Few people could know the South Island better than Mike Crean and David Hallett. And if David’s photographs tell a thousand words, Mike’s writing paints a thousand pictures.
The two former Press journalists have combined their talents to produce this unique collection of people, places, anecdotes and folk lore from the “back roads” of New Zealand’s mainland. Mike brings to the task his experience of 10 years writing the weekly Heartland column in Saturday editions of The Press newspaper, from 2005 to 2015. During this time he travelled the length and breadth of the South Island many times, preferring to get off the highways and find the “grass roots” characters to chat to. David applies his well-honed camera art to capture the distinctive character of the South. It is a level of art that has brought him wide-spread renown as a photographer of landscapes, natural science, people and structures. He drove his trusty Landrover over all sorts of terrains to find the images for this book.
Tales From the Back Roads delves into many of the little places and the happenings there that enthused Press readers. The stories are newly told, with an expanded cast of characters.
The book is arranged in themes that demonstrate the substance of the South Island’s identity, from a steel smelter at Onekaka in Golden Bay to a shipwreck on the Catlins coast in South Otago; from a train crash at Marlborough’s Blind River to a plane crash at South Westland’s Hari Hari.
The essence of Heartland columns is maintained in Tales From the Back Roads. This is not an academic history. It will speak to all who turn its pages. As well as taking his own photographs, David has collected historic images from various sources, including some not previously published. Put together, his compilation of pictures adds a vivid visual dimension to the tales that are told.
These are tales of the South Island. More than that, they ARE the South Island.