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Penguin New Zealand Penguin New Zealand i(A138922 works by) (Organisation) assertion (a.k.a. Penguin Books Ltd (NZ); Penguin Group (NZ))
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BiographyHistory

Penguin Books (NZ) Ltd was established in Wairau Road, Auckland in 1973 as a distribution division for its UK-based parent company. Indeed, more than 95 percent of all Penguin titles available in the country up until the late 1970s were from Britain. In 1978, however, newly appointed Managing Director of the New Zealand operations, Graham Beattie was instructed by Penguin's Chief Executive Officer Peter Mayer to begin publishing New Zealand Penguins written for local readers by New Zealand authors. Previously the only significant New Zealand literature published by Penguin Books had been The Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse in 1960.

With no one from the New Zealand division having the necessary experience, John Barnett, then Senior Editor at Longman Paul, was convinced to move across to the company, and he subsequently became Penguin's first New Zealand editor. The first title to be published was a paperback reprint of Beyond Reasonable Doubt, David Yallop's expose of the Arthur Allan Thomas murder case. Penguin's modest offer for paperback rights from Hodder and Staughton was accepted and the company subsequently published it in February 1980, only days of Thomas was pardoned. The timing saw it become a best-seller in the country - with five printings (41,000 copies) being sold by the end of the year.

Other early successes for the fledgling company included Patricia Grace and Robyn Kahukiwa's classic children's story The Kuia and the Spider (1982). Penguin New Zealand also published paperback editions of Grace's early fiction - Waiariki (1986) and Mutuwhenua (1986), along with Albert Wendt's Sons For the Return Home (1987). The controversial Penguin Book of New Zealand Verse was published in 1985. Edited by Miriama Evans, Harvey McQueen and Ian Wedde the volume caused much comment for its inclusion of poems printed first in Maori with the English translation alongside. The 1986 release of Michael King's Death of the Rainbow Warrior (1986) also saw the company have its first international bestseller.

In 1985, barely five years after publishing its first title, Penguin New Zealand underwent a period of rapid expansion. Overseen by Geoff Walker, who joined the company that year, this period is notable for the release of many award-winning fiction and non-fiction titles. A feature of the list was work by Maori writers, including Patricia Grace, Apirana Taylor, Robyn Kahukiwa, Bruce Stewart and Ranginui Walker. When Beattie left Penguin in 1988 he was replaced by Tony Harkins, who had joined the company back in 1974 and had been responsible for finance and distribution. That same year Penguin New Zealand bought the long-established publishing list of Whitcoulls (formerly trading as Whitcombe and Tombs the company had been publishing in the country for over a hundred years).

Highlights of Penguin New Zealand's publishing during the 1980s included: Potiki (1986), by Patricia Grace now with over 26,000 copies in print; A Man's Country (1987), Jock Phillips, a trail-blazing examination of New Zealand's male culture; Oracles and Miracles (1987), Stevan Eldred-Grigg's bestselling story of two working class sisters in Christchurch during the 1940s and 1950s; and Michael King's Moriori: A People Rediscovered (1989), the book that sparked the Moriori revival

From the late 1980s onwards the company's list began to broaden into general non-fiction including natural history, gardening, cookery, kiwiana, travel and leisure. The children's list also continued to expand. Among it successes in this area have been the Alex quartet (1989-92) by Tessa Duder, and the best-selling range of picture books for younger readers by Gwenda Turner. Under the Viking hardback imprint Penguin New Zealand has also published major titles such as Anne Salmond's Two Worlds (1991), Between Worlds (1997) and Trial of the Cannibal Dog (2004); Sandra Coney's Standing in the Sunshine (1993); Michael King's major biographies of Frank Sargeson (1995) and Janet Frame (2000), and The Penguin History of New Zealand (2003 and 2007); James Belich's acclaimed New Zealand histories Making Peoples (1997) and Paradise Reforged (2001); along with The Natural World of New Zealand (1998) by Gerard Hutching; and the Montana-winning Central (2003) by Arno Gasteiger and Philip Temple.

Popular adult fiction titles to be published in the 1990s included: Maurice Gee's Going West (1992) and Live Bodies (1998); Vincent O'Sullivan's Let the River Stand (1993), Witi Ihimaera's Bulibasha (1994); and Sheridan Keith's Zoology (1995).

Since the 2000s a number of Penguin's publications have highlighted the lives and careers of well-known New Zealanders, including Sir Edmund Hillary: An Extraordinary Life (2005) by Alexa Johnston and Sir Peter Blake: An Amazing Life (2004) by Alan Sefton. In addition to the works of James Belich, Michael King and Anne Salmond, Penguin's list features a number of popular works of New Zealand history by prolific writers such as Gordon McLauchlan, Gavin McLean, Paul Moon, Richard Wolfe and Matthew Wright.

Other significant and award-winning works published in New Zealand by Penguin during the first decade of the new century include The Book of Fame (2001) and Tu (2005) by Patricia Grace; Blindsight (2006) by Maurice Gee and winner of the Montana/Wattie Book Award for fiction, Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones. The list of published authors also includes: Joy Cowley, Laurence Fearnley, Kapka Kassabova, Paula Morris, Linda Olsson, Charlotte Randall, Paul Shannon and Elizabeth Smither.

A key feature of the Penguin New Zealand's publishing programme are the close links it has with Penguin Group (Australia) and Penguin Group (UK). All three companies remain in close and regular contact, and substantial quantities of New Zealand-produced titles are regularly bought by overseas Penguin companies. The company is also represented at the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany each year, and regularly sells foreign rights to overseas publishers outside of the Penguin Group.

Most Referenced Works

Last amended 15 May 2013 13:09:54
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