The big winner in the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards announced this week was Fiona Kidman, winning the Acorn Foundation $50,000 prize with her novel, This Mortal Boy.
Albert Black, known as the 'jukebox killer', was only 20 when he was convicted of murdering another young man in a fight at a milk bar in Auckland on 26 July 1955. His crime fuelled growing moral panic about teenagers, and he was to hang less than five months later, the second-to-last person to be executed in New Zealand.
But what really happened? Was this a love crime, was it a sign of juvenile delinquency? Or was this dark episode in our recent history more about our society's reaction to outsiders? Black's final words, as the hangman covered his head, were, 'I wish you all a merry Christmas, gentlemen, and a prosperous New Year.' This is his story.
Sean Mallon and Sebastien Galliot won the Illustrated Non-Fiction Award for their book Tatau : A History of Samoan Tattooing.
The Sāmoan Islands are virtually unique in that tattooing has been continuously practised with indigenous techniques. The full male tattoo, the pe'a has evolved in subtle ways in its design since the nineteenth century, but remains as elaborate, meaningful, and powerful as it ever was.
This cultural history is the first publication to examine 3000 years of Sāmoan tatau. Through a chronology rich with people, encounters and events it describes how Sāmoan tattooing has been shaped by local and external forces of change over many centuries. It argues that Sāmoan tatau has a long history of relevance both within and beyond Sāmoa, and a more complicated history than is currently presented in the literature.
Joanne Drayton won for General Non-Fiction with her book Hudson & Halls: The Food of Love (791.45 HUD).
Hudson & Halls: The food of love is more than just a love story, though a love story it certainly is. It is a tale of two television chefs who helped change the bedrock bad attitudes of a nation in the 1970s and 80s to that unspoken thing - homosexuality.
Peter Hudson and David Halls became reluctant role models for a `don't ask, don't tell' generation of gay men and women who lived by omission. They were also captains of a culinary revolution that saw the overthrow of Aunty Daisy and Betty Crocker and the beginnings of Pacific-rich, Asian-styled international cuisine. Their drinking, bitching and bickering on screen, their spontaneous unchoreographed movements across the stage that left cameras and startled production staff exposed broke taboos and melted formalities.
Hudson & Halls captivated an unlikely bunch of viewers, from middle-aged matrons to bush-shirted blokes. Hudson and Halls were pioneers of celebrity television who rocketed to stardom on untrained talent and a dream.
John Reid won the prize for illustrated non-fiction for his book Whatever it Takes: Pacific Films and John O'Shea 1948-2000.
Pacific Films was founded on the belief that without locally made feature films, a country imperils its very identity. Led by its idiosyncratic producer John O'Shea, the story of Pacific Films begins at the emergence of a New Zealand national cinema in the second half of the twentieth century, when Pacific was virtually the only independent voice, beholden neither to the government nor the establishment, but determined to establish the value of its production with both.
In a converted bakery in Kilbirnie, O'Shea trained and mentored emerging film talent. The principal qualification for admission? A passion for film - and acceptance of the company's employment contract: last in, first out. Whatever It Takes recounts the politics and process behind ground-breaking works including Broken Barrier, Runaway, Don't Let It Get You, Tangata Whenua, Leave All Fair and Ngati, and features a rollcall of cameos in Tony Williams, Kiri Te Kanawa, Howard Morrison, Barry Crump, Michael Seresin, Sam Neill and Barry Barclay, united by visionary producer John O'Shea.
This is a story of entrepreneurs and dreamers, a disparate bunch bound together in pursuit of films that would define New Zealand cinema.
Chessie Henry won the prize for general non-fiction for her book We Can Make a Life.
Hours after the 2011 Christchuch Earthquake, Kaikōura-based doctor Chris Henry crawled through the burning CTV building to rescue those who were trapped. Six years later, his daughter Chessie interviews him in an attempt to understand the trauma that led her father to burnout, in the process unravelling stories and memories from her own remarkable family history.
Chessie rebuilds her family’s lives on the page, from her parents’ honeymoon across Africa, to living in Tokelau as one of five children under ten before returning to New Zealand, where her mother would set her heart and home in the Clarence Valley only to see it devastated in the 2016 Kaikōura Earthquake, and the family displaced.
Written with the same love and compassion that defines her family’s courage and strength, We Can Make a Life is an extraordinary memoir about the psychological cost of heroism, home and belonging, and how a family made a life together.