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New light on killer's
last days in Napier
Kereopa Te Rau: Photographed in Napier
Prison before his execution for the
gruesome murder of missionary Carl
Well deserved: Peter Wells earned a prestigious Writers' Fellowship.
By CAROLYN VEEN
Napier author Peter Wells has been
awarded the $100,000 Creative New Zea-
land Michael King Writers Fellowship to
research and write a non-fiction book
titled Sparrow on a Rooftop.
His book will hone in on the months of
December 1871 and January 1872 when
Kereopa Te Rau was brought to Napier,
put on trial for the murder of missionary
Carl Volkner, and hanged.
Seven years earlier, Rev Volkner, who
had been suspected of spying during the
height of the land wars in New Zealand,
was hanged from a willow tree outside
his own church in Opotiki.
Te Rau, who swallowed the eyes of his
victim, went on the run for seven years
before he was eventually captured, tried
and hanged in Napier.
The 19th century was the furnace in
which contemporary New Zealand was
forged. It s a great privilege to get this
support so I can take my own time to go
back to a crucial moment, says Wells.
Life in New Zealand was extremely
tough 140 years ago, and Wells plans to
include that aspect as an important com-
ponent of the story.
The book will be as much a portrait of
a time as an event.
You have to remember it was Christ-
mas and New Year and in the small col-
onial town of Napier there were theatri-
cal events, adulteries, lost property,
fights . . . Meanwhile inside a room, a
man waits for his death.
He says the story will allow him to sink
into the rich compost of local history,
where the small truths, and deceptions,
lie.Wells latest book The Hungry Heart
which delivers a contemporary look at
William Colenso, was finally sent off to
the printers last week after three years of
research and writing.
Ironically, it was William Colenso who
inspired Wells, albeit indirectly, to write
about Te Rau.
In a wonderful way, writing the
Colenso story led me into my next book.
He had written a very interesting pam-
phlet on Kereopa Te Rau, called Hear the
other side of the story and this really
hooked me in and it was particularly
interesting as it involves local history.
With only two years being set aside to
write Sparrow on a Rooftop, Wells seems
relaxed about where to begin in the vast
expanse of history.
You start off by knowing very little;
you just trust that as time goes on you
will pick up pieces and then it will start
Research requires a lot of listening . . .
you sink into a project from a state of
ignorance or just not knowing, to using
your intuition, and that s when it begins.
He admits the journey of research and
the emergence of the characters can
become a dominating thought pattern.
In a funny way, it s very entertaining
-- like solving a puzzle.
A writer of fiction and non-fiction, and
a writer/director in film, Wells first book,
Dangerous Desires, won the Reed Fiction
Award, the NZ Book Award, and PEN
Best New Book in Prose in 1992. His me-
moir won the 2002 Montana NZ Book
Award for Biography, and he has won
many awards for his work as a film direc-
tor.Wells 1985 documentary on Napier as
an art deco town was a catalyst in the
formation of the Art Deco Trust.
Napier has such beautiful architec-
ture, and during the 1980s there was
such a lot of demolition of these build-
I was living in Auckland at the time,
and I just wanted to capture the little
jewel of Napier in a documentary.
From there, Robert McGregor, who
was the director of the museum at that
stage, and Dermot Horne did all the hard
work of setting up the Art Deco Trust.
In 2006, Wells was made a Member of
the New Zealand Order of Merit for
services to literature and film.
The Hot Red wine expo
now in Hawke's Bay
For the first time, Hawke s
Bay Winegrowers is present-
ing its successful regional wine
expo at home.
After seven years of showing
Auckland, Wellington and
Christchurch the best red
wines from Hawke s Bay, the
event is to be held here this
year as part of the 20th anni-
versary of the Midlands Char-
ity Wine Auction.
The Hot Red Hawke s Bay
event will take place in the
evening of Friday, June 3,
from 4pm till 8pm at the Black
Barn Bistro. It is the biggest of
the regional expos with 24
wineries taking part and over
160 wines available to taste,
many of which are Trophy and
Gold medal winners.
This is the only event of its
type where this many Hawke s
Bay producers and wines are
available in one place. Both
red and white wines will be
shown, including older
vintages and new releases,
Winegrowers executive officer
Held over Queen s Birthday
Weekend, wine lovers can
begin on the Friday evening at
Hot Red Hawke s Bay and
then follow up with the
Midlands Pre-Auction Tasting
and Charity Wine Auction on
the Saturday. Public tickets
are available from the wine
auction website charitywine
auction.co.nz and are limited
I m hoping we have the
same sell-out and success for
Hot Red here locally that we
do in Auckland and Welling-
ton, says Ms Bevin. We
would love for it to become a
Accolade for world's top shearer
Waipawa's world champion shearer Cam Ferguson
was the big winner at the 2011 UnisonFibre
Hawke's Bay Sports Awards on Saturday. He was
named Hawke's Bay Sportsperson of the Year.
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