Balance before vitriol
I was sorry to read Graeme Hunt’s letter (NZB Winter 2008) in which he takes offence at Trevor Richards’ admirable review of Spies and Revolutionaries (NZB Autumn 2008).
Hunt demands novel admissions from his reviewer – first, to admit that he has the impudence to hold opinions that differ from his own, and second that he should have prefaced his review by revealing that his first wife was once called “a radical” by an SIS secret policeman. Hunt then tells us that many of Trevor Richards’ friends are listed as subjects in Spies and Revolutionaries, so wonders how such a compromised critic could have been chosen to review his book, and how the wretch could have had the gall to accept the task. Clearly, if Hunt writes another book, and submits it for review, the editors of New Zealand Books will have to be on the lookout for a reviewer with an opinionless spouse and a circle of nice, bland friends.
I have read Hunt’s entertaining book, and it appeared to me to lean on right-wing sources that had seduced him into some extreme views – though on the evidence of his letter he may not have needed much seduction.
Your readers will have noticed that Hunt labels Dr W B Sutch “a spy”, despite the jury’s acquittal after hearing all the evidence police and SIS witnesses produced in court, and indeed in spite of information in the recently declassified Sutch papers that SIS released only a few weeks ago.
The demise of Hazard Press
Although death is inevitable, obituaries are not.
One of the features I have appreciated about New Zealand Books is the occasional and thoughtful obituaries about recently deceased New Zealand writers who have made their mark on New Zealand literature. (For example, in the Winter 2008 issue of NZB we are promised “an appreciation of Ruth Dallas” for the next issue.)
But what about independent New Zealand publishers who endeavoured to support New Zealand literature and whose operations have folded? In the case of Hazard Press, it went into liquidation in September 2007 – two months short of its 21st anniversary. A Google search will reveal that over the years it had some of its books featured as finalists or winners of various awards in New Zealand and elsewhere.
I would be interested in reading some sort of informed assessment in NZB as to what impact (if any) this particular publisher had on the New Zealand literary scene over the last 20 years. A year after its demise should be sufficient time to make that judgment.
PS In case anyone might suspect a conflict of interest in writing this letter – I have none.