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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 3 (June 1, 1936)

Among the Books — A Literary Page or Two

page 49

Among the Books
A Literary Page or Two

One of the most promising results of New Zealand Authors’ Week activities has been the increased output of locally published books. Prominent in such enterprise has been the firm of A. H. and A. W. Reed of Dunedin and Wellington. Their recent books have been largely of the historical order and the enthusiastic reception by press and public proves that the selections have been wise. Incidentally, the historical section of our National library has benefited. The latest production of the firm is “New Zealand Land Problems of the Forties,” by Ethel Wilson, M.A., a most interesting and conscientiously written historical document. The authoress was, for some years, a schoolteacher. She married, and reared a family of six sons. This in itself is a life's work for any woman. Mrs. Wilson, however, recently graduated B.A., gained her diploma in journalism and obtained her M.A. degree with first class honours. This, then, is the energetic, ambitious woman who has given us this story of the land problems of the early settlers. She deals with her subject fearlessly, has her authorities carefully arranged and provides, incidentally, a record of facts for any New Zealander interested in the history of the Dominion. In her preface Mrs. Wilson quotes the Maori proverb “The death of the Warrior is to die for the land.” How this proverb is wrapped up in her story, coupled with the arrival of the land hungry colonists, is revealed in a most readable manner in her book. The volume is well arranged, illustrated and printed. The edition is limited to 500 copies at 10/- each.

* * *

Coincident with New Zealand Authors’ Week the New Zealand Women Writers’ and Artists’ Society published “The Quill,” containing selections in verse and prose from leading members. In a modest foreword the secretary, Miss Nellie Donovan, explains the object of the publication, that of “endeavouring to help writers along the not-too-easy road which leads to the top of the hill.” Quite a creditable booklet.

Bird lovers will be interested in “Birds of Cape York Peninsula,” recently published by A. and R., Sydney. This nicely printed and illustrated booklet contains ecological notes, field observations and catalogue of specimens collected on three, expeditions to North Queensland.

* * *

Of late I have been delving deeply into the life and writings (alas so meagre) of Richard Middleton, whose tragic suicide occurred about twentyfive years ago. The fact that his temperament has been compared with that of another poet, Thomas Chatterton, caused me to buy with eagerness a chastely produced volume of Chatterton's poems that I found in a second hand bookshop at Palmerston North recently. In the course of rehabilitating the volume I was about to erase the pencilled signature of the previous owner when I observed that the inscription was, “John Ballance, Wanganui, 1872.

* * *

On the same country trip I sighted in an auction room a beautifully made box, with a lid of perfectly inlaid wood. I opened it and discovered inside
The book-plate of Mr. A. E. Donne, of Wellington. The designer is W. S. Percy, artist, writer and stare comedian.

The book-plate of Mr. A. E. Donne, of Wellington. The designer is W. S. Percy, artist, writer and stare comedian.

the elaborate mechanism of an old-time music box. It was the finest example of its kind I have seen. It took me many hours to restore it, but at the finish I had the satisfaction of realising that I had purchased, at very moderate cost, one of the most interesting specimens of those delightful old-time creators of melody that I have ever seen.

* * *

Who “discovered” Gloria Rawlinson? I think the honour belongs to Winifred Tennant. Gloria, at the age of eight, and before she had tried her hand at verse-making, came to live under the same roof in Auckland as Winifred Tennant (the “Dawn Lady” mentioned in the dedication of. The Perfume Vendor), and each week-end the “Dawn Lady,” who looked after the cradles in Saturday's issue of “The Sun,” brought home the supplement of that paper, in which was her children's page, “Happy Town.” This strange metropolis was populated by “Sunbeams” (the children themselves) pixie postmen, fantastic people in velvet jackets and tip-tilted shoes, was approached by a secret thoroughfare, Tiptoe Street, and was hailed by children as a suburb of Fairyland!

At that time Gloria's interest was centred in a puppy called “Tango” who eventually discovered that his mistress had become “literary minded” and retreated to the kitchen to make friends with the housekeeper. Great consultations followed, metre was mastered by the simple process of tapping out the beats of a line, and at length the “Dawn Lady,” coming home at night, would be besieged by contributions, many of which showed rare promise. Before long Gloria's poems were being featured in “Happy Town,” with illustrations by Minhinnick, then also on the staff of the paper. Many of them won the verse competitions, and in less than a year Gloria found herself a celebrity, with a mail that the postman declared should have belonged to a film star!

In her wheel-chair she wrote poems about pixies, fairies, and every flower that met her eye, and these were absorbed Saturday after Saturday by “Happy Town.” It was in this page page 50 page 51 that she came under the notice of certain prominent literary people whose interest in her work has not abated.

Thirty of these poems were included in a collection of forty-four, published a few years ago as “Gloria's Book,” now incorporated in her English edition, “The Perfume Vendor.” Gloria is now at work on a book of stories to be published in England.


Two recent publications from the house of Hutchinson (London), which are sure of big sales in New Zealand relate to the present and the late King. “George the Faithful,” edited, and with a preface by Sir Philip Gibbs, is a wonderful survey in story and picture of the life and times of the late King. While the story is an intimate one of Royalty it gains in interest and historical value through being closely wrapped up in the stirring events of the reign. The pictures, all beautifully reproduced on art paper, are also an all embracing record of the period. None the less interesting is “Our Ambassador King,” being a study by Basil Maine (with a foreword by Sir Harry Brittain) of His Majesty King Edward Viii. Here we have revealed to us in a striking manner the adventurous life of the young King and the secret of his amazing popularity. This book is also profusely illustrated. While monarchies have fallen throughout the world since the Great War the unswerving loyalty to the British throne remains. The secret of this loyalty, we understand, perhaps more fully, after reading these two volumes.

Whitcombe and Tombs Ltd. are the New Zealand agents.

* * *

“A Century of Historical Stories,” edited by Rafael Sabatini (Hutchinson, London; Whitcombe & Tombs, New Zealand Agents) gives us in a series of colourful verbal tapestries the famous romances of the centuries. ith the masterful Sabatini in charge, thirty-five leading authors take part in the historical pageant of over 1000 pages. The fact that Hector Bolitho and Jack Lindsay (son of Norman Lindsay) are represented is of particular interest to us on this side of the world. The former supplies an exquisitely phrased story of the love of Queen Victoria for Prince Albert, and the latter a powerful story of the Roman theatre. Among the other authors represented in the collection are Charles Dickens, Harrison Ainsworth, R.L.S., Lance Lytton and many other leading writers, past and present.

* * *

“Damballa Calls,” by Hans Possendor (Hutchinson, London; Whitcombe & Tombs Ltd., New Zealand Agents) is a story of love and hate in the negro republic of Haiti. While the reader will be gripped with the plot of the story, a most unusual one, he will also be keenly interested in the pictures given of life in that remarkable island and of the thread of historical incident interwoven. The author is called “the Edgar Wallace of Germany,” and has some thirty novels to his credit. He has travelled extensively and has certainly made great use of his sojourn in Haiti.

* * *

“The Rocky Road to Jericho,” by Frank Chester Field (Phillip Allan. London; Whitcombe & Tombs, New Zealand Agents) is a love story of the early days of Mormonism in America. Naturally it is somewhat overloaded with sex, yet the author's sincerity asks pardon for the offence. Mormonism is analysed fearlessly and with obvious good intent. The reader is left with a vivid picture of the early days of America, a feeling that the wives and sweethearts have rather swamped the story, but with an understanding as to why religious fervour may cause a circle of otherwise normal folk to gather at a street corner and proclaim their souls to an interested and amused audience. The hero, Martin Parkham, is splendidly portrayed.

* * *

“Murder Pie” (Angus & Robertson, Sydney) is certainly correctly titled. It is the story of six murders, each one intimately related to the other, and is told by sixteen leading Australian writers. It is by no means such a gruesome and unpalatable pie as it may seem. The crust of the literary styles is crisp and appealing, and there is meat—the rich, juicy meat of sensationalism below. The whole idea is carried out in a most “un-morguelike” manner and yet the novel is crammed full of excitement. Miss J. L. Ranken commits the first murder, in most convincing style, in the opening chapter. Subsequent to a 'varsity psychology lecture at which pertinent questions relative to instinct and premonitions are put to the lecturer, a murder occurs in the 'varsity grounds. Then the various writers of the book, each contributing successive chapters, pile excitement upon excitement and murder upon murder until the last chapter arrives, and Mrs. N. Brennan is faced with the unravelling of the tangle of crime which she explains with logical celerity. The atmosphere and characterisations are well sustained. It is a book I can recommend and you will observe from my notes, that whereas I am a very charitable reviewer, I do not always recommend.

* * *

“Shibli” Listens In.

Miss Nelle Scanlan has just completed another novel, “The Marriage of Nicholas Cotter.” The locale of the plot is in England.

One of the penalties of N.Z. Authors’ Week: In one week a N.Z. publisher received for consideration the Mss. of three novels, a collection of humorous sketches, two historical works, two collections of short stories and a treatise on a current human ailment.

Such a plethora of Mss. from N.Z. writers has reached one big publishing house that they have decided to charge a reading fee of £1 for each Ms. submitted.

There is much speculation as to the identity of M. Escott, the author of “Show Down,” a N.Z. novel published recently in England. The suggestion that the author is Mrs. Mary Scott is contradicted. “Shibli” can understand the possible diffidence of the actual author to reveal his or her identity.

James Cowan has received word from London of the acceptance by Jonathan Cape of his collection of South Sea Tales.