“The Keeper” Annual 2
When I was ten years old and living at Waihī Beach, I began looking at newspapers so I could read about the 1949 All Blacks getting beaten in South Africa (very sad.) All my books happen in places where I’ve lived, and this is where The Return is set. Waihī is where I grew up.
My early reading arrived at school in huge cane hampers sent from the School Library Service. Later I made my way through the shelves in the Waihī library. I read all Richmal Crompton’s William books and Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series plus the Biggles adventures. When World War Two prisoner-of-war memoirs began to appear, and I learnt all about building tunnels reinforced with bed boards and how to escape from Colditz castle.
I became a teacher and eventually settled in Taupō, where I still live. The Keeper is my first book, written after I read Jonathan Schell’s The Fate of the Earth and wondered what Taupō would be like after a nuclear war and the nuclear winter to follow. Taupō is also the setting for Stanley’s Aquarium, which was sparked in my brain by memories of childhood reading about Colonel Fawcett exploring the Amazon jungles looking for something (lost cities, I think), but mostly I remembered piranhas and wondered how they might suddenly appear in Lake Taupō.
I have a new book called Three Archaeologists and a Cat, which is set in the Waihī where I once lived. A very old man talks about what happened when he was a young boy and saw Captain Cook arrive in New Zealand in 1769. He has heard Beowulf performed in public by the local teacher so often he almost knows it by heart. He recalls his boyhood in an Anglo-Saxon verse epic, which he constructs with help from his friends, and then their descendants take time off school trying to figure out what really went on.