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BAD: New Zealand Crooks, Cranks, Creeps and Killers

Graham Hutchins

Reviewed by Dorothy - 09/07/2010

BAD: New Zealand Crooks, Cranks, Creeps and Killers by Graham Hutchins
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Graham Hutchins has written some 30 books about New Zealand life, including such popular topics as rugby, cricket, railways and New Zealand social history. In his newest book BAD he writes about infamous New Zealanders from the 1840s to recent years. If newspapers' choice of topics is a guide to public taste, then this book should attract a wide readership, because looking at the main page of recent issues of our local paper the policy is to give main headlines to crimes or accusations of crimes.

I hope that the saturation of reading material in newspapers about crime does not turn readers away from this book, “BAD”, because there are particular values in Graham Hutchins' accounts.

Hutchins describes not only the crimes, but the social settings and the life story of the criminals. This I found greatly increased my understanding of the crimes which had hit the newspaper headlines in my lifetime. The Stanley Graham murders occurred when I was in secondary school and the name remained familiar to me, but I had no idea of the background of this social outcast. The murder committed by Juliet Hulme and Pauline Parker was of tremendous interest to those of us involved at the University at the time, as Juliet's father was the first full-time rector of the University of Canterbury. Further interest has been roused in the crime by the production of a film about the present life of Juliet, now a full-time writer of historic criminal novels under the name Anne Perry. Yet Hutchins' account of the murder and of the background of the two girls still held great interest for me. Likewise, I had closely followed accounts in the media of the Aramoana murders as David Gray's first victim was a close friend of our son, yet again Hutchins' account shed new light on this episode and the psychological state of the murderer.

The wide variety of the stories means that all readers will learn something new and that people whose names have been familiar to us as we grew up suddenly become people with real stories, like Amy Bock, Minnie Dean, and the Burgess Gang.

The subtitle – New Zealand Crooks, Cranks, Creeps and Killers - emphasises that this book deals not only with those who committed the crime of murder. Also included are prison escaper George Wilder, commune leader Burt Potter, conman Sydney Ross, who managed to convince high-ranking politicians that there as a Nazi threat in Ngongotaha, and charlatan Milan Brych, who persuaded gullible cancer patients to pay for his unproven remedies.

I strongly recommend that people interested in history and in human beings with distorted motivation read this book.

ISBN: 978-1-86971-174-0
RRP: $29.99, PB, Hodder Moa

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