Kid­man speaks at fes­ti­val

Whanganui Midweek - - Whanganui Literary Festival - Fiona Kid­man This Mor­tal Boy

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.

Fiona Kid­man

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