NOVELS 

Richard Woolley's novel Stranger Love first edition front cover

STRANGER LOVE  

2016, 266 pages 
 
In 1642, two worlds collide when Dutch and Maori meet - a story of 17th Century exploration, misadventure and tough love that matches historical fact with well-researched fiction ... 
Spun around the real events of December 1642, when Dutchman Abel Tasman first sighted New Zealand/Aotearoa and Maori people first saw Europeans, STRANGER LOVE is a tale seen through the eyes of Tasman’s young cousin, Jakob, and the daughter of a Maori chief, Te-Aomihia. 
 
Jakob’s desire to leave his clerk’s job and become a sailor is brutally fulfilled, when, during an attempt to lose his virginity in a brothel, he is press-ganged on to a ship. 
 
His journey to the East Indies almost kills him, but once there he manages to join Tasman’s expedition to find the Great Southland. 
 
Te-Aomihia also longs to break free from her role as a village princess by finding a boy to explore the secrets of love with. 
 
In the end, Tasman’s crew never set foot on land and their arrival in Maori waters leads to misunderstanding and bloodshed. How, despite this tragic conflict, the Dutch boy and Maori girl meet and find love, only to see that love become a death sentence, carries this tale of STRANGER LOVE to its bittersweet climax. 
 
"Some history books get bogged down in detail. This one doesn't, as it paints Maori and Dutch worlds in concise, vivid colours and peoples them with believable characters. A well-imagined and well-researched book. Highly recommended." Review on Fishpond NZ 
 

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND 

In August 1642, Abel Tasman sailed from Batavia (present day Jakarta) with two ships, the Zeehaen and the Heemskerck (see illustration), a team of officers (including a draughtsman and a barber-surgeon), a crew of sailors and a complement of soldiers at the behest of the United East Indies Company (VOC). 
 
They were in search of the fabled Southland, which was assumed to stretch from New Holland (Australia) to South America, and, more importantly, as the VOC was a monopoly Dutch trading company equivalent in scale to a present day multi-national, to be a place with gold, spices and a people ready to trade and be brought under control of the Dutch. 
 
The Ngati Tumatakokiri, who lived around the Mohua, a bay renamed Murderer’s Bay by Tasman because of events his arrival triggered and now known as Golden Bay, were a Maori iwi, or tribe, who had migrated across the straits from Whanganui in the North Island of New Zealand/Aotearoa one hundred years before Tasman’s visit. Since that time, they had been driven back to the Western half of the South Island’s top by later Maori migrations, and in particular by incursions of the Rangitane iwi. 
 
Richard Woolley's novel Bread of Heaven front cover

Bread of Heaven 

2015, 402 pages 
 
A year in the life of a man trying to make babies, films and sense out of life, love, sex and sexuality... 
Bread of Heaven has two parts. A journal describing a year in the life of a man trying to make babies, films and sense out of life, love, sex and sexuality; and a comedy feature film script, written by him in that same year, about the British coalminers’ strike of 1984. ‘Bread of Heaven’ (the film’s original title) is employed as a metaphor for the ups and downs of life and creativity, and as a symbol for the solidarity of people from different backgrounds in times of trouble. 
 
In the journal, the power of love and friendship, the delights and difficulty of sex, the pressures of conception and the idyll of an Italian writing holiday are all interwoven in fast moving prose that offers humour and insight amid glimpses of despair. In the film, the light and dark sides of the miners’ struggle are revealed when a striking miners’ family from Yorkshire goes to stay with a well-to-do, but supportive academic’s family in Cambridge; unexpected bonds grow between the two families, as naivety and a budding teenage romance come face to face with the reality of clandestine state violence. 
 
"The journal ruthlessly dissects the creative pressures of being a filmmaker and potential future father, while the screenplay shines a searching light on the dark divisions of the 1984 miners' strike through a well-blended mix of comedy and drama." Lucinda Rhys-Evans 
Richard Woolley's novel Sekabo front cover

SEKABO 

2014, 307 pages 
 
A thriller laced with romance and humour set in an England of the near future and recent past… 
'Sekabo' is a thriller set in an England of the future (2097) and recent past (1990). An egalitarian, republican enclave with a hi-tech infrastructure that allows everyone to live in prosperity, Sekabo is an idyllic city-state on England’s Yorkshire coast ruled by China as part of a debt repayment deal. 
 
But can the rumour of a risqué film from 1990 that may involve the royal family upset this settled world? Su-yin, a Sekabo cryonics graduate, is given the task of rehabilitating a young Englishman deep-frozen in 1990 and being resuscitated at the request of the English and Chinese governments. What dark secret did he take to the freezer with him? And can he remember what that secret was? 
 
Combining elements of utopian literature and commercial science fiction, this futuristic novel with one foot in the past tells an unusual story of intrigue, lust and love, well-leavened with laughter and tears. An accessible and intriguing thriller, ‘Sekabo’ is packed with fast-paced action and imaginative descriptions of the social, technological and psychological developments of the future. 
"I couldn't put this book down. Reminded me of 1984 and Brave New World (without the dystopia), and the movie Blade Runner in terms of its futuristic setting. Very imaginative novel with an interesting premise."  
 
Johnny To 
"A recommended read for lovers of books with well-managed and unexpected twists and turns and the ability to make you want to know what happens next - and why."  
 
Rob Bradshaw 
Richard Woolley's novel Friends & Enemies front cover

Friends and Enemies 

2010, 456 pages 
 
A search for political and personal truth across three generations, a story of idealism, love, cruelty and revenge set in England and Germany... 
After a chance meeting in East Berlin, filmmaker, Jon Cruft, finds more than he bargained for when he starts searching for the truth about his family’s past amidst the political and personal conundrums of the Cold War and beyond. From seventies idealism, via eighties pragmatism to turn of the century terrorism, Jon chases truth in life, love, friendship and art only to discover the destructive circularity of human existence. 
 
The story follows Jon’s encounters and discoveries in the divided Berlin of 1973 and 1987 and the re-united Berlin of 2003, as well as the incompatible and combustible love affairs of his mother in 1938 and 1939 – the latter unfolding in a Mills and Boon style manuscript, uncovered by Jon in a touching case of Cold War cooperation. 
 
A novel about the unsettling physical and psychological experiences that bring Jon, his mother, and the people they meet, pleasure, pain, insight and despair. A book about overturned assumptions, friendship found and enemies revealed. 
"A heady mix of styles and stories that takes the reader from Communist East Berlin to Nazi Dresden via the claustrophobic and cruel corridors of a 1930’s English Public School. Well-written, very readable and highly recommended." 
 
Elisabeth Kleeblatt 
"A broad canvas covering seventy years of recent history that the author manages to fill with conviction and a strong feel for human emotion and the relentless sweep of history." 
 
Stephen Mason 
Richard Woolley's novel Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands front cover

Sad-eyed Lady of the Lowlands 

2010, 234 pages 
 
A thinking and feeling person’s whodunit set in Amsterdam and environs... 
On her return from Africa, Monique Bongarts expects to be met at Schiphol by her English partner Peter, a historian at the University of Amsterdam. But he is not there and, on returning to their house in an Amsterdam suburb, she finds him in the shower naked and unconscious. He is rushed to hospital, but dies without regaining consciousness. Police issue a verdict of accidental death, but Monique is not satisfied and begins a search for the truth that leads her into the strange world of zinlos geweld (senseless violence) amongst urban youth, the amoral arena of late night TV sex shows made by her gay brother, and the double life of her partner’s boss Professor Piersma. 
 
The truth is eventually revealed, but only after Monique has uncovered bizarre facts about her brother, her partner, her partner’s boss, the local youth leader and the strange bonds that link them. It is information she might have preferred not to know, as in the end it brings out her own hedonistic side – just like everyone else in Holland’s increasingly selfish society, she too succumbs to the desire to do something crazy ‘just for fun’ 
"Great characters in a great setting with some very strange twists and turns. An original story and a good read from start to finish." 
 
Charlotte Brandon 
"A kaleidoscopic and intelligent low-key thriller, with an insider’s eye for Amsterdam, that poses as many questions as it answers about Western society. Sharp and entertaining." 
 
Luc Van de Hoop 
Richard Woolley's novel Back in 1984 front cover

Back in 1984 

2010, 345 pages 
 
A keen insight into the emotional world of a young couple caught in the crosscurrents of seventies idealism and eighties realism... 
Back in 1984 is divided into two parts. Part one, Feeling Time, examines a day-in-the-life of on-off lovers, Joe Travis and Mary Thwaites – a day on which both are confronted by dramatic events that eventually reunite them. As the day progresses, scenes from their pasts bubble up, shedding light on two people in difficulty, but still full of the dreams and delusions of 1970’s libertarianism – as well as love for each other. The story, set in Leeds with flashbacks to seventies Berlin and sixties London, shows Joe and Mary learning to balance self-obsession with the needs of others. 
 
Part two, On the Horizon, continues the story of Joe and Mary, but is told in diary form by Joe alone – a year in the life of a man trying to make films, babies and sense out of life, love, sex and sexuality. In contrast to the literary distance of part one, the reader is thrown into the maelstrom of one man’s existence. The miner’s strike, the nature of male friendship, the delights and disappointments of sex, the pressures of conception, the idyll of a writing holiday in Tuscany – all are interwoven in fast moving prose that offers humour and insight amidst glimpses of despair. 
"If you find relationships and co-habitation an uphill struggle, dealing with death difficult and making babies something of a drama, read this!" 
 
Rachel West 
"Well-written, witty and observant, it gets under the skin of late twentieth century political correctness, reminds us of the universal nature of grief and encourages us to never give up and always be open to change." 
 
Samuel Madson