Matt Elliot has taken a small slice of Whanganui history and skilfully turned it in to a book for young readers.

When ocean liner RMS Lusitania sank off the Irish coast in May 1915 after it was torpedoed by a German U-boat, it triggered anti-German sentiment around the world.

The deaths of 1198 British, Canadian and American civilians provoked anger in Whanganui and triggered an incident that made newspaper headlines.

A mob attacked the shop of Whanganui pork butcher Conrad Heinold on May 14, 1915, taking exception to his nationality even though he had lived in Whanganui for many years.


A young boy was wrongly accused of starting the riot and Elliot has taken details from the newspaper reports of the day as the basis for his book Night of the Riot.

Elliot's central character is 12-year-old "Snow" Goodison who works for Mr Schmidt the butcher.

This adult reader was highly impressed with Elliot's attention to detail and his ability to re-create the Whanganui of 100 years ago.

But what does the target audience think?

Whanganui Intermediate student, 12-year-old Calum Sinclair, read the book and had this to say:

"Night of the Riot is very interesting and it definitely makes for a different reading experience when you know the area in which it's set well.

"Also discovering it was based on a true story gave me a shock as I never knew that the sinking of the Lusitania had quite such an effect on Whanganui and its people.

"I particularly enjoyed learning some of the history involved and whenever I go down Victoria Ave I try to guess where Mr Schmidt's shop stood.


"In all, I really liked Night of the Riot and I would absolutely recommend it."

The addition of a beautifully drawn map of central Whanganui circa 1915 by Melissa Elliot at the front of the book is a real bonus for the reader.

Elliot is the author of more than a dozen books and was the 2012 NZ Post Children's Book Awards Book of the Year winner with Nice Day for a War: Adventures of a Kiwi soldier in WWI.