One of New Zealand major literary figures, Maurice Gee's work writing for the small screen is often forgotten when his literary history is discussed, as nearly all his work on Close to Home (1975-83) and Mortimer's Patch (1980-84) is tragically confined to the TVNZ archives. Some of his novels have been adapted for TV, including Under the Mountain (1981), Fire-Raiser (1986), and Champion, the (1989).
In an interview with Andrew Johnston he briefly discussed his TV writing:
Children's fiction began partly as a deliberate attempt to widen my writing base, and also because I had young children and wanted to write something for them, but certainly it was an attempt to make more money. That's why I went to TV, too—I simply wrote to the people who produced Close to Home . . . I wrote about 11 episodes of that. When I say I wrote them, I did the dialogue for them.
I could turn an episode around in about three days and get $200 or $300 for it, which was great money in those days . . . that's how I lived, writing dialogue for television. Mortimer's Patch followed—I really enjoyed Mortimer's Patch and was very disappointed when they stopped it after two series.
In his book Maurice Gee (New Zealand Writers and Their Work) (1987) Bill Manhire wrote:
Gee has also turned to more lucrative kinds of writing. He is serious and thoroughly professional about the work he does for television. Much of it has been satisfying, but not in the way that writing novels can be...Gee has reservations about working with material that is 'precut'. It means writing dialogue for characters originated by someone else. Plots have to be paced to accommodate commercial breaks; budgetary constraints determine locations and shooting schedules. There is also the audience to think of: 'Because I'm writing for prime-time viewing I've got to be only half a writer.
A J Rush Saturday, 25 May 2019
Wow just reading Maurice Gee's latest book Memory Pieces - which I brought at the Auckland Writers Festival and after seeing it nominated for the major prize at the Ockham NZ Book awards ... I can't put it down, it is brilliant! He is quite something this writer of ours
Daza Saturday, 01 June 2019
Agreed, one of New Zealand's greats. I saw he was going to be at the festival but sadly didn't manage to get along, but did see him many years ago about the time Going West was published and it was a real treat.
It's a national disgrace that more of the shows he worked on work for the screen aren't currently publicly available to watch, especially as shows like Mortimer's Patch were made by TVNZ and paid for by taxpayer dollars. It's a huge failure of successive governments and the public agencies involved that the technical and rights issues haven't been dealt by now.
The Big Season (1962)
A Special Flower (1965)
In My Father's Den (1972)
A Glorious Morning Comrade (1975)
Games of Choice (1976)
Under the Mountain (1979)
The World Around the Corner (1980)
The Halfmen of O (1982)
Sole Survivor (1983)
The Priests of Ferris (1984)
Collected Stories (1986)
Champion, the (1989)
The Burning Boy (1990)
Going West (1992)
Crime Story (1994)
The Fat Man (1995)
Plumb Trilogy, the (1995)
Loving Ways (1996)
Live Bodies (1998)
Orchard Street (1998)
Hostel Girl (1999)
Ellie and the Shadow Man (2001)
The Scornful Moon (2003)
Access Road (2009)
The Limping Man (2010)