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Philip Temple

Life As A Novel

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Maurice Shadbolt believed that New Zealanders should tell their own stories, cherish their own myths and believe in their own big lies before they could stand upright in a post-colonial world. Through his fiction, non-fiction and international journalism, he played a leading role in projecting New Zealand to the world throughout the second half of the 20th century.

His overseas success provoked envy among literary critics but this had little impact on his many readers at home or abroad, nor the judges who awarded him prizes and fellowships. His first novel, Among The Cinders (1965), achieved sales of more than 200,000, unprecedented for the time for a work of New Zealand fiction. His non-fiction New Zealand: Gift of the Sea (1963), in collaboration with Magnum photographer Brian Brake, also achieved enormous sales.

The success of Shadbolt's books reflected the growing hunger of New Zealanders for stories about themselves. Author Philip Temple knew Maurice Shadbolt well and brings insight to his story of how Shadbolt made his mark as a writer of fiction. He also tells of Shadbolt's adventures behind the Iron Curtain; his role in anti-Vietnam War protests; his voyage to Mururoa to protest French nuclear testing. He has had unique access to Shadbolt's friends, colleagues and adversaries and an extraordinary treasure trove of letters and documents from both here and overseas in producing this absorbing book.

He tells of Shadbolt's close friendships with guru poet James K. Baxter and leading painters such as Colin McCahon. Philip Temple also recounts Shadbolt's increasingly fraught personal life. By the age of 40, he had been married twice and fathered five children and been involved in numerous affairs. It is a fascinating tale about a man who became New Zealand's most well known and controversial author.


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