Stevan Eldred-Grigg is a novelist, short story writer, essayist, biographer and historian, who has been lauded as ‘a natural story-teller’ (Metro). Born by mistake in the Grey Valley, New Zealand, in 1952, he grew up and was educated in Canterbury, New Zealand, and Canberra, Australia. He gained an MA in History from the University of Canterbury, and then obtained a PhD at the Australian National University in Canberra.
Few contemporary New Zealand or Australian novelists have written about subjects so varied and challenging – and in such a variety of genres and styles.
A key focus in his writing has been on class and on his home region of Canterbury. His first novel, Oracles and Miracles, was published in New Zealand in 1987 and won second place in the 1988 Goodman Fielder Wattie Book Awards. It was subsequently adapted for stage and radio, and was also the first major novel by a living New Zealand writer to be published in China - the Chinese translation being published under the title Sheng Xian Qi Ji. This was followed by a number of other novels, including the riveting Shanghai Boy.
Stevan's latest novel, Bangs, is the fourth book in what has become a family saga over three generations, beginning with Oracles and Miraclesand continuing in The Shining City and Mum.
As a historian he has been described as ‘smart, sensitive to his subjects, and prepared to tell the stories other historians neglect’ (Wanganui Chronicle). His histories include Diggers, Hatters & Whores: The Story of the New Zealand Gold Rushes, which won the Hachette NZ Award for Best Non-Illustrated Book at the PANZ Book Design Awards 2009, and The Great Wrong War (a controversial social history of the experience of World War One in New Zealand), which won the Hachette NZ Award for Best Illustrated Book at the PANZ Book Design Awards 2011. He won a Copyright Licensing Limited scholarship to write Diggers, Hatters and Whores.
His memoir, My History, I Think, most clearly highlights his preoccupation with the links and tensions between fiction, history and autobiography. Eldred-Grigg has lived in Mexico City, Iowa City, Berlin, Shanghai and Beijing. He is currently based in Wellington. He has three grown sons. See www.eldred-grigg.com
The Press called Diggers, Hatters and Whores ‘the best and most comprehensive work so far on our goldrushes. That it is written in a forthright and racy style to attract a popular readership . . . and is spectacularly illustrated, is an added bonus that takes nothing away from its academic authority. It is Stevan Eldred-Grigg’s best historical work to date and is unlikely to be superseded for a long time.’
The Sunday Star Times said it is a ‘compendious, detailed, readable, informative, enjoyable and widely researched book’, which is ‘generously nuanced . . . in the way he looks at the Chinese contribution’ and for ‘solid human experience, there’s hardly a page that doesn’t yield a nugget’.
NZ Heritage magazine called it a ‘rumbustious book’ and ‘a gold rush in itself’ which captures ‘the speed and social turmoil of an era’, and ‘pans vivid, even lurid, detail from historical paydirt’. In dispelling common misconceptions about the gold rush, Heritage Matters said that Eldred-Grigg had not only produced ‘a thoroughly enjoyable and informative read’, but also gathered together a useful ‘source of historic facts’ with the index, endnoting and comprehensive bibliography.
Investigate magazine praised Eldred-Grigg’s ‘always elegant writing’ and concluded: ‘this brilliant and meticulous history serves to remind us of how important gold rushes were in the formation of our history — as important in their way as the Land Wars that were dominating the North Island at much the same time’.
NZ Doctor declared ‘the heart of the book is a richly textured look at the lives of the diggers and those who shared their environment’ which ‘makes telling use of contemporary newspapers and existing secondary sources’ in a ‘colourful yet disciplined text [which] is admirably complemented by a wealth of contemporary illustrations’.