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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 6 (September 1, 1936)

Among The Books — A Literary Page or Two

page 63

Among The Books
A Literary Page or Two

An interesting addition to the fiction library of this country is “The Lauder Brothers’ New Zealand,” by A. A. Clapperton (A. H. & A. W. Reed, Dunedin and Wellington). The cumbersome, uninteresting title of the book is at complete variance with its contents, for here we have a story of a particularly engrossing interest—superior in many ways to some of the fiction I have read recently from leading English publishing houses. The scene is laid in Southland, the leading characters are two young sheep farmers, an eccentric uncle, a half-caste Maori girl, and a Dunedin typiste. The story is well told and the interest sustained, highlights being provided by a disastrous flood, a sheep stealing mystery and the carrying out of the egregious provisions of a will. While one may be annoyed at times at the amazing forbearance of the hero, one cannot but admire his sterling character, so splendidly portrayed, I cannot imagine any reader being disappointed in this book which sells at the very moderate price of 4/6.

* * *

I wonder that someone has not gathered together the poems of “Kodak,” the famous Australian humorist who died some years ago. His stories have made an admirable volume but I think his collected verse would “go down” equally well. Here is a typical sample of Kodak's humorous verse from my scrap book: —

Got Him “Off”!

We are stepping, oh, so lightly, and
I've stopped the mower's whirring!
Mother's smiling almost brightly, for at last there's nothing stirring,
And the silence gathers thickly. At our catlike ways don't scoff,
Or we'll squash you very quickly.
Someone's gone and got him “off.”
Got him “off”! Got him “off”!
He is sleeping like a toff!
After hours of fretful crying,
When the house was full of sighing,
Some magician (Heaven bless her!) got our red-faced baby “off”!

It was only fitting that professor Arthur Sewell's fine Authors’ Week Address on Katherine Mansfield should have been rescued from its painfully attenuated state in the files of the daily press. We have it now, chastly printed in its entirety from that fine little printing press up Auckland way —the Unicorn Press.

* * *

Some of the contributors to the Anthology of New Zealand Short Stories which is being prepared by C. R. Allen for publication abroad by the Authors Press: Hector Bolitho, Eileen Duggan, “Robin Hyde,” E. Mary Gurney; Arnold Cork and F. Alexis Stevens. Hugh Walpole has promised to write an introduction. It is hoped to complete the collection within the next month or two.


“Green Gates,” by R. C. Sherriff (Victor Gollancz, London; Whitcombe and Tombs, New Zealand Agents) is one of the most human and wholesome stories I have read for many a long day. I don't know whether I am unduly prejudiced in its favour because of the fact that I picked it up after
A New Zealand bookplate of interest to railwayman.

A New Zealand bookplate of interest to railwayman.

an unsuccessful attempt to relish a particularly sex-sodden modern novel, but certainly I entered “Green Gates” as I might a literary paradise. The torch of its human appeal will be carried forward from one reader to another. What happens to a man who is pensioned off by his firm when, though well past middle age, he has the brain and the capacity for more work? As the author puts it: “Freedom—leisure: they were words for inspiration and he was like an old canary with its cage door open, crouching on the furthest end of the perch.” We laugh, we cry and we think terribly as we read this great story of Tom Baldwin and how he spends the evening of his days.

“A Century of Ghost Stories” (Hutchinson, London; Whitcombe and Tombs, New Zealand Agents) is another of the wonderful Century Omnibus Series. Think of it ye would-be shudderers—1,024 pages containing 43 stories by 37 authors! The writers participating in these tombstone frolics, rattling bones and chains so effectively, include Wilkie Collins, Edgar Allen Poe, Bram Stoker, Algernon Blackwood, Ambrose Bierce and a host of adepts in graveyard games. Candidl; I love ghost stories, and, methinks, I am far from being alone.

“Sanfelice,” by Vincent Sheehan (Hamish Hamilton, London; Whitcombe and Tombs Ltd., New Zealand Agents) is sufficiently important as an historical novel to warrant a lengthy review, but as I am at the moment overwhelmed with matter for this page, my notice must be compressed into a few lines. While some may disagree with the author's findings from the pages of history, all will admit that he has presented a vital book, one which is the result of much research work. The theme of the story centres around the unsuccessful Jacobin revolt at Naples, in 1799. The author not only pictures the stirring events of that picturesque and somewhat dissolute period, but analyses the mental attitudes of the rovolutionaries and the royalists of the time. Neither is he casual in his pictures of such page 64 notable figures as Lord Nelson, Sir William Hamilton and Lady Hamilton. Luisa Sanfelice, the central figure, captures the imagination as a strange, lovable and tragic woman of the period. A vivid, arresting book, of necessity somewhat “raw” in parts as showing the spirit of the times.

“Sheba Lane,” by H. Drake Brockman (Angus and Robertson, Sydney) is another novel of the Westralian pearling fields by the author of “Blue North.” It is the story of Christopher Kent, an Englishman, who, although of sensitive nature, braves life in the raw at Broome in an endeavour to win a fortune so that he might claim the English girl who is waiting for him. How Kent fails to find the material pearls and overlooks a very human one, makes a sombre but intensely interesting yarn. The author knows his locality well, and while the reader will be immersed in the plot, he will also be interested in the triumphs and tragedies of the hunt for the illusive wealth of the sea-bed. The novel first appeared as a serial in “The Bulletin” under the title of “Men and Pearls.”

“It's in Your Kitchen,” by Sister Bertha Parry (Angus and Robertson, Sydney) is a collection of simple home remedies. I'm glad the book is compact and well-bound for I can see it is going to be the most frequently consulted book in thousands of homes. Sister Parry, who has had a wealth of experience in these matters, explains to us how, from a well-stocked kitchen shelf, we may deal effectively with anything from snake bite to sea-sickness.

“Shibli” Listens In.

Another book from the pen of Mr. C. A. L. Treadwell is due for publication shortly. It is a story of the New Zealand Infantry in the Great War and is, I believe, largely autobiographical.

Will Lawson, whose stirring novel “When Cobb & Co. Was King,” was reviewed in our last issue, has gone to West Australia for another job of book-writing.

“The Marriage of Nicholas Cotter,” Nelle Scanlan's latest novel, is to be published in London this month.

The 1937 Edition of the Australian Authors’ and Artists’ Handbook will be published about the end of the year.

The first edition of Robin Hyde's much-discussed book, “Passport to Hell,” is already a collector's item. Very few copies of this edition came to New Zealand. The book is in its fourth edition.

“Why on earth did they hold a New Zealand Authors’ Week?” remarked a New Zealand publisher to me the other day, pointing to a huge collection of Ms. piled on his table. “Novels, biographies and short story collections are simply pouring in from all parts of the country.”

Mr. F. J. Dawson Sen. has retired from the managing editorship of “The N.Z. Sporting and Dramatic Review” on account of ill-health. Mr. Stack Hickey has now taken control and has reduced the price of the paper to threepence.

The first number of “Flame,” the new Australian magazine of fiction, is just to hand. The ideals of the magazine are of the best—to publish and pay for short stories from Australian and New Zealand writers. No overseas syndicated work will be used. The editor of the magazine, Mr. L. L. Woolacott (one time editor of “The Triad”) is a capable writer and editor, well-known on both sides of the Tasman. The address of the enterprise is 160 Castlereagh Street, Sydney.