Author(s): Bryan Reid
BallantyneÃ¢ÂÂs life as a writer brought him little more than disappointment, despair and an urge to self-destruction by alcohol. Yet at least two of his novels can be regarded as classics. At 23, he was the earliest of the new young post-war New Zealand writers to have his first novel published Ã¢ÂÂ not here, but in the US. The Cunninghams, an uncompromisingly realistic portrait of New Zealand working-class life, was praised by American critics, but greeted almost with shock in his own country. He did not publish another novel until 15 years later and it was another five years before his best work, Sydney Bridge Upside Down, appeared but, most undeservedly, attracted little attention. This lack of recognition and the feeling that he was a Ã¢ÂÂone-book writerÃ¢ÂÂ eventually plunged him into the depths of alcoholism. Miraculously, he recovered in 1973 and went on to write two more novels, and to achieve distinction as a kind of literary Ã¢ÂÂelder statesmanÃ¢ÂÂ. Whatever his disappointments as a writer of fiction, Ballantyne, in his parallel career as a highly talented journalist, earned professional admiration and respect both in New Zealand and the United Kingdom, where he had considerable success also as a writer of television plays. This biography by a life-long friend and former colleague uses personal knowledge and recollections, which fleshes out his account of Ballantyne's life, and illuminates the rollicking days of their careers in newspapers and the exciting literary scene of the immediate post-war years.
Bryan Reid is a retired New Zealand journalist now living in Australia who writes fluently and with compassion. He worked with David Ballantyne on newspapers in Auckland and Wellington and was his friend for many years.