An illustrated diary kept by a deer hunter during 1939 and 1940 lies at the heart of an exciting new biography to be published by Craig Potton Publishing this month.
Stag Spooner: Wild man from the bush – The story of a New Zealand hunter–artist by Chris Maclean is the story of Neville ‘Stag’ Spooner who grew up in the Wairarapa during the Great Depression. His father was an enthusiastic carver, musician and hunter who taught his whole family to shoot and also encouraged their artistic abilities.
Stag started keeping records of his daily life as a child and continued the practice during his military service in World War II, until his early death in Fiordland aged just 28. It was the illustrated diary that he kept while working as a deer culler for the Department of Internal Affairs, first in the Tararuas and then on the West Coast of the South Island, that is being reproduced for the first time as part of this new book.
“It’s the kind of exciting discovery of a Kiwi classic that everyone dreams about,” says Wellington based biographer Chris Maclean.
“When I was first shown a copy of the original diary I was fascinated, it seemed a really significant find to me. I started out writing an explanatory essay to accompany the publication of the diary. But as I spoke with more of the family, my understanding of Stag’s creative output increased and so did the scope of the project.”
An exhibition based on Stag’s life and artworks is also showing at Aratoi Wairarapa Museum of Art and History until late September.