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Tuesday, November 30, 2021



From Stuff

The National Library has halted plans to export 600,000 books to an overseas-based online archive after sustained criticism from authors, publishers, copyright holders and the National Party.

In an emailed statement on Monday, the library said it was “reconsidering” plans to ship the books from its Overseas Published Collections “in light of concerns raised by interested parties, including issues associated with copyright”.

The Internet Archive, where it was originally planning to send the books, is embroiled in a copyright infringement lawsuit with publishing giants Hachette, HarperCollins, Penguin Random House and Wiley in the United States.

In Monday’s statement, the library said it would not export any books until it considered its next steps.

National Librarian Te Pouhuaki​ Rachel Esson said the library listened to people’s views and was working hard to support New Zealanders’ ongoing access to books from the collections, which it previously argued it had no space for and were scarcely issued by the public.

“We are aiming to balance our duty to all New Zealanders with the concerns of our valued book sector colleagues and will continue to build relationships with them,” she said.

“We are taking some time to look at all available options that align with our collection plans, while preserving author and publisher interests.”

Esson said the library would continue to work to avoid secure destruction of the books, which was looking like an earlier outcome before the deal with the Internet Archive was struck.

The pause comes after the Authors’ Society, Publishers’ Association and Copyright Licensing wrote to the Attorney-General and Ministry for Culture and Heritage, asking them to investigate the deal. Many of those parties felt unheard and upset during the process of what to do with the books, which ended in the library striking a deal with the archive.

Recently there was a protest at a Wellington church over the saga, and National’s arts spokesman Simon O’Connor also publicly commented the deal was “a slap in the face” to New Zealand’s literary community.

There was an original deadline for authors and copyright holders to “opt out” of the library donating their books to the Internet Archive by December 1.

Authors’ Society chief executive Jenny Nagle said it welcomed the decision, and that its concerns around copyright were heard. “We will be pleased to engage in the new year as they look for a legal solution. The National Library and the local writing and publishing industry should not be at odds, as we are all part of the same ecosystem.”

Protest organiser Bill Direen called it a “ceasefire”, while Book Guardians Aotearoa spokesman Michael Pringle, who has also been opposed to the deal, wondered whether legal advice made the library change its mind “at the eleventh hour”.

There would have been “considerable” cost in staff time organising the deal, Pringle said, but no money was given to the Internet Archive, Esson confirmed in a phone interview.

Pringle wanted to see sufficient storage funded for the library to house the books, and for more books to be made available on a reference basis.

Research.  That is what is important.  Up until now the thrust of the protest is the threat to authors' copyright, but historians see the issue rather differently.  I know I would never have been able to research the background for my Wiki Coffin novels, or my books about women at sea, and books about whaling under sail, without the fund of material that I located in the distant stacks of the National Library of New Zealand.



A raging hurricane. A tiny fishing village in a distant land. A London nightclub dancer stumbles into the local clinic with the famous fire-fighter who carried her to New Zealand. The wife of an American shipping tycoon is on board his new luxury yacht as it battles the storm to reach the village. The young wife of a wine-maker struggles through mud, wind and rain to call for help, as her husband has been mortally hurt.

All three women are in labor.

All three women give birth to baby girls. The clinic is destroyed by the storm, so no records survive. No one knows which baby belongs to which mother.

Twenty-one years later, the American billionaire kidnaps all three young women, along with the men who were there when they were born, and takes them to sea on his yacht, convinced that his wife claimed the wrong baby. He is determined to find which girl is really his daughter.

But the mega-yacht is old, and breaks down easily. As the strange voyage progresses through tropical Polynesia to New Zealand, crisis after crisis overtakes them. They are being stalked by an enigmatic sailing ship. Storms arrive and the engines give out. Reefs and shoals threaten.

There’s not just a question of identity at stake, but of survival, too.

A totally new genre for me, but definitely set at sea.

Available from Amazon, and all good bookstores.

Thursday, November 25, 2021



My biography of the great Polynesian navigator, priest, and diplomat, TUPAIA, has been out for a while now, and has gone into several editions.  The cover of the Chinese language edition, published in Taiwan, is shown above.

But somehow, in the interval, I missed a number of reviews, probably because I was at sea. 

Or whatever.

So it was a big surprise when I finally got around to checking Goodreads (mainly because I am trying to set up a page for my new novel, Daughters of the Storm) to find a review of Tupaia by "Alison", who must be one of the most thoughtful reviewers I have had the privilege to read.

And here it is:

I expected this book to tell an important story, but I hadn't expected it to be this enjoyable to read, honestly. It stands as one of the most engaging accounts of Cook's voyages I've read (and I've read a few) even without its most important achievements - allowing space for a Tahitian viewpoint alongside the British, and celebrating the incredible life of one of the most important figures in early European-First Peoples engagement in the Pacific.

Druett's research delved deeply into both ship logs and journals, and also into Polynesian history and culture, she has then drawn all this together into a trustworthy, detailed and intriguing biography of a brilliant, prickly, and hugely influential figure in Tupaia. Along the way, she draws striking portraits almost in passing of both Cook and Banks, as well as Tahitian leader Purea. This process never feels like work for the reader, belying the considerable scholarship that underpins the book.

By alternating viewpoints between the British and the Polynesians, the book highlights the many, many misunderstandings, the groping towards communication, that constituted "first contact". Although this is the first encounter with a radically different culture for both the Polynesians and the British/French, it is notable how much faster the Polynesians catch on to that reality - that this group of people have a different set of *values* - than the Europeans do. It isn't that the Brits don't understand that the laws and customs are different, but rather that they judge these by their own standard - so 'theft' of items is 'mischievous', and they assume that land is for a ruler to exchange. This dismissiveness of other cultures leads to the worst, avoidable, massacres.

One of the most revealing part of the book is the encounter between the Guugu Yimithirr of FNQ and Cook's crew. Tupaia has no cultural or linguistic advantages over the British here, as this is a culture far removed from Polynesia. However, he is still the figure to establish friendly relations. He achieves this feat by, putting his weapons down, and, sitting down to talk. This simple act - to sit - is not something that the Europeans have tried in any of the many voyages to date (after this, observing the success, Cook tries it a lot). It seems inconceivable, really, that such a simple act was such an innovation. But underpinning it is a totally different approach to the encounter than the British brought. To sit, invites listening, settling in, an offer of time without immediate objective.

You see this refusal to listen in a number of the British actions. Particularly the worn tactic of *kidnapping* people to, essentially, make them listen. The fact that Cook (and later in Botany Bay, the First Fleet) decide to kidnap locals in order to show them the benevolence of the British is a direct result of assuming that what you are offering is the only thing worth talking about, not what is already there. The once exposed to your worldview, goods, and customs, people will automatically want them, irrespective of what they already have (which you are totally uninterested in).

And the British (and the other Europeans) were there to achieve objectives - to take resources, including land, by negotiation, purchase or force. Such an objective carries so many assumptions within it - particularly about property - that true cultural exchange was never going to occur.

One of the greatest myths of European arrival in the Pacific and Australasia, is that the boats were the most exciting thing that Polynesian and Aboriginal peoples had seen. In reality, as this book amply demonstrates, these events were viewed in terms of their local worlds - particularly, as to how the arrivals could be turned to advantage in local politics and warfare. The host peoples weren't living static or unchanging lives, just because their cultures were long-lived. Rather, they were complex and often tense societies, engaged in the same process of shifting power balances and changing environmental conditions that mark all peoples.

In granting complexity to the Tahitian culture, and in examining how this shapes Tupaia's choices, Druett also grants the same complexity to the British. She delves into the complex set of pressures upon Cook, and also his crew, taking into account how class and hierarchy constructions in British society also shape their choices. If to some extent Banks and Cook emerge with their usual stereotypes - Banks as a brilliant polymath rich kid, carelessly wielding his financial power to get exactly what he wants, Cook as a driven working-class escapee, a true believer in military hierarchy, especially equally applied, brutal discipline, with a brilliance single-mindedly directed to charting territory - it is because truth is not always new revelation. And you can see how both men's flaws hamper Tupaia's legacy - Cook's resolute focus leads him to disregard a very different kind of navigational brilliance, and his dislike of aristocratic polymaths doesn't endear Tupaia to him at all - Banks, on the other hand, whose intellect and class background are so similar to Tupaia, is clearly not fond of rivals, but also is far too careless to provide either the sponsorship or engagement needed to fully appreciate Tupaia, or even to keep him alive.

My only real criticism of the book is that at times, the author, allows her frustration with Cook to colour the text. An example is the near-obsession with the role of scurvy in killing Tupaia. it is understandable that Druett is infuriated with Cook's attempts to downplay the role in scurvy, but honestly, it seems a minor point in the history to me. A far bigger tragedy is the blindness of both Cook and Banks to how many times Tupaia had saved their butts, and how much they could have learned by taking him more seriously.

But again, in reading detailed accounts, it is always easy to lose the forest for the trees, or the war for the battle. These journeys, no matter what the personalities of the crew and scientists aboard, were always to end in tragedy. Because they were ultimately intended to conquer, to impose European ideals of property and monarchy on the populations in order to exploit and obtain resources. The kind of world in which first encounters were mutual respectful exchanges - first encounters which peoples had managed for millenia, no doubt - were not going to happen under these circumstances. It isn't the number of times Cook lost his temper that was the problem, it was why he was there at all.

Saturday, November 20, 2021




Surely not!  Rotten Tomatoes collects all published reviews and rates a film accordingly.  And 100% is unheard-of.  But in this case I was willing to believe, because I had already watched a couple of episodes of this series, and was utterly hooked.

It was the next stage in my ongoing exploration of Nordic Noir.  I started with Trapped, set in Iceland, and compelling, moved onto Finland with Bordertown (very interesting actors, worth following), and arrived in Denmark with a very new series, released just a couple of weeks ago.

It is called THE CHESTNUT MAN.

It is gory.  It is super-tense.  And yes, it is in Danish (though I was surprised how many English words have strayed into that language) but the subtitling is fine.  And it is so, so watchable. The cinematography is superb, owing a lot to Alfred Hitchcock, but with a very modern polish, including aerial shots from drones. And the soundtrack is riveting -- again in the Hitchcock mode, with creaking boards and ominous bird calls, but so very up to date.  The composer is named -- wait for it! -- Andersen.  Kristian Eidnes Andersen.  

Stunning stuff, all of it.  Had me out of my seat with the building tension.

So what else does it owe to classic police dramas?  Such as the everlastingly popular Midsomer Murders, for instance. There is the same kind of Halloween theme, but there are no chocolate-box villages, or loveable eccentrics.  Like the other Nordics, it is not an advertisement for the country of origin.  It is also a lot more credible, and much more focused on the unfolding plot.  All those involved in this series have a story to tell, and tell it remarkably well.  Not that there aren't stray moments that are not necessary and yet so telling.  One, where the father who is hunting for his lost daughter knocks on doors to plead for clues, and is told he is knocking on the same doors and asking the same questions of the same people every day, is just so touching.

The acting throughout is superb, even from the extras who stroll into screen for just a few moments.  The two starring detectives manage to be human, flawed, and yet very likeable.  One is certainly rooting for them at the end. And there is the ultimate target in this serial killing, a Children's Affairs Minister with a very dark history, extremely well done by the actress.

I have never known nail-biting tension on the scale of the last two episodes of this brilliant series.  And here comes a confession.  It gets so nervewracking that I had to watch it by daylight!  And in bits, to take a breather while I did some housework, to calm my racing heart.  The ending is violent, and absolutely perfect.  All the loose ends are tidied up, with just a hint that we might see the two detectives working together in another series.

Please don't look it up on Wikipedia.  Every episode is described in detail, meaning  that it is just one long spoiler.  And it is not knowing how it will turn out that makes the story so great.  There are just six episodes, and I append the list of the cast, just to spare you from ruining an amazing experience by looking up the entry.

Created by
Based onThe Chestnut Man
by Søren Sveistrup
Developed by
  • Nina Quist
  • Marie Louise Siim
Directed by
ComposerKristian Eidnes Andersen
Country of originDenmark
Original languageDanish
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes6
Executive producers
  • Søren Sveistrup
  • Meta Louise Foldager Sørensen
  • Mikkel Serup
  • Morten Kjems Hytten Juhl
  • Stine Meldgaard Madsen
Production locationsCopenhagen, Denmark
  • Sine Vadstrup Brooker
  • Louise McLaughlin
  • Cathrine Ambus
  • Anja Farsig
  • Martin Schade
  • Lars Therkelsen
Running time52–59 minutes
Production company

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Notice to all authors from the Authors Guild concerning the mass giveaway of New Zealand National Library books



Despite strong opposition from the New Zealand Society of Authors and international groups including the Authors Guild, the National Library of New Zealand (NLNZ) is moving ahead with its plan to donate 400,000 books from its overseas collection to the Internet Archive for digitization and lending through its Open Library platform. This collection likely contains tens of thousands of books written by American authors—many still protected by copyright—and may include your books.
While it is unfortunate that New Zealand officials are choosing to partner with the Internet Archive—an entity that has consistently flouted copyright law—over our objections, the NLNZ is allowing any author whose book is included in the collection to opt out of the scheme in response to the concerns raised about the legality of “controlled digital lending.”
Authors who do not wish their books to be digitized by the Internet Archive and loaned out through Open Library have until December 1, 2021, to opt out and withdraw their books.

Here’s how to opt out:

  1. Check whether your books are included in the collection. NLNZ has provided an Excel spreadsheet of all titles it intends to donate. The spreadsheet is available on this page. Click the link labeled "List of candidate books for donation to the Internet Archive" (it is a large Excel file, so we suggest downloading it and then searching for your name by running a Ctrl+F search).
  2. If your books are available, send an email to and ask that they be withdrawn. Your email must include the NZNL’s “unique number” (column “I” on the spreadsheet) of each title you would like withdrawn, and proof that you have rights in the titles (emails from persons or organizations whose names correspond with rightsholders’ names will be sufficient proof of rights).

If you need assistance, please send us an email

Tuesday, November 16, 2021



Since subscribing to Netflix, I have become intrigued with foreign TV series.  I have always enjoyed foreign films -- 4 Minutes, a German movie currently on Netflix, being an outstanding example.  So I embarked on Nordic noir, started with the Icelandic Trapped  (great!) and moving onto Finnish Bordertown (complicated), after enjoying the French series Bonfire of the Charity (terrific).

And somehow, through it all, I became intrigued with the languages.  I don't use the dubbing option, as it always ends up clunky, so the original language, with subtitling (which of course I do not trust) works best for me.  Both Icelandic and Finnish languages were riveting.  How do people communicate in those tongues?  A constant amazement.  

So, I graduated to Capitani, which is in -- wait for it -- Luxembourgish. 

It is set in an awful village, full of gossips, intrigue, malice, men with untidy designer stubble, which is surrounded by a lot of monocultural sort of forest.  The country is Luxembourg, of course.  I think I might have been there -- or, more precisely, have driven through it.  This series is no sort of promotion for the country, which is lucky, because it isn't.  If you get what I mean.

The language, though, was immediately fascinating, and was one of the two features that kept me watching.  Seemingly it is a mixture of three languages, perhaps four, because I caught the occasional English word or phrase.  There is a lot of German, and quite a lot of French, though the students in the local school have French lessons, which they hate.

The plot is standard thriller stuff.  A teenaged girl is found dead.  She was a twin.  The other twin materializes after a few days, with no explanation -- ever -- of what she was doing in the meantime.  They are identical twins, acted by the same girl.  There is also a very active drug ring operating in this very awful village. 

A detective arrives to solve the crime, and is partnered by a local female detective, and they do not get along.  Everyone is very badtempered.  And the plot is full of holes.  Like the girl's absence, there is a lot that is never explained or revealed.  

So why did I keep watching?

Because of the detective, Luc Capitani, who is acted by Luc Schiltz (one has to take care when typing that name).  He is scruffy, supremely dislikeable, but absolutely and compellingly watchable. 

I predict a fine future for this fellow.  He projects like a laser, and has magnetic eyes, like Sam Neill.  Watch for him.  I will be.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Time Warp?


AMAZON is definitely losing the plot.

To my amazement, a book review I have no recollection of posting, as it was so long ago, has finally ... at last ... almost two decades later ... has finally been accepted!!

Here is the letter, followed by the review:

Thanks JD7D,

Your latest customer review is live on Amazon.
We and millions of shoppers on Amazon appreciate the time
you took to share your experience with this item.

2.0 out of 5 stars

2.0 out of 5 stars I'm puzzled

Reviewed in the United States on January 30, 2004

I bought this book because my brother's birthday is coming up in six days, and he loves bestsellers.

 I've never heard of Dan Brown before, and actually had quite a job to find the book
in local (New Zealand) bookstores.
(I found it in a wine-and-food market! -- upscale market, and the book is new, I hastily add.)
I'm puzzled because everyone calls it a page-turner. What is it I am not seeing?
 I've managed to get to page 217, so I've done quite well, I guess,
but the cardboard characters and trivial-pursuit-driven plot just don't get me turning pages.
It's fearfully easy to put down, and awfully hard to pick it up again, but if I want to get to the end,
I have only five days to do it!

This is quite an admission from someone who normally reads a book a day.

Perhaps my problem is that the last book I read was the second in Bernard Cornwell's astounding
Grail series. Granted, it is a different genre, but the craftsmanship and sense of immediacy that
Cornwell manages is on a different plane, too.
However, I would hesitate to suggest that anyone reads the Cornwell Grail series instead of this book,
because so many people enjoy The Da Vinci Code, obviously -- and why should I ruin someone else's nice day.

I guess it will be made into a movie. It reads like that was the ultimate aim.
But I doubt I will bother to go to see it -- even if it does have Harrison Ford!
(And I didn’t)
What was the book called? THE DA VINCI CODE

So what is going on?  It must have gone onsite, as 10 people found it helpful.

Is Amazon trying to revive books that are past their use-by?

Or is it a new, and very strange, marketing ploy?

Do let me know if something similar happens to you!