Acclaimed writer Joanne Drayton has been in Whanganui doing research for her new book.
Drayton established an international reputation as a biographer with first subject Whanganui artist Edith Collier.
'Edith Collier: Her Life and Work' was published in 1999 and written while Drayton was living and working in Whanganui as an art history lecturer at Wanganui Polytechnic (now UCOL).
"I loved living here and I always look forward to visiting Whanganui, so it is fantastic to have reasons to be here," Drayton said.
She was the keynote speaker at the 2019 Whanganui Literary Festival and was back in town recently to interview Jill Sicely, winner of the first Mrs New Zealand contest in 1960.
"Jill's story is so interesting as a snapshot of Whanganui and New Zealand culture of the time."
The story will be included in Drayton's new book on the history of 'The Listener' magazine.
"In terms of 'The Listener's' history, it provides insight into how an event like the Mrs New Zealand contest was broadcast to the country in the days before everyone had TV sets in their homes."
Another local story that will feature in Drayton's book is a momentous 1940s visit to Whanganui by radio personality Daisy Basham (aka Aunt Daisy).
"She toured the country from Bluff to Cape Reinga but Whanganui went all out," Drayton said.
"A crowd of more than 2000 people turned out to see her and all the shops along Victoria Ave had decorated their windows so she could judge the best one. She was a hugely popular personality of the time because she shared recipes for tasty meals at a time when food was scarce and her relentless cheerfulness made her such a beloved figure."
Drayton's book 'Hudson & Halls: The Food of Love' was the winner of the Royal Society Te Aparangi Award for General Non-Fiction at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards in 2019, and was a cover story for the 'NZ Listener' in October 2018.
Her previous biography subjects are crime writer Anne Perry (the former Juliet Hulme), crime writer and theatre director Ngaio Marsh, and artists Frances Hodgkins and Rhona Haszard.
Although the new book 'The Good Listener' will be her first non-biography, Drayton said she was approaching it in a similar way to her previous books.
"There are so many interesting and slightly offbeat stories," she said.
"It is a picnic of fabulous delights."