August 19, 2013

Book Review: Stag Spooner - Wild Man from the Bush by Chris Maclean

Title: Stag Spooner - Wild Man from the Bush
Author: Chris Maclean
Release Date:
August 13th 2012
Craig Potton Publishing

Source: Received from the publisher via Booksellers NZ for the purpose of an honest review

Stag (Neville) Spooner (1917-1946) was a government deer culler in 1939 and 1940, initially in the Tararuas, and then on the South Island's West Coast. While his successful career as a culler was cut short by the Second World War, he did leave behind a remarkable legacy from this period, a painted diary of his experiences that he entitled Those Wild Men from the Bush. This diary, which forms the heart of this book, is a fascinating chronicle of the life of a professional hunter, who somewhat unusually, was also an artist. Stag Spooner went on to create another highly individual body of art during the war, a series of decorated envelopes that were sent back to his family and friends. In this book Chris Maclean brings to light Stag's singular body of artwork, while also telling the story of his adventurous life, which started in the Wairarapa where he developed his love of hunting, progressed into becoming a deer culler, and then saw active service during the Second World War in North Africa and Italy, as part of a Field Ambulance Unit. Soon after his return to New Zealand Stag's life tragically ended on a hunting trip, alone, in the Fiordland mountains. Stag Spooner is a unique book that finally recognises the life and world of a remarkable New Zealand hunter and artist.

My Thoughts

So this is definitely not my usual read, but when you're given the chance to read about a not-so-well-known but poignant person in your country's history, you take it!

Stag Spooner - Wild Man from the Bush is a treasure of a book. Not only does it beautifully display the artwork of Stag Spooner but it lovingly tells his tale.

I have spent hours pouring over the art in this book, and each time I take another look, I see something I hadn't noticed before. The 'tattooed envelopes' are my absolute favourite thing art-wise in this book, they are definitely the highlight for me.

Stag Spooner - Wild Man in the Bush is so much more than just the art. This book will not only keep lovers of art happy, but the family stories detailing deer hunting, everyday life of the hard working man, going bush and more, will keep the blokey reader happy also.

Definitely one of the best non-fiction reads I've had in a long while, Stag Spooner - Wild Man in the Bush deserves to be on your bookshelf.
A book for everyone, 5 Stars

About the Author:
Chris Maclean is a Wellington historian, writer, photographer and publisher, with a keen interest in the outdoors. He has written a number of acclaimed and award-winning books, including Tararua - the story of a mountain range, Waikanae, Kapiti , Wellington - Telling Tales, and a biography, John Pascoe. He is the great-grandson of George Whitcombe, founder of Whitcombe & Tombs, and keeps the family tradition alive through his own publishing imprint, The Whitcombe Press.

About the awards:
The New Zealand Post Book Awards recognise the best books published annually in New Zealand. This year, the judges deliberated on as many as 180 books to find the best books across four categories: Poetry, Fiction, Non-Fiction and Illustrated Non-fiction. Booksellers voted on the book they most enjoyed selling while the general public chose the winner of the People’s Choice Award from among the 20 finalists.



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