Kidman speaks at festival
Fiona Kidman needs no introduction to the readers of Whanganui.
Apart from her prolific output since 1979 when her first novel A Breed of Women was published, she attended the Whanganui Literary Festival 10 years ago.
At that time, she spoke about her twopart memoir, At the End of Darwin Road and Beside the Dark Pool.
Since then she has published three novels, a collection of short stories and a book of poetry. Her 2013 novel, The Infinite Air is based around the life of New Zealand aviator, the elusive and glamorous Jean Batten. Mystery surrounds much of Jean Batten’s life and her death in Majorca where she was buried in a pauper’s grave.
Fiona Kidman’s customary and meticulous research unearths some of the answers to these questions.
Her latest book, The Mortal Boy, has won several awards, most notably the Acorn Foundation Fiction prize in this year’s Ockham Awards. It is also longlisted for the Ngaio Marsh mystery fiction award. A Mortal Boy is also based on real-life events, telling the moving story of 20-year old Irish immigrant, Albert Black, who was the second-to-last person executed for murder in New Zealand.
In 1955 Albert killed another young man in a fight in a milk bar in Auckland. His trial was swift and prejudiced, and five months after the incident in the milk bar young Albert Black was executed. It was the era of Teddy boys, widgies and bodgies and the public observed these “juvenile delinquents” with bourgeois indignation.
Fiona Kidman tells the story dispassionately, without authorial comment, letting the facts speak clearly for themselves. This was a miscarriage of justice, but the resulting execution was viewed with more liberal eyes, and public opinion was increasingly in favour of abolishing the death penalty. Capital punishment was last used in 1957, abolished for murder in 1961, and abolished for all crimes, including treason, in 1989. There will certainly be no shortage of topics for Fiona to discuss in her talk on Saturday, October 5.
■ Event: Fiona Kidman — This Mortal Boy, Whanganui Literary Festival Venue: Concert Chamber, War Memorial Centre, Watt St Date and Time: Saturday, October 5, 1.30-2.30pm Bookings: Royal Wanganui Opera House Admission: $15 Numbers limited. Bookings essential.