like sheep before the butcher we must, without delay, create such defence forces as will make an attack upon Australia a venture so hazardous that none will attempt it.”

So much has been written about this vital book that this scribe does not propose to labour the matter further here except to commend the volume to all those who have not read this shrill cry of warning from the little man with the big brain.

“Black Valleys,” by M. W. Peacock (Angus & Robertson, Sydney), is an Australian novel that is different. The locale of the plot is divided between New South Wales and Bohemia. The Australian side of the story concerns the struggle for existence in the back country, of a young English farmer and his Bohemian wife. The bush takes tragic toll of their lives and we are left to follow the adventures of their two daughters, one of whom returns to Prague, the birthplace of her mother. There she finds ultimate happiness as the wife of her Bohemian cousin. This story of love and adventure is told in a style that is singularly unaffected.

“Crucible,” by J. P. McKinney (Angus & Robertson, Sydney), is the prize winning novel of a competition organised by the Victorian Branch of the Returned Soldiers' League. It is one of the finest war novels I have read. So vivid, so sincere one could imagine that the author was the hero he has created. Obviously, in the fighting, McKinney is living again through his own experiences. Apart from the engrossing interest of the story, we have a keen psychological study in the central figure, John Fairbairn. The book also is a mighty argument against the horror and futility of war. Altogether a notable addition to the library of war books.

“The Boundary Rider,” by R. B. Plowman (Angus & Robertson, Sydney), is the final volume of the author's notable triology of the outbacks of Australia. The first two books, “The Man from Oodnadatta,” and “Camel Pads,” were enthusiastically received by press and public, and I can visualise now an enthusiastic yet regretful call to the curtain for the nomadic padre, whose adventures and observations during his patrolling of his vast parish have made such instructive and entertaining reading for thousands. The book is certainly a great tribute to the back country people of the Commonwealth. We see here mirrored their joys and sorrows by a shrewd and kindly observer. The completion of this triology is certainly one of the literary events of Australia.


Shibli Listens In.

Splendid sales are reported of “The Gael Fares North,” by N. R. McKenzie, which was recently published by Whitcombe & Tombs Ltd. The book will be reviewed on this page next month.

New Zealand writers should note that “The Bulletin” is offering #25 in prizes in a humorous short story competition. Entries close on January 31st. Limit in length, 3,000 words.

Among several literary productions due to be published coincident with New Zealand Authors' Week is “Ponto's Progress,” a novel by C. R. Allen (publishers, A. H. Reed, Dunedin). The story is based on the theme of Belloc's verse:

From quiet homes and small beginning.
Out of undiscovered ends
There is nothing worth the wear of winning
But laughter and the love of friends.

The big New Zealand sales of “Confessions of a Journalist,” recently published by Whitcombe & Tombs, are being echoed in Australia. One Sydney house had booked 80 orders before publication.