Maurice Gee’s Biography

Icons 2003
Maurice Gee is a significant New Zealand novelist. He writes realistic evocations about New Zealand life and popular children's books.

Maurice Gee was born in Whakatane in 1931 and passed much of his childhood in the country town of Henderson - a town that finds many fictional equivalents in his writing. Particularly significant for Maurice was Henderson Creek where, he said, "I seem to have spent half my boyhood", and which represents "a place of marvellous and terrible things".

Maurice gained an MA in English Literature in 1954 and initially worked as a school teacher in Paeroa, but found little to enjoy in the profession. He spent 1961 teaching and writing in England, partly supported by a grant from the New Zealand Literary Fund, a testimony to his growing literary status.

A year later The Big Season, Maurice Gee's first novel, was published. Patterns and themes that would shape later books are already there: tension between family members, violence as an unavoidable fact of life, social constraint and inner freedom. Maurice's literary breakthrough came with the publication of the trilogy - Plumb (1978), Meg (1981) and Sole Survivor (1983) which provide a broadly conceived image of life in New Zealand over three generations. Plumb is widely considered one of New Zealand's finest novels.

Maurice soon added another string to his bow by venturing into writing for children. As a result of this, many of the children growing up with Maurice's hugely captivating children's books such as Under the Mountain have also turned into enthusiastic readers of his adult work.

Books published from the mid-1980s proved that here was a novelist working at the height of his imaginative powers. With Prowlers (1987) and The Burning Boy (1990), Gee confirmed the skills he developed to a high art: the historical novel grounded firmly in the present, and the complex novel of social life. Going West (1993) is similarly significant for its exploration of the nature of literary creation, while Live Bodies (1998) crowns Maurice's success by winning the Deutz Medal for Fiction at the 1998 Montana New Zealand Book Awards.

In 2002 Maurice was honoured by the Children's Literature Foundation for his contribution to children's fiction and an Arts Foundation Icon Award in 2003 Maurice Gee. Since then, Maurice has gone on to publish The Scornful Moon (Penguin Books, 2003), which was shortlisted for Best Book in the South Pacific & South East Asian Region of the 2004 Commonwealth Writers Prize.

In My Father's Den was made into a feature film and also released in New Zealand in 2004; The Scornful Moon was a runner up in the fiction category of the Montana New Zealand Book Awards 2004 and in 2004 Maurice Gee received a $60,000 Prime Minister's Awards for Literary Achievement for fiction and in the same year received an honorary Doctor of Literature degree from the University of Auckland.

Maurice Gee was the winner of 2004 the Gaelyn Gordon Award for a Much-loved Book with his fantasy classic Under the Mountain. The film Fracture, based on the novel Crime Story by Maurice Gee, was released throughout New Zealand in June 2004.

Blindsight (2005), won the Deutz Medal for fiction, in the 2006 Montana New Zealand Book Awards and Salt (Penguin NZ, 2007), won the Young Adult Category in the 2008 New Zealand Post Book of the Year Awards. His most recent publication is The Limping Man (Penguin, 2010), the third in the Salt trilogy.

Maurice Gee appeared at the Auckland Writers & Readers Festival as the inaugural Honoured New Zealand Writer, an award conceived to celebrate New Zealand's most accomplished writers, their body of work and the immense contribution they have made to the literary landscape of New Zealand.

Maurice Gee lives in Nelson.