South Taranaki Star & North Taranaki Midweek

Book Review of Winston Cowie’s first novel ‘A Flame Flickers in the Darkness’

Taranaki’s land wars of the 1860s are the backdrop for an historical novel which gives a rare insight into the times.

First-time author Winston Cowie’s book A Flame Flickers in the Darkness is meticulously researched and he combines an impressive amount of detail with a wonderful story of a very personal friendship between the two main characters.

The tale of the two’s friendship and the increasing tensions and loyalties that brings them into conflict, intertwined with the backdrop of the racial tensions which ended in a bloody war which still has consequences today, Cowie has written an eminently readable book.

Perhaps some of the insights so admirably captured by the author lie in his own six-year odyssey which took him from his North Auckland home to Oxford University to Qatar. Clearly Cowie is an achiever who doesn’t quit – a bit like Jack O’Malley one of the central characters.

And yet Cowie has achieved the difficult task of having the reader like and empathise with both Jack and Te Atiawa warrior Whero.

Just 29 Cowie has already completed a law degree at Otago University, a Masters Science Degree from Oxford, and has worked in numerous countries before returning to New Zealand. A talented sportsman Cowie played rugby for Oxford as well as representing the university in surfing and athletics.

Perhaps it is not coincidental that A Flame Flickers in the Darkness was completed and published upon his return from overseas. Two missions accomplished.

But don’t be put off by the length of the book, which is just over 500 pages; the story is a ripping yarn which is hard to put down. For those of us keen to learn a little more about the history of our region, there is much to learn, much of it still pertinent today.

Published by Publish Me in New Plymouth, copies of the book are available at Benny’s Book Shop in New Plymouth.

16 May 2012