Convicts: New Zealand's hidden criminal past
Penguin, Auckland 2012
‘As Matthew Wright acknowledges, although “generations of historians have told and retold the tales, openly and happily”, the true story of convict involvement has been ignored by many New Zealanders who have sought to differentiate themselves from their Western Island… Although some academic reviewers use the word “prolific” as a pseudo-insult, Wright combines a scholar’s mastery of the sources with a journalistic skill at communicating complex messages to lay people, all sharpened by the experience of writing nearly 50 books.’ - Gavin McLean, Otago Daily Times, 11 August 2012.
'...great reading, full of specific real-life personalities and daring escapades, some horrifying, to be measured and understood against the background of Maori and British cultures of those decades of the nineteenth century. This is the first time the tale of New Zealand's convicts has been told to this detail, in a single book - one destined to become a New Zealand classic.
- Jo Keppel, Greymouth Evening Star, 26 July 2012
'Wright has done a great job of exposing activities which society had considered best forgotten, and made it interesting reading to boot'.
– Graeme Barrow, Northern Advocate, 23 July 2012, and Wanganui Chronicle, 16 August 2012.
‘…an entertaining and informative account of some of the larger-than-life characters who made this country their home in the early 19th century…’
- Alister Browne, Manawatu Standard, 17 August 2012.
‘…adds to the colourful tapestry of New Zealand’s early settlement.’
- Mana, New Zealand, 1 September 2012.
‘Wright has carved out a niche for himself in pre-Treaty New Zealand history, from which very few written records survive. It’s not an easy field to research.’
- Mike Houlihan, D-Scene, 5 September 2012.
This rollicking tale of white crime takes us to pre-1840 New Zealand, a riotous age when lawlessness leaked from the periphery of Empire – in this case, the penal colonies of Australia, established in 1788.
Prisoners stowed away on boats, escaped in boats and otherwise made their way across the Tasman – where Maori looked on most of them with disdain. Some left as soon as they could. Others stayed.
They were joined by others, former prisoners with ‘certificates of freedom’ who had done their time and crossed to New Zealand where they became whalers, sealers, ne’er-do-wells and traders.
Curiously, the biggest criminals weren’t convicts – they were sea captains, supposed upholders of the law who became involved in all kinds of skullduggery around New Zealand’s coastline, ranging from cannibalism to genocide. They were bad, some of them were mad - and it all happened in just a few exciting decades in a tiny corner of the South Pacific.
This is the first time the tale of these people has been told in this detail, in a single book.
Available in print and e-book.
Paperback, 256 pp
ISBN 13: 9781742532493 ISBN 10: 1742532497
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