Book Review: Whitiki! Whiti! Whiti! E! Māori in the First World War, by Monty Soutar

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_whitiki_whiti_whiti_e.jpgA new literary taonga has been published with Monty Soutar’s Whitiki! Whiti! Whiti! E! Māori in the First World War.

The sheer scale of this magnificently published 576-page book (Bateman), will be a treasure for many New Zealand families whose tīpuna included members of the New Zealand Māori (Pioneer) Battalion of the First World War and  those iwi and Pacific Islands from whence the volunteers came.

A particular strength of the book as a taonga – there are many – is the mata created  especially for the book by Prof. Derek Lardelli depicting ‘three mata (shells or bullets)  which caused so many casualties’.

The mata are used to section the chapters which, page upon page, include maps, charts, and a huge collection of photographs. Of the latter, the photos of individual soldiers collected from archives and families especially for the book are the most poignant, especially as Soutar has researched personal information and written many caption/ stories of the soldiers and their families. Many of the photographs have been digitally coloured by Sir Peter Jackson including the front dust cover of the battalion gathered on the beach at ANZAC Cove.

Every solider who served is mentioned in the book in one way or another. However, this book is not just about the soldiers of the battalion. This is a cultural, social  and political history of New Zealand at the time. Chapter one, Before the War, Porongirangi ana te Pakeha starts with a time line beginning in 1897 with Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee and goes  through to August 4 1914 when the UK declared war on Germany. The Chapter traces the life, the many facets of politics of the day including land tenure and compulsory military training, plus race relations. There is a list of 46 Māori who served in in the South African war.

Nothing is glossed over. Issues of recruitment from different iwi, especially from the Waikato and Taranaki still bruised by injustices of the New Zealand Wars, are covered. The enthusiasm of many to fight for King (UK) and Country (NZ) are also detailed.  Sickness, desertion, injustices, every aspect of life in the Battalion is covered, often inclusive of letters from the front or official reports.

There is also much praise and many accounts of collective and individual bravery. Humour is never far away for the Māori Battalion: Private Bill Maopo had a rude awakening when shells landed among his him and his mates while they were sleeping at Leeuwerk Farm on the Western Front. ‘Maopo fled in just a shirt and socks. They had to run “through a paddock full of growing California thistle, up to our knees”‘. Perhaps it wasn’t funny at the time,  just in retrospect.

The detailed accounts of action are harrowing. ‘The Maori lads came under heavy fire as they tore up the stakes. “I think I will be killed at that wire” said one. “The bullets came ping, ping over our heads, but the Turk he fire too high. Paikare…we have a [lucky] escape that time.”‘

In all there were 2227 Maori and 458 Pacific Islanders who served in the Battalion.

This is not the first book to be written on the history of the Battalion. Chris Pugley’s Te Hokowhitu a Tū: The Māori Pioneer Battalion in the First World War was published  in 2015 by Oratia Media. However, Whitiki! Whiti! Whiti! E! Māori in the First World War expands greatly on the information and context of the history of this famous Battalion.

Reviewed by Lincoln Gould

Whitiki! Whiti! Whiti! E! Māori in the First World War
by Monty Soutar
Published by David Bateman Ltd
ISBN 9781869539580



Book Review: The Kiwi Cyclist’s Guide To Life, by Jane King

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_the_kiwi_cyclists_guide_to_lifeI’ve been meaning to review this one for a little while. It’s been sitting on my coffee table glaring at me. ‘Read Me’, it beckons. But it’s been a great summer and I’ve been out on the road, peddling away through some great trails – on road, off road, town and country.

And every time I reached out to pick it up, a visitor would arrive. So, instead, they are the ones to pick it up a and peruse its chapters. They often drift away to another part of the house to finish a chapter. They are not long, complicated or overwritten. Quite the opposite. King writes with a journalist’s eye. She wants to capture the full flavour, not just the essence of her subjects.

When I found time, I discovered that King’s book is a taste treat for anyone who loves cycling; but it’s much more than that. Over 25 chapters, she introduces us to a varied selection of cycle fiends from literally every walk of life. She covers every popular style – GT factory racing, track, BMX, triathletes, cycle builders, historians, off-roaders and inventors. There’s eccentrics, lifestyle cyclists and hippies. There are some of the pioneers like Graeme Pearson (a racer, rebellious innovator and bike designer who pushed the boundaries of conventional cycle racing in NZ). Or Aaron Gate (World Champion and Olympic Medalist) and Sarah Walker, whom we all know as a top BMX rider and pioneer for the sport in New Zealand.

Mountain biking gets a mention, with a look at Wyn Masters (see image from his Instagram below) who’s won some big events like last year’s Enduro World Series and competed in the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in Leogang. If you’ve ever been up the Gondola at Rotorua then you would have seen the  Crankworx track. That’s where he raced.

A post shared by Wyn Masters (@wynmasters) on


If biking has an unsung hero of Arthur Lydiard proportions it could well be Phil Gibbs, who nurtures new talent. And don’t forget another legend, swimmer Moss Burmester – double Olympian, Commonwealth Games Champion and World Champion – he’s eternally on two wheels as well. In training, racing and, as proven in a great photo double spread, in bed sleeping with his Giant training bike. He’s taking a fear of stolen bicycles to a new level!

There’s a profile on Graeme Simpson, who operates out of his Oamaru garage making, believe it or not, Penny Farthing Bicycles! We also get an intriguing inside into journalist and presenter Mary Lambie who is a keen competitive cyclist, racing in the Taupo Cycle Challenge, the K2 around Coromandel Peninsula and even doing the Coast to Coast race.

There is a profile of Drew Duff-Dobson, who runs a Cycle Shop-cum café in Auckland. Now that’s my kind of cycling. And then there’s a High Country Heli-biker (yep, it’s a thing), tour operator Dan McMullan. His piece is accompanied by a stunning photo of he and his bike perched on a lonely precipice surrounded by an endless mountainous backdrop, with another inside of him leading a group down the snowy slopes of Mt Burke. You could not ask for a better work story!

Not everyone in this book is an over-achiever, though. One of my favourite stories is that of Ana Steele and her adventures on her electric bike, leather jacket and vintage flying goggles. She’s done her OE differently, riding across Europe, instead of hitching or bussing it. Brett Cotter doesn’t just ride, he organises biking film festivals and couple Sandra Jensen and Mark Vuletich have embraced the new trend for wearing vintage clothes and riding ancient Velos from the 1930’s.

Jane King was originally from the UK but it’s clear that she has a love of our outdoors and she travels widely to source material for her books. She knows about quality publishing being a digital producer and content writer for TVNZ, NZME, Tourism NZ and a number of other digital agencies. A lot of her photos definitely look like they belong in a brochure – in a good way!

King’s book is thorough, as she covers every aspect of cycling, from racers to innovators to fashionista to cycle tourists to electric users to zen riders and planet savers. Cycling is as diverse as the people that sit in the saddle and this book proves it. She has drawn on a wide range of photographers to illustrate her book, including herself. The image of Dan McMullen off-loading a bike from a helicopter in the snowy back country is one of my favourites. It has the promise of a great ride in amazing terrain. It sparks the imagination but is also a familiar scene, of which every Kiwi is proud of. It sums it all up superbly: the spirit of adventure; entrepreneurship; risk taking; ecology and green tourism and, best of all the invitation to have fun.

On the other extreme is Sandra Jensen and Mark Vuletich riding alongside an old tank dressed in their finest tweeds and muslin, expressing their overt eccentricities and quirkiness. They want to be alternatives to a life in front of a screen, breathing in recycled office air and drinking bad coffee. To be on a bike is the freedom you can never get from any other pursuit. It offers something more than the daily grind of the crankshaft. This is what this book embraces.

Reviewed by Tim Gruar

The Kiwi Cyclist’s Guide To Life
by Jane King
Published by Bateman
ISBN 9781869539795

Book Review: A Road Tour of American Song Titles, by Karl du Fresne

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_a_road_Tour_of_American_song_titles.jpgBeing of a similar vintage to Karl du Fresne meant this book really resonated with me. The journalist and music lover and his wife visited the United States of America three times, covering thousands of miles and taking in 24 towns and cities mentioned in song titles.

There were the familiar, like Galveston, Twenty Four Hours From Tulsa, Viva Las Vegas and Little Old Lady From Pasadena, but there were also songs I’d never heard of, like Bowling Green, Streets of Bakersfield, and Saginaw, Michigan. Whenever I came across a song I wasn’t familiar with, I sought out the YouTube version and listened to it before reading that chapter, often listening to it more than once to pick up things du Fresne mentioned.

There were also songs that I was familiar with but never knew what they were called, like Mendocino, Lodi, and Nashville Cats – so it was an education for me learning their names as well as reading where the inspiration for the songs came from.

The book meanders across the country, part-history lesson, part-education, part-geography, part-music and part-restaurant review. It’s a good yarn and one that will appeal to many. The writer’s travels take him across states and into backwaters most people aren’t even aware of. He tells of racial tension, heartbreak and misfortune as well as success, and gives us a glimpse into the lives of those who wrote and performed the songs many of us grew up listening to.

I found myself hunting through my own collection to hear a number of the songs featured in the book and it gave me a whole new appreciation of them. I had been guilty of listening to them over the years without really taking in the lyrics, and now when Galveston or Twenty Four Hours From Tulsa are played on classic hits stations, I remember the stories behind the songs.

A Road Tour of American Song Titles is much more than a road trip, it’s like the best of campfire stories told by someone who has an easy way of writing that carries you along on the journey.

Unfortunately royalty fees and difficulties tracking down the owners meant du Fresne was unable to reproduce the lyrics to the songs, but they are available online for anyone who wants to hunt them down.

The only thing I wasn’t so fond of was the footnotes, as I felt they interrupted the narrative flow. Aside from that, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and hope – as there are plenty more song titles he could cover – there is a sequel.

Reviewed by Faye Lougher

A Road Tour of American Song Titles
by Karl du Fresne
Published by Bateman
ISBN 9781869539382


Book Review: Recipes from the Kiwi Pizza Oven, by Alan Brown

Available in bookshops nationwide

recipes_kiwi_pizzaBaking a pavlova in an outdoor pizza oven? “Yeah, right,” was my first reaction when I saw the recipe in Recipes from the Kiwi Pizza Oven: Wood, Fire and Friends by Alan Brown. Then I read the instructions and, maybe, it can be done.

Not only is this book magnificently illustrated by photographer Todd Eyre,  it has also got the most amazing range of recipes and comprehensive instructions to go with them. Not just weights and measures of ingredients but the practical aspects of how to fire up the oven – fire to the sides, not the semi-circle at the back, which is what I have done.

The introduction is where you get the first impression that this is not just a recipe book.  It immediately impresses that while having a wood fired outdoor pizza oven can be a lot of fun, it is not a plaything. Rather, it can be  a very practical 24-hour oven which can handle everything from a pavlova and a treacle tart, to char-embered veg, pork ribs and, of course, pizza.

The practicality of this 258-page book is further emphasised with each recipe, which begins with an opinion of the quality and character of the ingredients, then the ingredients themselves, advice on the temperature requirement and other cooking or baking instructions.

I don’t usually fire up my pizza oven in the winter but I just might for a couple of pizzas for lunch tomorrow:  spiced brisket in coconut milk for dinner, and  overnight baked African  cornbread with friend egg and bacon for breakfast on Sunday.

Oh, by the way, I use a hand-held temperature gauge which will be even more useful  now that author Alan Brown has indicated the different parts of the oven to burn at different temperatures.

Reviewed by Lincoln Gould

Recipes from the Kiwi Pizza Oven: Wood, Fire, Food and Friends
by Alan Brown
ISBN: 9781869539450