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Searching for the whole truth, Bill Hastings 

Shirley Smith: An Examined Life
Sarah Gaitanos
Victoria University Press, $40.00,
ISBN 9781776562176

In Wellington, it is difficult to find a lawyer, judge, or even a member of the Mongrel Mob of a certain age, who does not have a Shirley Smith story. The stories are good and bad. Many are insignificant, but they offer insight into her character. I was told about her understandable hostility to a junior lawyer, who was sent to the Smith house in Brooklyn to retrieve and organise some of her husband Bill Sutch’s papers. Smith stuck to her like lichen each day for a fortnight while she did her job and never offered her a cup of tea. I was told that Smith struck up conversations with people she did not know, who had come to visit their own relatives at the rest home in which she lived at the end of her life. One of these people told me about her delight at meeting a friendly, highly intelligent old lady, who said she studied the classics at Oxford University. Those who attended her funeral at St Andrew’s still talk about the powerful haka that echoed up and down the Terrace.

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Posted in Biography, Non-fiction, Review

Sport and sexuality, Bill Hastings

Broken Play
Nicholas Sheppard
RSVP, $35.00, ISBN 9780994140814

Grant Robertson, our minister of finance, has a picture in his office of a rugby team called the Krazy Knights. The photo was taken 20 years ago. He is in it. All of the young men in the picture are smiling, a bit sweaty, and glowing with physical exertion. They are happy brothers-in-arms, enjoying the camaraderie of a match well played. All but two are gay.

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Posted in Fiction, Literature, Review

Deeds not dolls, Bill Hastings

In the Footsteps of Ethel Benjamin: New Zealand’s First Woman Lawyer Janet November Victoria University Press, $50.00, ISBN 9780864736079 The title is important. Janet November has not, in fact, written a biography of Ethel Benjamin, New Zealand’s first woman lawyer.

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Posted in Memoir, Non-fiction, Review

Not just good friends, Bill Hastings

Mates and Lovers: A History of Gay New Zealand Chris Brickell  Godwit, $49.99, ISBN 9781869621346 This review comes to you from the backwoods of Ontario. It is a crisp autumn evening. I write this in front of a fire in

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Posted in Gender, History, Non-fiction, Review, Sociology

Something nobody counted on, Bill Hastings

Unquiet World: The Life of Count Geoffrey Potocki de Montalk Stephanie de Montalk Victoria University Press, $39.95, ISBN 086473414X I completely misunderstood this book. I did what I usually do to begin reviewing a book. I checked for a subtitle,

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Posted in Biography, Memoir, Non-fiction, Review
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