Criminality rich literary NZ narrative

Authors Jared Savage (left) and Steve Braunias (right) field questions from Otago Daily Times...
Authors Jared Savage (left) and Steve Braunias (right) field questions from Otago Daily Times books editor Rob Kidd on the art of crime writing. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Killers, gang lords and drug barons were centre stage at the Dunedin Writers and Readers festival on Saturday, as two of New Zealand’s leading crime writers were grilled about their work.

Jared Savage, a New Zealand Herald journalist and two-time winner of the Journalist of the Year award, has covered organised crime and the drugs trade for several years.

His first book, Gangland, was released in December last year, and Mr Savage said turning out an 80,000-word piece rather than the usual much shorter newspaper fare was a challenging new discipline.

While his job was not without its risks — "I do occasionally tell my wife where I am going in case I am not back for a while" — he had also got to tell some incredibly rewarding stories.

"They are doing their job, or being an evil criminal mastermind, the police are doing their job to catch them, and I am doing my job by writing about it," he told a well attended session in Dunedin Public Art Gallery, which was hosted by Otago Daily Times books editor and court reporter Rob Kidd.

"I have had the occasional angry phone call from people, but I think sometimes people take a partial pride or a notoriety from it — I’ve heard some people were upset that they weren’t in the book."

Steve Braunias, whose The Secret Diary Of ... column runs every Saturday in the Otago Daily Times, has written extensively on several recent major trials.

His new book, Missing Persons, collects 12 stories of New Zealanders who have gone missing.

He said he tried to write with all the participants of his stories in mind.

"I hope that my pieces ... show some sense of concern and empathy for everybody involved, not just the victim.

"People generally are complicated, no-one is any one thing, even the worst person."

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