Archiver > WORLD-OBITS > 2005-07 > 1121255719

From: "Peter_McCrae" <>
Subject: SHADBOLT; Maurice Francis Richard-10/10/2004/NZ
Date: Wed, 13 Jul 2005 12:55:19 +0100

Maurice Shadbolt
(Filed: 03/11/2004)
The Daily Telegraph & the

Maurice Shadbolt, the New Zealand writer who has died aged 72, made his name
in London as a short-story writer, then evolved into an internationally
admired author of historical novels about the Maori wars of the 19th

His first work, The New Zealanders (1959), was a collection of short stories
which impressive because of its evocation of the New Zealand scenery and
careful delineation of characters, such as the immigrant who cannot forget
"dear Ealing Common". Her enthusiasm was echoed by both Alan Sillitoe and
Muriel Spark, though the book's dark shades disturbed a New Zealand society
still basking in the assurance of living in a sunlit corner of the Empire.

Fires and Winter Country (1963) was another admired collection of tales
about young New Zealanders. Gradually, however, Shadbolt revealed an
autobiographical strain. His first novel, Among the Cinders (1965), was an
account of a "mixed-up teenager" which touched on the uneasy relationship
between Maoris and whites.

This, in turn, led him to evolve a distinctive way of treating past and
present in The Lovelock Version (1980), a rollicking tale of the Otago gold
rush in the 19th century, though it probably suffered from the author having
an editor on the other side of the world in London. From this Shadbolt
progressed to his historical trilogy about the Maori wars of the mid-19th
century, The Season of the Jew (1986), Monday's Warriors (1990) and The
House of Strife (1993). Many of Shadbolt's countrymen regarded these as the
finest examples of the genre produced by a New Zealander, though it had less
appeal in Britain.

But in a review of the first for the New York Times, Conor Cruise O'Brien
was impressed with its portrait of the Maori leader who rejects Queen
Victoria but clings to the Old Testament, praising the tautness and
astringency of a work which was both winsome and gory.

Maurice Francis Richard Shadbolt was born on June 4 1932 at Auckland, New
Zealand, the great-grandson of a farm labourer transported to Van Diemen's
Land in 1826 for robbing a drapery shop at Datchworth, Hertfordshire. After
completing his sentence the convict went to Canterbury, New Zealand, where
he became an upright citizen. Young Maurice used the story for his first
piece of fiction, written when he was a 14-year-old pupil at Te Kuiti High

He went to Auckland University College, where he failed every exam and
became involved in Left-wing student politics, taking over the Labour Club
and renaming it the Socialist Club.

Various jobs followed, including road builder, proof reader for the New
Zealand Herald and journalist on local newspapers, before he became a
scriptwriter for the New Zealand National Film Unit; one of his productions,
about a dolphin washed up on the shore, later provided the plot of his novel
The Summer's Dolphin.

In 1957, Shadbolt set out for Britain, travelling via Peking to Moscow,
where his last delusions about Communism were shed and he met Len Wincott,
leader of the Invergordon naval mutiny of 1931. On going on to Bulgaria, he
was asked if E M Forster was still writing; when Shadbolt said that he was,
his questioner commented with a sigh: "He is no Bulgarian."

Arriving in London, Shadbolt settled in a basement flat close to Oscar
Wilde's house at Tite Street, Chelsea, and wrote The New Zealanders. He
posted it to Gollancz, which sent him an advance of £75.

After returning to New Zealand Shadbolt added to his reputation with The
Presence of Music (1967), about the place of the artist in society, and An
Ear of the Dragon (1971).

Strangers and Journeys (1972), a sprawling, overlong New Zealand "Forsyte
Saga", was followed by A Touch of Clay (1974), about an ex-lawyer potter's
relationship with a drug-addled young woman. The intense Danger Zone (1976)
drew on his experience aboard a sloop protesting against the French hydrogen
bomb explosions in the Pacific, though he turned back when it reached Tahiti
to attend his dying father at home.

Shadbolt's later fiction included his Selected Stories, which showed how his
view of life had become less bleak with age. He also wrote two volumes of
autobiography, which contained strands of fantasy, including a venomous
portrait of the writer Frank Sargeson.

These did not add to his popularity with New Zealand critics, who complained
that his career as a successful freelance writer for Reader's Digest and the
National Geographic encouraged a weakness for purple prose. His factual
works included the Shell Guide to New Zealand (1968) and New Zealand: Gift
of the Sea (1971) as well as Voices of Gallipoli (1988), based on a series
of interviews with First World War veterans; his film scripts included an
adaptation of his play Once on Chuniak Bair (1982) about Turkey in 1915.

Yet despite the carping, he won the Katherine Mansfield Memorial Award in
1963, 1967 and 1995, and was appointed CBE in 1988.

Maurice Shadbolt had been married four times and had five children when he
died on October 10.

© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2005.

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