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Our Writers Are The Best

Friday 31 May 2002

“Our Writers Are The Best And The Finalists Are The Best Of The Best . . .”

The longlist of 29 titles has been selected from a record 203 books submitted for this year’s Montana New Zealand Book Awards. Judging across the eight categories has been a huge challenge for the judging panel comprising Witi Ihimaera, Lindsey Dawson and Bill Ralston. Witi Ihimaera commented that this year’s submissions list “reads like a virtual who’s who of our most glittering writers.” The subject of debate this year is likely to be what lifts these finalist authors above all others in such a remarkable line up of authors and a stunning year of New Zealand publishing.

So how easy has it been for the judges to decide on the finalists? As convenor of the judging panel Witi Ihimaera says, “The most overwhelming feeling, after reading over 200 entries, is one of gratitude that so many writers are contributing to the narratives we tell about ourselves, our country and our place in the world. Our writers are the best and the finalists are a list of the best of the best.”

How easy has it been to choose between an ‘A’ and an ‘A plus’ book? “Really difficult but, with three judges aided by category advisors, I think we have come up with a cross-section of finalists which reflects cultural capital of the highest quality,” says Ihimaera.

And the finalists are:

Fiction – a new-comer features amongst the doyens of New Zealand fiction writing:
ELLIE AND THE SHADOW MAN by 1998 Deutz Medal winner Maurice Gee (Penguin Books);
DOGSIDE STORY by Patricia Grace (Penguin Books) also winner of the prestigious Kiriyama Prize for Fiction;
HERE AT THE END OF THE WORLD WE LEARN TO DANCE by last year’s Deutz Medal winner, Lloyd Jones (Penguin Books);
BILLIE’S KISS by Elizabeth Knox (Victoria University Press) winner of the Deutz Medal for Fiction 1999;
STONEDOGS, the debut novel which polarised reviewers, by Craig Marriner (Vintage).

Poetry – this year, a remarkable thirty-three collections of poetry were submitted (including many by this country’s finest poets):
THE PASTORAL KITCHEN by Anna Jackson (Auckland University Press) only her second published collection of poetry;
TAKING OFF by Brian Turner (Victoria University Press), his first collection in a decade;
PIGGY-BACK MOON by Hone Tuwhare (Godwit), written during his tenure as Te Mata Poet Laureate.

History – the incredible depth of New Zealand’s social history is emphasised within the following selection:
THE MERCHANT OF THE ZEEHAEN: Isaac Gilsemans and the voyages of Abel Tasman by Grahame Anderson (Te Papa Press), the ground-breaking biography on Abel Tasman and his cartographer, Isaac Gilsemans;
PARADISE REFORGED: A History of the New Zealanders from the 1880s to the Year 2000 by James Belich (Penguin Books), a sequel to the highly acclaimed Making Peoples;
THE SILENT MIGRATION: Ngâti Pôneke Young Mâori Club 1937-1948, edited by Patricia Grace, Irihapeti Ramsden and Jonathan Dennis (Huia Publishers) – fifteen remarkable stories of Mâori rural-urban drift;
A CITY POSSESSED: The Christchurch Civic Creche Case by Lynley Hood (Longacre Press) puts one of New Zealand’s most high-profile criminal cases under the microscope.

Lifestyle – this country’s rich and varied lifestyles are highlighted by the finalists in this category:
VINEYARDS OF NEW ZEALAND COOKBOOK by Julie Le Clerc and Vic Williams with photography by Ian Baker (Viking);
THE CARS WE LOVED by John McCrystal (Penguin Books);
BEACH BACH BOAT BARBECUE by Penny Oliver with photography by Ian Batchelor (New Holland Publishers);
THE ART OF TIVAEVAE: Traditional Cook Islands Quilting by Lynnsay Rongokea with photography by John Daley (Godwit).

Biography – for the first time a book written entirely in the Maori language has been selected for the Awards:
LEN LYE: A Biography by Roger Horrocks (Auckland University Press);
ERUERA MÂNUERA by Te Onehou Phillis (Huia Publishers), written in Te Reo Maori
HE TIPUA: The Life and Times of Sir Âpirana Ngata by Ranginui Walker (Viking);
LONG LOOP HOME: A Memoir by Peter Wells (Vintage).

Illustrative – from traditional dance to contemporary art, the finalists in this category exemplify the high standards being achieved in New Zealand book design and illustration:
M.I.L.K. FAMILY, a pictorial journal capturing the essence of our most profound relationship – family, edited by Geoff Blackwell (M.I.L.K/Hodder);
STEPHEN BAMBURY by Wystan Curnow and William McAloon (Craig Potton Publishing in association with Ouroboros Publishing);
AKEKEIA! Traditional Dance in Kiribati by Tony and Joan Whincup (Susan Barrie).

Reference & Anthology – rich and varied collections of writing and words celebrating New Zealand’s unique culture:
ESSENTIAL NEW ZEALAND POEMS selected by Lauris Edmond and Bill Sewell (Godwit);
NGÂ PÇPEHÂ A NGA TÎPUNA: The Sayings of the Ancestors by Hirini Moko Mead and Neil Grove (Victoria University Press);
THE REED DICTIONARY OF NEW ZEALAND ENGLISH edited by H W Orsman and Nelson Wattie (Reed Publishing New Zealand Ltd).

Environment – from spectacular landscape, to common fauna, to timeless legend:
WHICH NEW ZEALAND BIRD? by Andrew Crowe with illustrations by Dave Gunson (Penguin Books);
ROLLING THUNDER: The Spirit of Karekare by Bob Harvey (Exisle Publishing);
LEGENDS OF AOTEAROA by Chris Winitana with photography by Andy Reisinger (HarperCollins Publishers).

The winners of all non fiction categories, plus a shortlist for the fiction category will be announced at a celebratory luncheon in Auckland on Friday 28 June. The Montana Medal for Non Fiction and the Deutz Medal for Fiction will be announced on Saturday 20 July. The winners of the non fiction categories will be awarded $5,000 each, while the winner of the Montana Medal for Non Fiction takes home an additional $10,000. The winner of the Deutz Medal for Fiction is awarded $15,000.

Voting for the Reader’s Choice Award begins on 28 June. Readers get to have their say in the Montana New Zealand Book Awards by voting for their favourite book. Last year’s winner of this enormously popular award was Wrestling with the Angel by Michael King. For the first time this year, readers will be able to vote on-line at

The principal sponsors of the Montana New Zealand Book Awards are Montana Wines and Creative New Zealand. The Awards are managed by Booksellers New Zealand and supported by the Book Publishers Association of New Zealand and the New Zealand Society of Authors.

28 June Shortlist announced
12 July Montana Poetry Day
20 July Winner of the Deutz Medal for Fiction announced
Winner of the Montana Medal for Non Fiction announced
New Zealand Society of Authors Best First Book Awards announced
Reader’s Choice Award announced
Reviewer/Review Page announced

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