Author(s): Chris Maclean
Stag (Neville) Spooner (1917-1946) was a government deer culler in 1939 and 1940, initially in the Tararuas, and then on the South Island's West Coast. While his successful career as a culler was cut short by the Second World War, he did leave behind a remarkable legacy from this period, a painted diary of his experiences that he entitled Those Wild Men from the Bush. This diary, which forms the heart of this book, is a fascinating chronicle of the life of a professional hunter, who somewhat unusually, was also an artist. Stag Spooner went on to create another highly individual body of art during the war, a series of decorated envelopes that were sent back to his family and friends. In this book Chris Maclean brings to light Stag's singular body of artwork, while also telling the story of his adventurous life, which started in the Wairarapa where he developed his love of hunting, progressed into becoming a deer culler, and then saw active service during the Second World War in North Africa and Italy, as part of a Field Ambulance Unit. Soon after his return to New Zealand Stag's life tragically ended on a hunting trip, alone, in the Fiordland mountains. Stag Spooner is a unique book that finally recognises the life and world of a remarkable New Zealand hunter and artist.
Stag (Neville) Spooner's lively painted diary of his experiences as a deer culler in 1939-40 is a remarkable relic of the classic 'man alone' era in the New Zealand backblocks. This book, reproducing and extrapolating on Spooner's diary, brings to light the work of a vernacular artist and charts his story through to his World war 2 service in North Africa and Italy, and his death, alone, on a hunting trip in Fiordland soon after his return.
FINALIST: NEW ZELAND POST BOOK AWARDS 2013
Chris Maclean is a Wellington historian, writer, photographer and publisher, with a keen interest in the outdoors. He has written a number of acclaimed and award-winning books, including Tararua - the story of a mountain range, Waikanae, Kapiti , Wellington - Telling Tales, and a biography, John Pascoe. He is the great-grandson of George Whitcombe, founder of Whitcombe & Tombs, and keeps the family tradition alive through his own publishing imprint, The Whitcombe Press.