Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

12 March 2010

My Generation

 I think that ours is probably the luckiest generation in all history. I was born in 1933, ten days before Adolph Hitler took over in Germany. I was 7 when the second world war started and lived in South London. Although our area was heavily bombed and later attacked by V1s and V2s I survived. I was 12 when the war ended and VERY street wise!
But by the time I was conscripted to join the RAF in 1951 the war was well and truly over (even though food etc. was still severely rationed). Although the Korean War was in progress, National Service conscripts were not sent to overseas theatres of war. Lucky me.
Before then, I left free grammar school at fifteen in 1948 without any qualifications and yet I was not held back in my career. As a commercial artist, then writer, then, later, manager and shareholder of an advertising agency in New Zealand I had nothing but opportunity thrust at me. When I 'retired' in 1990, bought out by an American company, I was able to come home with a fair treasury; enough to see me and my wife and family through to the end.
After 1990 I wrote and illustrated books, about 23 of them, all about New Zealand; except for two 'sex and violence' novels.
I have benefited from antibiotics, a superb health system, stabilizing drugs, leading edge surgery (prostate, heart, shoulder re-construction, gall bladder and appendix removal). I have benefited also from a society that placed more value upon ability than birth, social status and money. Although I didn't, many of my contemporaries went to university free of charge and gained enormously from that gift.
In my lifetime our species has invented the jet engine, transistors, computers, MRIs, space travel, television, the mobile telephone, microwaves and so many other new things that we all take for granted.
We've been married since 1955: for better or for worse (it turned out much better than I expected!) I am now 77 and have just returned home from a long walk round my property feeling fine.
As I said, I think ours is the luckiest of all generations. That of my children and grandchildren will be so much harder - but I wish them well in a world of international unrest and uncertainty; they deserve to be as happy as I am.

© DON DONOVAN. Photograph © Gillian Shrank



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By Don Donovan

About Me

My photo

Don Donovan: Biography

I was born on 20 January 1933, nine days before Hitler came to power in Germany, I grew up in south London. Although evacuated during the phoney war and the quieter times I lived in and out of air raid shelters during the blitz and experienced both V1 and V2 attacks on London. Left grammar school in 1948 aged 15 substantially undereducated. I wanted to go to art school but because of family ‘poverty’ joined a commercial art studio in the West End. I was, thereafter, variously a messenger boy, commercial artist and typographer. I was in the Royal Air Force from 1951 to 1953 when the only useful thing I did was to take part in King George VI’s funeral parade.

In 1955 I married Patricia O’Donnell, a RADA graduate, at that time playing opposite Derek Nimmo, they were juvenile leads in a touring repertory company. He went on to great success because he had a funny voice.

We came to New Zealand in 1960 where I worked in advertising. At length I became managing director of one of the companies of whose holding company (the largest domestic advertising complex in New Zealand) I was also a proprietor and shareholder. I left the industry in 1990 when my company was bought out by American interests. My timing was brilliant, at that point my first book had been published and the next was on its way.

We have two daughters and four grand-children.

Now, apart from writing, I function as a self-educated grumpy old man.

Books & Writings

‘New Zealand Odyssey’, with Euan Sarginson, Heinemann-Reed, 1989.

‘One Man’s Heart Attack’, New House, 1990. (A special edition of this book was purchased by CIBA-Geigy for distribution to NZ doctors).

‘Open 7 Days’, Random Century, October 1991.

‘The Good Old Kiwi Pub’ by Saint Publishing in 1995 followed by:
‘New Zealand House & Cottage’ in 1997. (Saint Publishing have also published calendars for the years 1994 to 2004 using my watercolour illustrations).

‘The Wastings’, my first novel was published in July 1999 by Hazard Press. Although an international subject it had very limited distribution, only in New Zealand, and the rights have reverted to me. (Colin Dexter read 'The Wastings' and wrote to me: 'I enjoyed and admired "The Wastings"... a beautifully written work... a splendid debut in crime fiction... More please!'.)

Also the texts of photographic books:
‘Colourful New Zealand’
‘New Zealand in Colour’
‘Top of the South’
‘Above Auckland’
‘Hauraki Gulf Destinations’
‘Bay of Plenty’
and a compilation of photographs and quotations titled ‘Anzac Memories’ 2004 all published by New Holland.

My written and illustrated book, ‘Country Churches of New Zealand’ was published in October 2002 by New Holland, who also published ‘Rural New Zealand’ 2004 (photographs and text), and a series of four humorous books of photographs and quotations in 2004 and 2005 titled ‘Woolly Wisdom’, ‘Chewing the Cud’, ‘Fowl Play’, and ‘Pig Tales’. My most recent book was published in August 2006 by New Holland, titled ‘Political Animals’.

Over the years I have written for NZ Herald, Heritage Magazine, Next Magazine and various local and overseas travel and general interest media.