‘Wellington is sort of talismanic, in a way,’ Peter Walker told Dame Fiona Kidman and the audience at the latest Unity Books Wellington lunchtime event, describing the one of several settings in his new novel Some Here Among Us. ‘It’s so Wellington, so New Zealand, yet so truly international,’ Dame Fiona said. ‘Every street – including Willis Street – appears in this marvelous book of Peter’s.’
Fans and friends alike gathered on Thursday the 14th of March for Peter and Dame Fiona’s conversation, with the floor opened to general questions at the end. Much of the book’s development occurred while Peter was the Randall Cottage writer in residence for 2011.
His selection for the residency was based on a hastily written prologue for the book, which remained untouched through the first ten drafts. Clearly, both Peter and the selection committee knew there was something very special about that passage.
The extract from the book that Peter read described an old car breaking down in the middle of nowhere. The group of friends who make up the main cast of characters find themselves stranded at night, in a landscape that is described as ‘the rumpled nightland of hills and bush’. The prose is lyrical and Dame Fiona noted that Peter ‘has a marvelous ear for dialogue… not a tinny note in it.’
After his reading, Peter spoke more about the process of writing the book, riffing off questions and statements posed by Dame Fiona. Quotes bandied about ranged from Bob Dylan to Proust and Stendhal, and Peter explained some of the connections between real life figures and the political landscape that provides the backdrop to the novel.
The audience got their chance to have questions answered by Peter before the session evolved into its signing mode. Copies of the book were eagerly snapped up and personalised by Peter, with many folks excited to get reading as soon as possible. And given the passionate recommendation from Dame Fiona, it’s not hard to see why.
Review by Briar Lawry, photography by Matt Bialostocki.