Book reviews: July 2019

Deals on Wheels reviews some of the latest titles to hit the bookshelves


A Conversation with My Country

Alan Duff


Penguin Random House

Reviewed by Steve Atkinson

3/5 stars

Probably like a lot of Once Were Warriors fans, I, too, have wondered a bit about the background of this well-known New Zealand author/social commentator, especially the family ties that developed the person he is, or rather, became. Turns out, this latest non-fiction offering by the Duff-meister gives us a view in on some of those formative childhood years in Rotorua and helps explain his future observations of the harder side of our society.

Seems roughhouse mum copped the blame from his angle after she married a mild-mannered academic in what must be the worst decision in wedding history. But if that union didn’t occur, then we presumably wouldn’t have Alan’s Books in Home initiative and many other of his positive actions that work to help right the wrongs in Kiwi society.

We also wouldn’t have had this latest book that starts off quite interesting as he lays out some family history best left forgotten. Unfortunately for me, it eventually transitions into some passionate rants deftly accompanied by numbers and statistics that would make many a government-paid employee smile with pride.

However, if you do want to get his take on how we fix the lower-reaches of New Zealand society, then my advice is to persevere through to the end. Everyone has a take on this subject, but I have to admit, Alan does put forward some compelling suggestions.



Tom O’Neill & Dan Piepenbring


Penguin Random House

Reviewed by Steve Atkinson

3/5 stars

This book was some 30 years in the making and began its life as a soon-to-be magazine article to commemorate the anniversary of the famous Hollywood murders of the late 1960s. In this case, research soon took on a life of its own, consuming the writer, almost bankrupting him, and I’m sure causing a few people to let their phones ring through to answerphone whenever his number flashed on their screens.

Essentially, the theme is about the evidence that revolved around the prosecution of cult leader Charles Manson and his not-so-merry band of followers, which, as the author discovers, spreads its tentacles in many directions, taking in big Hollywood names, cover-ups, outright lies, the CIA, and a bunch of other publically-governed departments with acronyms too many to mention; the whole thing smells bad, like really bad.

The writing style gives readers a fly-on-the-wall ride along, as all manner of people are interviewed, including Manson himself. More than the actual storyline itself, though, the interviews themselves give us a better indication about those who are straight with the author and the ones telling him porkies. This book has been researched thoroughly and it shows. Definitely worth a read if this was a memory from your era.



Jeff Murray

Mary Egan Publishing

RRP $35

Reviewed by Claire Smith

3/5 stars

This thrilling and thought-provoking new novel is set in New Zealand in 2048. Our country is a gateway to a melting Antarctica and is thrust into the centre of climate crises.

Vai Shuster arrives in Auckland to advocate for the delivery of a long-standing promise: a place in New Zealand for her island’s people as climate destruction makes their home uninhabitable. Panicked, but endlessly adaptive, the world is awake to the reality of climate breakdown.

In 2048, the worst effects are yet to be felt, but the destructive phase is locked in. Vai finds herself in a world that the powerful and their mid-level helpers are managing to navigate and new opportunities are emerging.


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