Leslie "String" Garner's new occupation couldn't get much further from the battlefields of Vietnam and Borneo. The 82-year-old army veteran has completed his first children's book, a fantasy novel for girls entitled The Golden Princess.

Garner was inspired to write the book by his grandchildren, grand nieces and great-grand nieces. He writes under the initials LR. "I didn't want to put people off, seeing a story written by a man for girls," he said. "But I've been living with women for a long, long time and I know how some of them think."

The book took 10 years to write. Every three months Garner sent a chapter to his numerous family members. His main motivation was keeping his family in touch, he said.

"They were shooting off in all directions — there were some in Australia, some in England, North Island, South Island.


"I sent out a proper covering letter for the family and threw in the odd photograph so the young kids were interested in getting the story and the mums and dads were interested in getting the covering letter."

The children were always delighted to receive their heavy brown envelope from grandad, he said.

"I tried the boys with the story but they weren't terribly interested."

Set in a country called Alba, the book follows Princess Alice and her encounters with magic and witches and warlocks.

Garner, who lives in Rangiora, was in the army for more than 28 years, serving in Vietnam and Borneo. He was at times required to write dry military documents but that didn't satisfy his yen for writing.

He has self-published through Xlibris.