Former leading New Zealand publisher and bookseller, and widely experienced judge of both the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, talks about what he is currently reading, what impresses him and what doesn't, along with chat about the international English language book scene, and links to sites of interest to booklovers.
Monday, June 30, 2014
Government heavyweights attend Penguin’s launch of John Key biography
‘Takapuna Town’ always rocks on a Thursday evening,
never more so than when the Prime Minister and political heavyweights turn up
for a book launch!
And what a book launch. The Booklover was full to
capacity with distinguished guests, by the time John Key arrived and was surrounded
by security men and quickly engulfed in a wall of TV cameras and media. It was
a scene that plays out daily for the PM; a rare one for seasoned political
journalist, New Zealand Herald columnist
and debut author John Roughan.
Roughan’s biography, John
Key: Portrait of a Prime Minister (Penguin Group NZ) is a timely
publication, the first major analysis of one of New Zealand’s most popular and influential
leaders. “It is also unique” said Debra Millar (Penguin’s General Manager,
Publishing), in that it is one of the first biographies of a sitting Prime
Minister independently commissioned by a New Zealand publisher.”
While Roughan had access to the PM, his family and
closest advisors in order to write John
Key: Portrait of a Prime Minister, one of the conditions was that Key would
not see it until just before publication. “And he never asked to see it”, said Millar.
“As for the timing of the book’s release, well, that was purely for commercial reasons.
When the election date was announced a little earlier than we had anticipated
we simply had to speed up our internal processes to capitalise on the public’s heightened
political awareness.”. And it was worth it, not least because Penguin pushed
the reprint button on the day Roughan’s book hit the shelves.
Facing the Prime Minister as he spoke, Roughan thanked
Key and his family for agreeing to be interviewed for the book. Their co-operation
allowed him to delve a little deeper into the man behind the politician, and to
share fresh background on Key’s childhood and formative years as a currency
trader. With full access to the Herald’s
archives and leave of absence from his ‘day job’ Roughan was able to turn
around a book in just over six months that offers new insights into the life of
the PM, including that memorable moment at the end of 2012 when after a
particularly taxing year Key and wife Bronagh talked about whether it was worth
At the launch, which was also attended by senior cabinet
ministers Bill English and Steven Joyce, as well as former Prime Minister Dame
Jenny Shipley, Roughan invited Key to respond, which he did with a witty off-the-cuff
speech that started by saying how weird it was to be talking at a book launch
when you’re the subject of the book. He went on to say that he’d been wondering
what to buy Bill English and Stephen Joyce for Christmas, and now he had just
the thing. English quipped “good, because I wasn’t going to buy a copy!”
Key paid tribute to Roughan’s research, and said he was yet
to finish reading the book, but already he’d found out things about himself
that even he didn’t know!
Once he’d finished talking to One News and Australia’s ABC
about the latest opinion polls, the PM unexpectedly offered to sign copies of the
book and mingled with the crowd for well over an hour.
A light rain fell as guests slowly evaporated in to the
night, leaving behind a happy author, publisher and booksellers Tom and Helen,
who had a bonanza night of book sales.