By Graeme Sturgeon
Published by Halcyon Press
Reviewed by Daryl Crimp
Many books have been written around New Zealand’s culling days and the helicopter era, and one could question whether there is anything to be gained by adding another volume of recollections to the mix. On the face of it, Graeme Sturgeon presents another linear tale of an adventurous life culling, hunting for meat, possuming, aerial shooting and ultimately graduating to the role of pilot. Sturgeon kicks off by describing how he stumbled into ‘the best bloody job’ he ever had and the story adopts the pace of a culler settling into the routine of weeks of footslog. However, as you become absorbed with the read, you get a sense of the many nuances that make up what is ostensibly a rugged and brutal business.
Graeme’s style is prosaic but crisp and clean, and he takes to recounting events methodically, and without the need for exaggeration or hyperbole – in keeping with hunters of that era. As the pages turn, the book develops its own rhythm and there are little gems dotted throughout: the insightful piece on the loneliness of the job, the poignant reflection on the moment he decided to spare the lives of a pair of hinds and fawns, and his observations of how city light was harsh on the culler’s eye, are fine examples of how he lifts the book above the pedestrian.
The book does bring a new perspective to the aerial hunting story and that is, as told through the eyes of the shooter. That he shot with the legendary Joe Keeley makes it more enticing, and it is fascinating reading but, comprising a third of the book, you are left wanting more. None-the-less, it helps round out the story and provide a fresh spin on a well-travelled topic.