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Author Maurice Shadbolt, who died yesterday aged 72 after a lengthy illness, won many of New Zealand's premier literary awards.

From 1959, he wrote 11 novels, four collections of short stories, a volume of journalism, plays, a war history, and two autobiographical works.

Maurice Francis Richard Shadbolt, CBE, LittD, was born in Auckland on June 4, 1932, and educated at Te Kuiti High School, Avondale College and Auckland University College.

He worked as a journalist at several New Zealand newspapers and as a scriptwriter and director of documentary film for the New Zealand National Film Unit.

In 1957 Shadbolt went to Europe and two years later published his first book to acclaim in Britain - a collection of short stories titled The New Zealanders.

He wrote another collection about the lives of New Zealanders of his generation in 1963 and then his first novel, Among the Cinders, in 1965.

More followed and in 1972 Shadbolt finished Strangers and Journeys, a 10-year project that drew together many of the themes and characters of his earlier works.

Twenty-seven years later Professor Lawrence Jones of Otago University placed Strangers and Journeys among the contenders for the mantle of the "Great New Zealand Novel".

Of writing a novel, Shadbolt told Sunday magazine in 1990: "Work often knocks me out - I can lose a couple of stone writing a novel ... "

Shadbolt also told the magazine he tried to use native history, tradition, landscape and folklore in his work.

In the 1970s Shadbolt tapped out four novels before beginning to mine New Zealand history with The Lovelock Version in 1980.

Then his celebrated trilogy on the New Zealand Wars opened with the best-selling Season of the Jew (1986), followed by Monday's Warriors (1990) and the House of Strife (1993).

His first autobiography, One of Ben's: A New Zealand Medley, was published in 1993 and was followed by its sequel, From the Edge of the Sky, in 1999.

Despite suffering from Alzheimer's Disease in the late-1990s, Shadbolt produced two more books, including Dove on the Waters (1997), which won a Montana Book Award that year, and Selected Stories (1998).

However, the disease's onset caused a marked drop in Shadbolt's output - he produced just three books in the five years after announcing his Alzheimer's in April 1997.

In 1989 Shadbolt was appointed a CBE for service to literature; a year later he received the NZ 1990 Commemoration Medal for services to New Zealand, and in 1997 was awarded an honorary doctorate in literature from Auckland University.

Literary awards and accolades heaped on Shadbolt for his works include:

The New Zealand Book Award (1981), the James Wattie Award (1978, 1981 and 1987), the Katherine Mansfield Memorial Fellowship (1998) and Memorial Award (1963, 1995), the Burns Fellowship (1963) and the Scholarship in Letters (1959, 1970 and 1982).

His novels have been awarded the New Zealand book of the year award four times and he is the only New Zealander to have won the Katherine Mansfield Short Story Award three times.

Shadbolt was also inducted into the Waitakere City Walkway of Fame in 2000 for his contribution to New Zealand.

In 2002 came the AW Reed Lifetime Achievement Award for developing an impressive and well-respected publishing history, and encouraging and assisting many of New Zealand's foremost writers.

Shadbolt himself pinned his success to the influence of renowned author Katherine Mansfield.

"She couldn't help but be an influence. There were so few other New Zealand writers at the time. I discovered her [writing] at the age of 20 - and her magic remains."

His works have been published in Britain and the United States as well as New Zealand and his short stories have been translated into Italian, German, Danish and Swedish.

In recent times Shadbolt has lived in Taumarunui where his family took care of him as Alzheimer's, which his mother also suffered from, gradually took hold. Shadbolt believed a fit body equalled a sharp mind, and kept up a strict exercise routine as long as possible.

However, his wife, the writer Elspeth Sandys, said in 1997 that Shadbolt's battle with the disease had been a sad one.

"There have obviously been moments of great grief and sorrow because he's someone who lives in his head ...

"But I have a feeling that if the right conditions are there he can go on living in his writing head for a very long time."

Shadbolt was married to Gillian Eve Muriel Heming; Barbara Christina Magner; Bridget Armstrong and Sandys.

He had five children - three boys and two girls.

He died at the Avonlea Hospital and Home in Taumarunui about 3pm, surrounded by his family.

Shadbolt's books

The date in brackets is that of first publication, though many titles ran into several editions.

Short stories: The New Zealanders (1959), Summer Fires and Winter Country (1963), Figures in Light (1979), and Selected Stories (1998).

Non-fiction: New Zealand: Gift of the Sea (with Brian Brake, 1963), The Shell Guide to New Zealand (1968), Isles of the South Pacific (with Olaf Ruhen, 1971), Love and Legend (1976), Voices of Gallipoli (1988), and The Reader's Digest Guide to New Zealand (with Brian Brake, 1988).

Novels: Among the Cinders (1965), This Summer's Dolphin (1969), An Ear of the Dragon (1971), Strangers and Journeys (1972), A Touch of Clay (1974), Danger Zone (1975), The Lovelock Version (1980), Season of the Jew (1987)*, Monday's Warriors (1990)*, The House of Strife (1993)*, Dove on the Waters (1997).

Novellas: The Presence of Music (1967).

Autobiographies: One of Ben's: A New Zealand Medley (1993) and From the Edge of the Sky (1999).

Plays: Once on Chunuk Bair (1982), and The Great Kiwi Concert Show (with Tom Parkinson, unpublished, 1982).

* A trilogy

Sources: New Zealand Who's Who 1995, edited by Alister Taylor.

The Oxford History of New Zealand Literature, 1991, edited by Terry Sturm.

- NZPA