Unity Books Wellington spoke to John Dunmore in the lead up to his in-store launch for his latest book, Scoundrels & Eccentrics of the Pacific (Upstart)
Scoundrels & Eccentrics of the Pacific is a wonderfully crafted collection of tales of the men, and in some cases the women, who sought to benefit from the discoveries of the early explorers.
John Dunmore, CNZM, Officier de la Légion d’honneur, Ordre des Palmes académiques, DLitt, PhD, is a much-published author and world authority on Pacific exploration, recognised for his service by the governments of both New Zealand and France. He has published over 30 books, and was responsible for finding and translating the journals of La Pérouse which had been lost in the French National Archives for over 200 years.
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING AND HOW DID YOU DISCOVER THE BOOK?
Conan Doyle’s The Valley of Fear. An interesting final work with just a background role for Sherlock Holmes. The novel deals with Scoundrels and Eccentrics in a distant country, so I found it amusingly relevant to my latest work. I had it as an eBook.
WHO ARE YOUR FAVOURITE WRITERS AND WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT THEM?
No real favourites as such, but I am an admirer of Jane Austen and her skill for characterisation. I have read practically all of Jules Verne’s books and like both his imagination and the atmosphere of the period in which he wrote.
WHAT BOOKS ARE ON YOUR BEDSIDE TABLE?
Paul Cleave’s Trust No One which I picked up after reading his A Killer Harvest; also a fascinating illustrated book by Pat Chapman, The Tallest Truck Gets Stuck, fun to have as a relaxing little book. But I also have a recently arrived copy of Unenaojaht, a translation into Estonian of my Chasing a Dream, which I’m about to put on a shelf as I (quite literally) can’t understand one word of it.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE BOOK-TO-FILM ADAPTATION?
None to be frank. Most adaptations veer away from the book, although most of the films are good to watch and enjoyable.
WHAT BOOK HAVE YOU RE-READ THE MOST AND WHY?
James Joyce’s Ulysses comes to mind. My copy is very tattered and I’ve had it for years, but I wouldn’t be able to say whether it’s one I re-read the most, as I’ve had to work so much on works about Pacific history.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE LITERARY CHARACTER?
Again, it’s hard to name the leader. But I’ve always enjoyed P.G. Wodehouse’s characters. Especially Jeeves and Bertie Wooster (Laurie and Fry) in TV adaptations, and Lord Emsworth.
WHAT BOOK HAVE YOU ALWAYS BEEN MEANING TO READ BUT STILL HAVEN’T GOT AROUND TO?
J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit is one, and I haven’t got very far with J.K. Rowling’s books – which may be due to the fact that I am not a fan of fantasy, or more likely belong to an older generation.
WHICH THREE WRITERS WOULD YOU HAVE FOR OVER DINNER?
Agatha Christie comes to mind, as does J.B. Priestley. I would also include Mary Beard so that she could talk about her superb SPQR. I would enjoy watching them talk to each other…
WHAT WOULD YOU COOK THEM?
I’m no cook, so I would spare them something like Welsh Rabbit. I would probably order some pizza, which I assume goes well with champagne.
HOW ARE YOUR BOOKS SHELVED AND ORGANISED AT HOME?
I try to keep them in order, to save time looking for them. I have broad sections: Pacific history, French literature, N.Z. politics and biographies, and a small collection of books on wartime Jersey where I lived under German occupation.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE LITERARY QUOTE?
“To be or not to be” always comes to mind – in various forms: someone in a bookshop might be saying of something on display: “To buy or not to buy”. It’s the equivalent of “maybe”. But I like Alfred Hitchcock’s famous quote: “Puns are the highest form of literature”.
A QUESTION FROM PREVIOUS AUTHOR INTERVIEWEE, ALEX ROSS:
“How do we get away with it?”
Maybe we don’t. We just think we do.