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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 39, Number 21, September 6, 1976.

The Man who Shot Rob Muldoon

The Man who Shot Rob Muldoon

The idea that Muldoon's death would in any way better the system that has ended up with him for its leader, is politically as naive as trying to heal a wound by tearing the scab off the top. The title is there to make publicity and to make money. When you read the book, all you find is a dull journal of events leading up to Muldoon not being shot. You learn nothing about anything, let alone the structure of New Zealand society.

The protagonist is a piece of cardboard called George Tulloch who is brought out from California to do the job. He has a decoy named Charlie Vitelli who spends most of his time walking up and down Willis Street, and playing with himself in the carpark behind the St. George Hotel.

At one stage, the action even moves into Rankine Brown and the Student Union Building, in order to follow an overseas student whom Vitelli has taken a liking to. It is pleasing to see a student included in the book, less pleasing to see the same student battered to death in a paddock just over the Rimutakas. You begin to wonder just whose fantasies are being acted out.

The panther - like Wellington police smell a rat in the grass almost befor ethe book is underway. Chief Inspector Carmichael is no cutie: he has an unpleasant habit of thumping students in the neck, and saying 'poof in a loud voice right in your ear.

Although just about everyone has a ride in the ambulance, it is never finalised whether Muldoon gets killed, winged, or just missed, by a bullet that Tulloch sends him from across the Terrace one day. Poor old Tulloch makes a further balls-up when he has a head-on collision with a milk-tanker on his way to Auckland.

The opus concludes on this stark note, and the reader is left imbued with the scary knowledge that it could happen here.

I can't help thinking that the book will engender in its readers a sympathetic back-lash in favour of Muldoon (i.e. it will make people think - "He does not deserve that. He is victimised by vicious people who aren't true New Zealanders, and he isn't all that bad.") which is the kind of lash-back Muldoon always needs.

I wouldn't be surprised if he wrote it himself, or some sympathetic hack in the National Party. Who sponsors the assassination? It is implied in the book that the sponsor is a disgruntled Labour M .P. who has fallen victim to Muldoon's caustic tongue during a Parliamentary debate.

Not only does the book fail as a political sketch, it less forgivably craps out as a "thriller". In 50 years, a witty Political Science lecturer will quote the title of this book in order to show the morbid dependence New Zealand once had on one man's personality, but no one will remember the book.

What the book does have in its favour is an amusing familiarity. You read about Wellington streets, buildings, people, attitudes. It's as interesting as reading your own horoscope. The same arousing closeness is also to be felt in "Smith's Dream" and "Sons for the Return Home."

No one knows who the real author is. My list of preferences: C.K. Stead, Warwick Roger, Gabriel David, Muldoon, Brigadier Gilbert, Gyles Beckford, or Barry Crump. Strange bedfellows admittedly, but all likely lads.

— Martin Doyle

Review copy supplied by Victoria Book Centre, Mount Street.

Drawing of a face and an owl