Science Fiction author, John Christopher dies

Syndetics book coverThe well-known British Science Fiction author John Christopher has died aged 90. His real name was Christopher Samuel Youd, but he wrote under eight pseudonyms, with John Christopher, being the best known. A prolific writer, he was awarded the Guardian Award in 1976 for his children’s novel, The Guardians. His first major success as a writer came with his science fiction novel, The Death of Grass, published in 1956 and republished in 2009. It was adapted into film in 1970, as No Blade of Grass. He began writing science fiction for young adults in 1966, with the Tripods Trilogy, that became a quartet with A Pool of Fire, published in 1988. The Tripods novels were adapted into a television series.

Gordon Crook 1921 – 2011

Gordon Crook was born in England, and taught textile design at London’s Central School of Art. He came to New Zealand in 1972, where his art flourished. In 1979 he was commisioned to create 20 enormous banners for the New Zealand embassy in Washington, and a few years later made the banners that still hang in the entrance of the Michael Fowler Centre. In the decades that followed, his art – textiles, prints, paintings and collages – was exhibited throughout the country. Te Papa, who own some of his works, has a more detailed biography online here.

We hold a number of items that relate to Gordon Crook:

Gordon Crook : A Life of Art, is a a documentary from 2011 that looks at his life and his art. I personally recommend it.
Gordon Crook [Kaleidoscope]; this is a recording on VHS of the 1987 Kaleid0scope episode about his life, art, and philosophy.
Catelogue of an Exhibition of Tapestries and Drawings Based on the Theme of Adam and Eve (1978). Reference copy only.
Gordon Crook, by the Brooker Gallery. This was published in 1993, and is only 62 pages long, but is a very good collection of biographical articles and reproductions of Crook’s work.

Gordon Crook passed away on the 26th of August. In addition to being one of Wellington’s best artists, he was also a regular library user. He came in daily and was a friend to many library staff members; he will be sorely missed.

Henryk Mikolaj G&#243recki, 1933-2010

(From our Classical Music Popular Topic)

One of the leading Polish composers of the 20th (and 21st) Century, Górecki’s music has been compared to the likes of Messiaen and Arvo Pärt. He is best known for his Symphony No. 3 which reached number 6 in the British charts. You can read more about Górecki’s work and influence in this obituary in the Telegraph.

Syndetics book coverGórecki, by Adrian Thomas.
“This book is the first detailed study of Polish composer Henryk Górecki, whose Third Symphony, written in 1976 and released on CD in 1992, became a bestseller and brought Goreki international renown. Written by a leading enthusiast of Górecki’s music, this volume ranges from the composer’s large orchestral scores (Sconti, Refrain, the Symphonies) and choral works (Beatus Vir, commissioned by and dedicated to Pope John Paul II) to the more modest church songs and folk-song arrangements. Granted numerous interviews and access to unpublished material, the author discusses Górecki’s position as leader of the Polish avant-garde in the late 1950s, and his subsequent discovery of the folk and church music of Old Poland, most notably that of the Podhale region in southern Poland. The book includes a complete list of works since 1955 with details of instrumentation and recordings, and a select bibliography.” (Summary from catalogue)

Listen to some of his music on CD, or at the Naxos Music Library (you will need to enter your card number and surname).

British author Dame Beryl Bainbridge dies

The British novelist, dramatist and theatre critic, Dame Beryl Bainbridge has died aged 75.

Born in Liverpool in 1934, she worked as an actress and began writing after a disastrous marriage and relationship left her a single mother with three young children. Her first novel Harriet said was rejected many times and not published until 1972, four years after her third novel, Another part of the wood was published. In 1974 she won the Guardian Fiction Prize for The Bottle factory outing and in 1977 the Whitbread Prize for Injury time. Three of her 18 novels were short listed for the Booker Prize. Her slim novels are all urban black comedies, which highlight isolated eccentrics sometimes with violence, but often absurdity. Her last four novels have been based on historical events, Every man for himself, published in 1996 concerns the Titanic disaster, and Master Georgie is set during the Crimean War. Three of her novels were adapted to film. Beryl Bainbridge spent her life in Liverpool; she was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2000.

It is again very sad to know this is the end of such a prolific, wonderful entertaining body of work. If you have never read one of Beryl Bainbridge’ s novels, please start now, you will definitely not be disappointed, and I can guarantee you will want to read more.

Sources: Wikipedia

Writer Alan Sillitoe dies

The English writer Alan Sillitoe has died aged 82. Born in Nottingham, to a working class family he left school at 14 to work in the Raleigh cycle factory. Four years later he joined the RAF where he became a wireless operator. At 21 he was pensioned off from the RAF as he was ill with tuberculosis, and after this he spent the next seven years in France and Spain. His first novel about a young factory worker was published in 1958, titled Saturday night and Sunday Morning, and this became a best seller. It was produced as a film in 1960, for which he wrote the screenplay. With the success of this novel and film, Alan Sillitoe became known as another of England’s angry young men, joining playwright John Osborne and writer John Braine. He went on to write numerous novels, essays, poetry, plays, translations and some children’s books. He also wrote another three screenplays, the most successful was The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner based on his short story and released in 1962.

His last novel titled A Man of His Time was published in 2005.

Sources: Guardian, Wikipedia

Crime writer Dick Francis dies

Dick Francis, the prolific crime writer has died aged 89. He was one of the most popular crime novelists, with all his novels based in and around the horse-racing sport. The son of a jockey and stable manager, after leaving the RAF in 1946 he became a much celebrated winning jockey. From 1953 to 1957 he was jockey to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. After a serious fall he retired and began a sixteen year career as a racing correspondent for the Sunday Express. His first novel Dead Cert was published in 1962 and was an instant success, from then 39 other crime novels followed and one collection of short stories. Whip Hand published in 1979 was the Edgar Award Gold Dagger winner and Come to Grief published in 1995 was another Edgar Award winner. His last three novels were co-written with his son Felix Francis, the most recent being Even Money.

Sources: BBC, Wikipedia

Robert B Parker, crime novelist dies

The prolific, bestselling American crime novelist Robert B Parker has died aged 77.

He received his Masters degree in English Literature in 1957 and began working in advertising, followed by a PhD in English literature from Boston University.  Leaving academia, he became a teacher. His first novel was published in 1971 and he became a full time writer in 1979, with by then, five published novels. He is best known for his Spenser novels, about a tough street wise private investigator. There have been 38 published novels in this series – Promised Land, his fourth Spenser novel received the Best Novel Award in 1977. Parker also developed four other character-based series including a western series. Appaloosa, published in 2005 was recently released as a motion picture. He also wrote some young adult fiction and several works of non-fiction. Brimstone, published in 2009, is the most recent novel received by Wellington City Libraries.

Miep Gies dies

Miep Gies, who helped Anne Frank hide, died January 11 at the age of 100. She was the last survivor of a small group of people who helped the Jewish family hide from the Nazis during World War II. It was Miep who found Anne’s diary after the family’s hiding place was discovered and they were deported to concentration camps. She never read the diary and kept it for safe keeping and handed it to Anne’s father Otto after the war.

Ada Nally, WCL’s Multicultural Customer Specialist said on hearing of Gies’ death

I will never forget my school trip as a ten year old to the secret annex. Anne’s description of her hiding place came alive as we passed the bookcase which hid the staircase leading to Anne’s living areas. The pictures of famous Hollywood movie stars at that time are still on her bedroom wall. I have read Anne’s diary several times and still prefer to read it in Dutch.

Did you know that the most popular tourist attraction in Amsterdam is not the museum, the canals or dare I say the red light district? It is the Anne Frank museum.

The Anne Frank exhibition will tour New Zealand this year, starting at Te Papa in February. For more details:

Anne Frank’s story to the world is a warning of the dangers of anti-Semitism, racism and discrimination, and is an assertion of the values of freedom, equal rights and democracy. Wellington City Libraries holds several copies of the diary and other books about Anne Frank, including Anne Frank Remembered by Miep Gies –  click on the links to the left for details.

March 21 is Race Relations Day and Wellington City Libraries will host a festival of cultures at Johnsonville library, book displays and continue with Earth People at several libraries. For more information visit our Earth people blog in February and March. The theme this year is: “It’s About Us: Whanau”.

Science Fiction & Fantasy writer, Robert Holdstock dies

The British born writer Robert Holdstock has died suddenly, aged 61 from an E-Coli infection.

He began writing full time in 1976, after using his Master of Science in Medical Zoology working as a researcher for the Medical Research Council in London. He began his writing career with many published short stories and novellas. His first science fiction novel Eye Among the Blind was published in 1976. His break through fantasy novel, Mythago Wood, which was published in 1984, began as a novella published in 1981. This title became his most popular book, drawing on English folklore and Celtic myth.

The sequel Avilion was published in 2009. He also wrote the Merlin Codex series of three novels, six other novels and a collection of short stories.

Legendary writer Keith Waterhouse dies

The novelist, playwright, Fleet Street columnist and social commentator Keith Waterhouse has died at the age of 80. He worked for 35 years, until 1986 as a columnist in the Daily Mirror and then until this year for the Mail newspaper. He never missed a deadline and his columns were always witty, at times satirical, but always contained pertinent social comment. He was also prolific novelist and playwright, his most famous play being Billy Liar, with the film version being released in 1959. He also wrote for television, notably The Frost Report and the Worzel Gummidge series. Wellington City Libraries holds 17 of his novels and many collections of his newspaper columns. His comic novels include Mrs. Pooter’s Diary, Bimbo, Palace Pier and his last, Good Grief.