Kia ora! Welcome to my website. Things may look a bit clumsy while I revise this site, but I wish to share the still hot news of the publication by Victoria University Press of Shirley Smith: An Examined Life.

The biography was launched by the Hon. Grant Robertson at Unity Books, Wellington, on Monday 10 June. It was a great honour to have Grant launch the book and as expected, he gave a great speech, pointing up the significance and relevance of Shirley Smith. My thanks to others who spoke and all who made the launch such a success, especially VUP and Unity Books who hosted the event. No wonder your readers love you!

For me, the occasion was an opportunity to acknowledge the help and contributions from friends and supporters, many of whom were present, including representatives of  organisations that helped fund the book. My thanks first to Dick Werry for seeding finance from the Lighthouse Cinema. This was followed by a writer’s grant from Creative New Zealand, a fellowship from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust and a grant from the Stout Trust towards travel. The Stout Trust also, with Victoria University of Wellington, funded the J. D. Stout Fellowship in 2013 which was all-important in my progress.  In 2015, I received a grant from the New Zealand Law Foundation towards research and writing Shirley Smith’s work as a lawyer, and a personal donation from Tim Clarke, a partner in Russell McVeagh law firm, also helped. Without their support, the book could not have been written, and I appreciate their ongoing interest. 

I was thrilled so many people came for the occasion, some travelling from overseas and many from around New Zealand, including my friends but also people I hadn’t met previously, who helped me with the book.  

See photos in Launching Shirley Smith and Unity Books: Afterglow.


‘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