Kia ora! Welcome to my website.

Here you will find occasional posts and updates about my work as a writer and oral historian, and related subjects. Still fresh and ongoing are the many public and private responses to Shirley Smith: An Examined Life. Over the past months since the book’s publication I’ve enjoyed talking to groups and hearing from many readers. My thanks to those who have written. It’s gratifying to know the book is reaching a wide diverse readership and read your personal stories and insights.

I’m thrilled that Arts Laureate Dean Parker has written a stage play and is working on a screen play based on the book. In the first instance, Circa Theatre is producing a play reading during the New Zealand Festival 2020 in Wellington, scheduled for 2 p.m., Saturday 29 February in Circa One. For more information and tickets, see Shirley and Bill.  

Shirley Smith: An Examined Life is available at any good bookshop or can be ordered direct from the publisher, Victoria University Press, https://vup.victoria.ac.nz/shirley-smith-an-examined-life/


‘a model of what a biography should be. … built of well-sourced facts, and those facts tell a ripping yarn.’—Bill Hastings, ‘Searching for the whole truth’, New Zealand Review of Books Pukapuka Aotearoa, 26 August 2019.

‘a fine and thorough biography’—David Herkt,  ‘Shirley Smith: An Examined Life: New book neatly captures her world and ideals’Sunday Star-Times, 12 May 2019.

‘Smith once observed, in a letter to her father: ‘one seems to have lived many lives in a lifetime’. But all that living exerted its toll, too, and Gaitanos’ willingness to account for it is what makes this book so compelling and profound.’—Giovanni Tiso, ‘How Long Does it Take to Unravel a Life?’ Landfall Review Online, 1 September 2019.

‘a fascinating biography … an important contribution to aspects of New Zealand’s social history in the mid-20th century.’—Simon Nathan, ‘Woman in Law‘, Scoop Review of Books, 24 April, 2019.

‘Very readable … Highly recommended’—Holly Walker, Radio NZ Nine to Noon book review, 27 May 2019.

‘She wanted to be defined by her achievements as a person, not by her gender. Were she alive now, she may be comforted by the knowledge that she is remembered for both.’—Yvonne van Dongen, ‘Examining Shirley Smith, the feminist lawyer married to Soviet spy Bill Sutch’, Sunday,  9 June 2019.

‘However, her greatest disadvantage was that she was a woman. The biography is a detailed and arresting account of how a woman born a hundred years ago had to cope with that handicap.’—Brian Easton, Shirley Smith: In her Own Right, Pundit, 12 June 2019.

‘It’s a book that will be relished by history buffs polsci nerds. But the real beauty in Gaitanos’s biography was the way it acknowledged the grey areas in great people, and the frailness of life with all its contradictions.’—Meg de Ronde, Book of the Week

Interview with Noelle McCarthy, ‘Examining the life of Shirley Smith’,  Saturday Morning with Kim Hill, Radio New Zealand, 8 June 2019. 

See also my entry on Shirley Smith for the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Unity Books Wellington