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So far David McGill has created 102 blog entries.

O Rare Dr Michael John O’Leary: A Tribute at the Launch of his 50th Book


Kia ora! Slainthe! Gesundheit. Greetings in three among many languages throughout this mainly English fictional literary autobiography by our Paekakariki poet laureate, Michael John O’Leary. He has Irish, Maori and a little German in his genes, and all are to the fore in these dream weavings of his literary coat of many colours. We are here to celebrate the launch of Apocrypha Scripta. This book is Michael O’Leary’s 50th publication and 200th as a publisher. Michael makes sense with nonsense. He starts with a quote from Peter Sellers: ‘All the world is up-sa-daisy/And the genius’s is crazy.’ Michael’s first words: ‘This is the story of dreams of love and wars: of many dreams of many loves and many wars.’ This is his meditation on love and war, or hate. A few examples: Page 15, a dream meeting with Te Rauparaha; Page 47 his elegy for John Lennon; Page 51 the mosque killings; Page 59 the Samoan killings; Page 70 Irish soldiers; Page 115, confession. Congratulations, Michael, and thanks for the dedication: ‘We must surely be heading towards word billionaire status’. He is impishly extending my comment on my own books: ‘At least we are word millionaires’. Michael certainly has a cast of thousands – the Beatles and the Nazis, Munchausen and Kandinsky, Te Rauparaha and Te Whiti and Twopenny O’Reagan (a typical word sound association pun, Tipene as Twopenny), the Viet Cong and Goebbels, Che Guevara and Saddam Hussein. Michael speaks with many tongues. He learned his craft listening to the Beatles, a poet performer mostly in Auckland, his birthplace, Dunedin and Paekakariki, which he likes, despite having to survive biblical flood and fire. A few years ago he was woken in time to escape [...]

A Plea and a Promise


Correction to yesterday's blog: It was my stuff-up yesterday, I should have said NZME launched a court case to get Australian owners of Stuff to negotiate sale, and failed, and today Stuff purchased for $1 by its NZ CEO and thus it is back in NZ hands. So I have rewritten those first three sentences yesterday and then it is all okay, but I am still stuffed for publicity from Stuff, after 50 years of attracting publicity, albeit not always friendly. In most of this time I could not attract any publicity from the NZ Herald, the flagship of NZME and the newspaper I grew up with in Auckland, along with the defunct Auckland Star. Not even a skerrick of a notice when the then Auckland mayor launched my biography of my great-grandfather Waddel, Mayor of Auckland in the 1880s, in the very building he built, as a public library with the help of his good friend George Grey, and now the art gallery. So imagine my surprise when my new book, The Manger, the Mikdash and the Mosque, is on Facebook with ownership of it identified as NZ Herald and NZME (which I notice TV newsreaders referring to as NZ Me, which might be because they know stuff all about what it is). Here is the link for a generous three pages of publicity: I could not have puffed better myself. The plea is in the digital nature of the puff. No physical or print launch, which is a first for me in this, my 59th book. That actually let me off the hook as to a venue for a launch, given the book is set in Jerusalem and features blind Christian Arab [...]



Virtual launch today 6 May 2020 for print and e-book versions of my new thriller The Manger, the Mikdash and the Mosque Fifth Dan Delaney Mystery set in Israel in 1975. NZ Fiction reviewer Alyson Baker’s blog review published in Crime Watch: ‘Dan Delaney, now ‘damn near 60’, travels with his devout wife, Jas, and two daughters to ‘… this busy city on a hill in the middle of nowhere, the centre of everywhere’ – Jerusalem.  There he encounters kidnappings, bomb threats, old betês noires, and his own worst nightmares. In some ways Dan has come a long way since we met him on Somes Island in 1935: he has been a POW in WW2, had one surprising outcome to a marriage, and has had many derring-do adventures and saved many lives, some of them of high-profile people.  But in other ways he is the same Dan, always slightly on the outside of things, always trying to do the right thing.  He is now married to Jas, a former police officer, and he and his son are vintners in Oratia.  His younger daughter Maria is a renegade and has reluctantly joined the family pilgrimage, having been in what her parents saw as a dangerous relationship with a teacher.  Dan’s other daughter, Ali, is devout and keen on biblical archaeology, and she and her mother are ‘in religious anticipation mode’, in fact Jas ends up succumbing to ‘Jerusalem Syndrome’ and loses it a bit. From the moment their plane lands, Dan and his family are in the thick of it – coming to the attention of Israeli soldiers, partly due to Maria calling one of them a Nazi when they object to her taking his picture.  [...]

Dark Night of the Sound Soul


Grant Robertson launched my book ‘The Plot to Kill Peter Fraser’ not quite three years ago. We talked about mutual admiration for wartime Labour Prime Minister Peter Fraser, who came back from setting up the United Nations in 1945 and faced down his own Labour Party and his political opponents to found the National Orchestra, promote theatre and develop public radio. Grant said that the first thing they would do in the (unlikely) event of winning the election was to invest in public radio. Now he is dispensing six billion or so into mostly transport infrastructure, I am gobsmacked that not a smidgeon goes into sustaining successful cultural infrastructure. I never imagined in my darkest hours the axing of the entire Concert FM and with it my constant companion. It is my default radio station. I communicated with Helen Clark about a subsequent book launch. She apologised for not being able to make it due to a prior engagement at Parliament. I had thought her an active and caring Minister of the Arts, Heritage and Culture. She would not have presided over this Al Qaeda-like destruction of a national cultural treasure. Her Labour prime ministerial successor in the role has not been visible. I love Jacinda Ardern as a caring and sharing prime minister like we have not seen before. The problem that has appeared you might say from left field is that she does not love me, in regard to my listening companion. She does not express care about Concert FM. Silence from the Minister who should, as part of her portfolio, be defending public radio is very sad. Maybe she does not know what a magnificent cultural asset Concert FM is because she [...]

The Ex-Seminary Engulfed in Flames


The TV One evening news showed the shocking sight of the Christchurch building engulfed in flames. The Riccarton Road heritage structure had been abandoned since the earthquake, but it was really abandoned long before that, in my view. I had visited some years ago to see what had become of my old school and it was a sorry and ruptured backpackers’ mess. Back in the late fifties it was a minor seminary where I spent three years training for the priesthood and learning to love literature, music and billiards in the most tranquil and beautiful surroundings. The accompanying image is of photos taken with my Box Brownie in my first year there. My mate Jimmy Vercoe is shown outside the main entrance, the bay window at the right where the magnificent billiard room was a magnet for me. My favourite game was knocking over little wooden skittles. Jimmy and I struggled with School Certificate subjects to the extent that the rector of the Jesuit teaching fraternity gloomily predicted I would be the seminary’s first School Certificate failure. I passed thanks to a good English mark. On the right is the school where we attended classes during the day and studied at night, where Latin declensions proved Greek to me and almost cost me School Cert. On the weekends we enjoyed leisure activities there, learning to like the classical music Father Bernard O’Brien forced us to listen to in music classes. My breakthrough was Nathan Milstein playing Beethoven’s Violin Concerto. Seminarians cut each other’s hair and I became a popular barber. The middle left picture is of the graceful drive and the duck pond where many of us liked to stroll in our black soutanes. We [...]

Four Reasons to Spy My Book


Hi Folks I have finally got an order from Unity Books for my new book Death of an Agent, with an email glitch not helping. Without Unity and VicBooks Pipitea, I would not be spying my spy novel in any bookshop. Whitcoulls and Paper Plus are silent as the grave. I have a story to tell. I offer three aspects of the book that are relevant today, and urge and indeed beg you to tell people to go take a look at the book and buy a good old-fashioned Kiwi spy story:   It is, as NZ fiction reviewer Alyson Baker wrote, ‘another great New Zealand read’ that is relevant ‘considering recent events in  New Zealand – when we are once again realizing sections of our community are being dangerously swayed by myths of imminent threat’. My story is about a homegrown terrorist provoked by the anti-communist hysteria of the bureaucrats and ruling politicians of the time. Its focus is the 1965 student protests against President Johnson’s envoy here to seek Kiwi troop commitment to the Vietnam conflict. It is the first time a section of the local population challenged American foreign policy and laid the groundwork for our independent foreign policy as exemplified by PM Lange banning nuclear ship visits and PM Clark not joining the American incursion into Iraq. It is about the creator of the Wellbeing Budget, World War Two Prime Minister Peter Fraser, who campaigned tirelessly against opposition from the National Party and within his own ranks to not loosen the purse strings on luxury goods in favour of ensuring all New Zealanders could enjoy a better physical and cultural life. His spokesman in this story is a broadcaster not unlike [...]

Willie Boy Is Here


A friend emailed me a few weeks ago that Bill Yocum had died while looking after a Nelson house, aged 72. The house was in good hands. Bill described himself as a mendicant carpenter. I live with Bill’s works and he was a wondrous wood worker. Really, he had the skills of a cabinet maker and I appreciate these skills, having a few examples of my grandfather’s cabinet making. I have a lot more of Bill’s skills. I first met him when I lived at Houghton Bay and he moved into a rental at the bottom of the street in the latter half of the seventies. Neighbour Jacob introduced us. I hit it off with Willie, as I called him. I had heard both names used and asked him which he preferred. He shrugged, said either. Okay, I said, I’ll call you Willie after a favourite film, Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here. It was written by a blacklisted director Abraham Polonsky, his first in 21 years. It was about a manhunt for an ‘Indian’ who had killed in self-defence. I thought it suited this fierce man who told me he was on the run after absconding from the US Navy because he would not fight the Vietnamese. It was not that he was reluctant to fight, as I learned though never to my cost, but it had to be a just cause. Willie was a righteous man. He had an MA in history from Sydney University but chose to work with his hands. I enjoyed his company because he liked to talk seriously about books, even mine, whilst we downed a few drams of best malt. One of his favourites was Foucault’s Pendulum by [...]

Hats Off to Peter!


Peter Fraser’s top hat is held aloft at the end of the book launch of Death of an Agent last 8 May at Vic Books Pipitea. My cousin Dinah Priestley, pictured behind me, brought the hat along to celebrate the occasion. She inherited the hat from the prime minister’s granddaughter Alice Fraser, whom I knew and who featured in a crucial role at the end of The Plot to Kill Peter Fraser. The hat has symbolic value not only for the launch but for the country and indeed the world. Another hat belonging to an American general played a key role in my new book. The hats represent good and evil, light and dark, and remain relevant to world peace today as much as they did in 1945, when my Fraser novel was set. Let me explain. In 1945 Fraser played a key role in designing the United Nations. He won with the then 50 countries agreeing to dismantle colonialism, despite strong objections from Britain and America. He lost narrowly the required two-thirds member vote to deny the Great Powers veto. Ever since those so-called Great Powers have singly at one time or another blocked a UN initiative, or simply ignored the UN proposals for peace, like America in Vietnam and Iraq and Russia just about anywhere it considers it sphere of influence, which means a big or ‘great’ country bullying and invading a smaller country. The UN Secretary-General on his recent visit here spoke of frustration at these frustrating nations blocking UN initiatives. One small country is New Zealand, reminiscent of the classic Peter Sellers movie The Mouse that Roared, standing up to a belligerent big country America. Prime Minister Lange banned nuclear ships [...]



Winston Peters said capitalism has failed too many New Zealanders and addressed the problem by backing a coalition led by Labour with NZ First and the Greens aiming to restore Peter Fraser’s governing ambition to improve the physical and cultural conditions of all New Zealanders. The well-being budget is a centrepiece of this aspiration. Finance Minister Grant Robertson is a Peter Fraser scholar and engages in seminars on the First Labour Government’s Prime Minister for a decade. With National still attracting over 40 per cent of the vote, the Coalition is vulnerable to being ousted at the next election if a few per cent more voters get cold feet about the egalitarian measures intended to right the imbalance that has developed, with a few having much more than their fair share and the country’s proud welfare state collapsing. A largely conservative media even in the state-owned enterprises such as TVNZ -- Jessica Mutch McKay comes to mind as, in my view, delivering negative and disapproving reports on the Labour-led government -- makes it difficult to get the soft political message past the hard political reporters to reach the voters. The perception of Labour incompetence or free-spending is established in slow-drip fashion by negative reporting. One of the indirect aims of my new novel Death of an Agent is to promote the soft politics of Peter Fraser’s legacy that really and truly made this country great – for all its citizens. My novel references Peter Fraser’s egalitarian aims through a number of characters. Here is broadcaster Ru Patterson speaking to a middle-New Zealand left-wing group he is establishing to protest New Zealand sending troops to Vietnam: We fought a war to bring peace to the world. [...]