In the sixties and early seventies my parents started buying Readers Digest Condensed Books. They were great readers, and I expect this was a cheap way of getting books. Us kids read them too, of course, but even back then I used to wonder what they edited out in order to condense the stories. What was I missing?
Well as time went on, I would find some of the novels in libraries or second-hand bookshops. I don't think I ever came across even one that had benefited from such wholesale editing. The novel pictured here was one of the condensed stories in those books which I read as a teenager, but this is the first time I have come across the full novel at a sensible price ($4). It's a vintage New Zealand novel and even in the first few pages, it is clear that heaps was missed out from the condensed story. I am very pleased with my find from the St Christopher's Bookshop at New Brighton (NZ).
This copy appears to be a first edition, published in 1957, original price on the flyleaf of 17s.6d.
The story is centred on Currency MacQueen, left alone and penniless at eighteen when her guardian known as Mother Jerusalem, suddenly dies on the streets of Dunedin. She makes her way to Calico Town with Billy Figg and his crazed wife Adeline and their cargo of cats. The other main characters are the sober-minded Law family, Uncle Alick, his sister, Margaret Law, daughter Tatty, the Italian Pigallo, and the mysterious Shannadore. Also the well-drawn, often desperate miners drawn from around the globe, all seeking their fortunes in amongst the snow-capped peaks and mountain streams flowing from Lake Wakatipu.
Ruth Park was born in Auckland, New Zealand on the 24th of August, 1917. She worked as a journalist for the Auckland Star but found the job disappointing. In 1942, she moved to Sydney, Australia in search of more challenging work, and she married Australian author Darcy Niland. She and Darcy had 5 children including twins (I am feeling a bit bonded now, I also have 5 children including twins). She wrote several novels including this one, One-a-Pecker, Two-a-Pecker which was published in 1957 (an auspicious year, I feel), set in the Otago Gold Rush of the 1860s, New Zealand's biggest gold rush. Later the novel title was changed to The Frost and The Fire, under which title it was published by the Readers Digest Condensed Books.
One-a-pecker, two-a-pecker, bright fine gold,
Spend it in the summer and you die in the cold.
It cannot light a lantern, or ever ease a pain,
And yet we go on searching, tho' we search in vain.