The life of one of Hāwera's most famous sons is to be detailed in a soon-to-be completed book called Towering Talent.
Its author Rolland McKellar writes about Ronald Hugh Morrieson, one of the country's most successful writers.
"Hope I'm not one of those buggers famous when dead," one of Taranaki's most famous writers, Ronald Hugh Morrieson, once said.
The comment was made to author Maurice Shadbolt who visited Morrieson twice in Hāwera, several years apart.
Shadbolt's last visit was in January 1972.
Less than a year later Morrieson had died on December 26, 1972 aged just 50.
Morrieson has a couple of claims to fame as a novelist, including being the only New Zealand writer to have all of his novels made into feature films.
The novels include The Scarecrow (1963), Came a Hot Friday (1964), Predicament (1974) and Pallet on the Floor (1976).
The introductory sentence of The Scarecrow: "The same week our fowls were stolen Daphne Moran had her throat cut", is the best known sentence in New Zealand literature.
The release dates of the four feature films were The Scarecrow (1982), Came a Hot Friday (1985), Pallet on the Floor (1986) and Predicament (2009).
Three of the films garnered multiple awards, in New Zealand and overseas.
Came a Hot Friday was judged best New Zealand-made film of the year and The Scarecrow was the first New Zealand film selected for the Directors Fortnight Selection at the Cannes Film Festival.
Outstanding New Zealand actors, such as Billy T James and Bruno Lawrence featured, as well as overseas actors such as John Carradine. The Scarecrow was renamed Klynham Summer for American audiences.
The made-for-television documentary drama One of Those Blighters (1982) was a dramatisation of Morrieson's life, times and work, and also featured a number of actors James and Lawrence.
Morrieson was born in Hāwera on January 29, 1922.
He lived virtually his entire life in the family homestead on the corner of Regent St and South Rd.
For many years he shared the house with his aunt Doris Johnson, who outlived him, and his mother Eunice, until she died in 1968, who taught music.
His father Hugh died on October 15, 1928, when Morrieson was just 6.
His grandfather Charles Johnson, who also lived in the homestead, took a paternal interest in his grandson until his death in 1940.
Others in the house originally included Charles' wife Lucy (Morrieson's grandmother) who died in 1929 and his uncle, Roy Johnson, who left to get married.
Today, a KFC restaurant occupies the site; there was great controversy in the early 1990s when Morrieson's former home was demolished to make way for the fast food restaurant.
Teacher, artist and author Tim Chadwick led the fight to save the homestead. He chaired a Scarecrow Committee, with members Nigel Ogle and Clive Cullen, which campaigned vigorously to save the homestead – but to no avail.
Some relics were saved from the demolition site, notably the attic where Morrieson wrote and entertained, as well as two fireplace surrounds and the staircase.
Morrieson's Cafe Bar in Victoria St, Hāwera, established in 1993, has the fireplaces, pictures of Morrieson and others and the original staircase that once led to the attic.
The restaurant's tables and bar are constructed from wooden boards rescued from the demolition site.
The attic was restored after 19 years outside on a Hawera property in the north of the town and is now at Tawhiti Museum as part of the Ronald Hugh Morrieson Memorial Room, along with many intriguing items relating to the writer, such as books, his music sheets and a film set from Predicament.
Curator Nigel Ogle, the foremost expert on Morrieson, must be greatly commended for all he has done to promote the author's memory.
An artistic interlude also marked the end of the homestead.
Well-known artist Roger Morris got permission from the owner of the property to stage an artistic event commemorating Morrieson.
Taking part, and creating works from within the attic over three weeks, were notable artists Marianne Muggeridge, Alby Carter, Paul Hutchinson, Dale Copeland and photographer Laurence Aberhart.
Assemblage artist Copeland explored the inner recesses of the attic and commented that "fallen down at the edges and between the old boards, there was greater treasure".
A pair of little dolls made from the tuning pegs of a cello or bass – Morrieson's father had taught music, made and mended string instruments – what a gift of love for a small child.
"Also found was the palette from a child's first box of oil paints, a cardboard pattern for the body of a violin … such sad little treasures." (R. Morris and D. Copeland, 2008).
Before he made his name as a writer Morrieson was better known as a talented musician whose greatest love was jazz.
He was proficient in a variety of instruments including the guitar, piano, saxophone and violin.
He played in several bands at different times including the Rhythm Masters and the Harmonisers.
Fellow band member of the latter band, Bob Crow commented in 2017 that: "He was excellent, s**t, yes. He was a great musician, he could play any b****y thing."
Colin King, the other survivor, was the leader of the Harmonisers and in 2014 said: "Ron was terrific, very popular. Good bass player. He was a very polite sort of person, clean and tidy."
Dick Wills is the sole survivor of the Rhythm Masters.
"Ron was a good musician," he said.
"We played chords the modern way of playing. He used to sit and read it off. He had a great ear for music. He liked the style popular at the time – old jazz. Songs by people like Tony Bennett. We played songs such as Deep Purple, Sweet Lorraine and Ain't Misbehavin'."
After many years Morrieson stopped playing in bands and became a music teacher with piano and guitar the focus.
One of his pupils, Jack Cameron, had this to say in 2014: "He instilled the will in me to play guitar. I found him very good. He had a lot of patience. He taught me all I know. He taught me for three, four, years.
He'd teach me songs that were in vogue, songs he was playing, such as September in the Rain. He just loved that guitar. He just wanted everyone to have a go at the guitar and feel good."
Morrieson never married but had two long-term relationships, firstly with Joyce Lenz (Carlson when married) and later with Georgina Morgan (Henderson when married).
"Joyce was a lovely person and full of fun. She had ginger hair and was quite tall. Anything Ron said she would do," her friend Val Rowland said in 2017.
"Joyce was the love of Ron's life," Shirley Rumney, a first cousin of Morrieson, said in 2015.
What were his interests, apart from music? He loved cars and his friends tell many anecdotes of his high jinks with automobiles as his good friend Barbara said in 2005.
"We got in the car and went down High St in Hawera, which slopes down and I don't know how we got talking about the undertaker Don McCormick, but Ron said 'This is what Don McCormick does at a funeral' and he hopped out of the car, walked in front - there was this driverless car coming along behind him and when we got to the flat part he got back in the car."
He loved boxing and wrestling and could apply many holds.
He enjoyed billiards and snooker and was a founding member of the Taranaki Billiards and Snooker Association.
Gambling was another interest, especially the crown and anchor game (a board game with dice).
He was a heavy smoker.
He appreciated all things American, especially cars. He loved animals and had a bulldog and an enormous sheep called Blinkie.
Both were taken on a lead to the Central Hotel, a favourite pub in Hawera Morrieson frequented.
The latter years of Morrieson's life were marked by a steady decline, characterised by dependence on alcohol, coupled with heart disease and depression.
The likely reasons for his decline were the death of his mother Eunice in 1968, which affected him deeply, and his inability to persuade any publishers to publish novels he repeatedly submitted after the first two; the final two novels were eventually published after his untimely death.
Each year the Ronald Hugh Morrieson Literary Awards are held by the New Plymouth District Council.
Writers submit short stories, play scripts and poems in secondary students or open sections, with monetary prizes at stake.
The judges are award-winning New Zealand writers and hold workshops to share their expertise and wisdom.
Last year one of the judges was Dame Fiona Kidman whose latest novel This Mortal Boy won awards such as the NZ Heritage Prize for Fiction, 2018, the NZ Booklovers Award for Fiction, 2019 and the Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize, 2019 (Ockham NZ Book Awards).
What can be said of Ron Morrieson as a writer?
"[He was] a novelist of unusual distinction and originality and unusually broad appeal, potentially wider than any previous New Zealand writer," his first biographer Peter Simpson said in 1982.
Frank Sargeson, often referred as the father of New Zealand literature wrote in 1971: "… an extra-ordinary masterpiece [The Scarecrow], astonishing language and psychological insights which probably have never been equalled in New Zealand except perhaps by Janet Frame".
Artist Roger Morris said Morrieson was "a genius".
"Each novel was like a complete record from beginning to end and the whole thing ties together. He was an amazing writer and character," he said.