Paul Holmes on New Zealand

Paul Holmes is an award-winning Herald columnist

Paul Holmes: Book tour brings out all sorts - friend and foe

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The provinces are in good cheer, what with plenty of rugby and a record dairy payout. Photo / Alan Gibson
The provinces are in good cheer, what with plenty of rugby and a record dairy payout. Photo / Alan Gibson

Good morning. I've just finished the best part of a week on the road on my book tour, promoting Daughters of Erebus.

They're exhausting, book tours, but they're also exhilarating. People roll up at breakfast or in the afternoon or evening to bookstores and they listen to the author speak and then, hopefully, they flatter you out of your mind by lining up to buy a book and have it signed. Wow! It's great.

So this week, I'm sorry, the tumbling Dow, the Palestinian aspirations for statehood, the European constipation and the government knee-jerk on police surveillance laws were all way in the back of the mind as we drove across the lower North Island making speeches and answering questions.

We started in Taupo where we booked into a flash hotel, the Hilton, on the lakefront looking across to a crystal blue and white Ruapehu. The mountains appeared to hang in the sky just above the lake. Spectacular, but bitterly cold. As I was walking past the pool, I saw a lot of good- looking young men cavorting.

Then I heard the Irish accents.

In the foyer I saw a huge-thighed young fellow in green. I sussed it. We'd stumbled on the Irish rugby team. One nodded hello to me. I said, probably inanely, "Well done."

That night I spoke to a warm crowd in Rotorua and early next morning Paper Plus organised a breakfast event in Taupo. And that's where I encountered the first of the old reactionaries who cannot change, refuse to change and refuse to accept that Justice Peter Mahon was right and Ron Chippindale came from outer space to make things up.

I encountered another of these types at Raumati, north of Wellington. This one appeared hysterical. And then I met a strange sort of an Einstein at Masterton on Thursday night who affected to know everything. He even leaned with affected casualness against the end of a book shelf and began to discourse. I told him he should read my book and if he didn't like it, write his own.

I think the fellow assumed I hadn't done the work. He'd actually driven up from Wellington for the event. I mean, why would you?

The curious thing about these individuals was the way they arrived with documents, as if they'd come to a seminar. Two of them, Raumati and Masterton, brought satchels full of Erebus books as if they still lived with their mothers and spent their lives second-guessing the DC10 accident, Mahon and the Privy Council, at which hearing, by the way, their lordships wholly endorsed Mahon's findings as to causation.

But there were only three of them all week. Everyone else who came along was kind and appreciative that someone has at last done the work I've put in.

The good people know what happened on the mountain that day. Good people sense good people. There are people who hang on to fixed ideas and no matter what material they're presented with will never change. In a way, they're one of the reasons I wrote the book.

In Raumati and Levin I met old men who knew Jim Collins, the Erebus pilot, as a boy and a young man. They had huge respect for him. In Feilding, I met a woman who worked at the Air Force air traffic control at Ohakea. She's still angry about things. She said when the DC10 was overdue she finished her shift and told someone, "Notams (Notice to Airman) and weather". And, in the end, she was right. There was no message to the captain that the co-ordinates had been changed and the weather, the whiteout, finished him off.

Sorry to bang on about this. It's all pretty vivid at the moment, I guess. It takes so much energy.

Anyway, the weather was crisp, clear and full of promise everywhere we went. And, of course, the provinces are happy at the moment. There's rugby for Africa, a record dairy payout and the dollar has plummeted.

Did I tell you I read Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby again? If you've never read it, you've got to.

This week I picked up The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, by Carson McCullers, a title as lovely as any bestowed on a book.

She was a genius. She published it when she was 23, in 1940. I cannot believe that anyone at 23 could know what Carson McCullers knew of the human heart.

I think the drink got her, too. With what Carson knew it was bound to, I should think.

- NZ Herald

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