Wednesday, 13 June 2018

One a Pecker, Two a Pecker, Bright Fine Gold

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.


  1. In my experience the first thing they edited out is anything that might even hint at being against the Cold War Propaganda Amerikastan. Nothing surprising about that - Reader's Digest was a thinly veiled CIA mouthpiece which by the early 1980s was claiming that Russians and Americans were not just ideologically different but of separate species. (Really - they claimed that Russian blood could not be transfused into Amerikastanis.)

    Man, I'm glad I got out of Fakebook.

  2. Found you by following from Bill the Butchers' blog.
    We had those Readers Digest condensed books when I was a kid also. I know we packed some when we moved to southern California in the spring of 1959 and maybe got a few more after we got settled.
    About the only thing I ever read in the Readers Digest magazine were the humor pages. To this day (I hit 70 last December) I do not trust most anything published by that gang.
    As to Farcebook, I joined it way back in 2006 or so due to family members hounding me that I "needed" to be on it so we could talk. What? They lost their phones, email accounts, paper and pen/pencil? After less than one month I closed my account. Recently was at a web site and in the comments some person was telling all to never cancel your farcebook account as it put your a gummint listing. I laughed for a good solid 10 minutes over that. Between myself and at least two others, we all figured that if we were not on some NSA/CIA/FBI list then those gangs were total incompetents. They used to say, some may even now, that as you get older you become more conservative. LOL! I must be one of the exceptions to that. Marx was a wimp! Not radical enough by a long shot. Workers of the world unite! All you have to lose are your chains. Yeah, and put that top 1% of the 1% against the wal and open up with a .50 cal Browning.