Maurice Shadbolt was a major New Zealand fiction writer and playwright. From 1959, he wrote 11 novels, four collections of short stories, a volume of journalism, plays, a war history, and two autobiographical works. His writing often drew on his own family history.
In 1957 Shadbolt went to Europe and two years later published his first book to acclaim in Britain - a collection of short stories titled The New Zealanders. He wrote another collection about the lives of New Zealanders of his generation in 1963 and then his first novel, Among the Cinders, in 1965.
More followed and in 1972 Shadbolt finished Strangers and Journeys, a 10-year project that drew together many of the themes and characters of his earlier works. Twenty-seven years later Professor Lawrence Jones of Otago University placed Strangers and Journeys among the contenders for the mantle of the "Great New Zealand Novel".
Of writing a novel, Shadbolt told Sunday magazine in 1990: "Work often knocks me out - I can lose a couple of stone writing a novel ... "
In the 1970s Shadbolt wrote four novels before beginning to mine New Zealand history with The Lovelock Version in 1980. Then his celebrated trilogy on the New Zealand Wars opened with the best-selling Season of the Jew (1986), followed by Monday's Warriors (1990) and the House of Strife (1993).
His first autobiography, One of Ben's: A New Zealand Medley, was published in 1993 and was followed by its sequel, From the Edge of the Sky, in 1999. Despite suffering from Alzheimer's Disease in the late-1990s, Shadbolt produced two more books, including Dove on the Waters (1997), which won a Montana Book Award that year, and Selected Stories (1998).
In 1989 Shadbolt was appointed a CBE for service to literature; a year later he received the NZ 1990 Commemoration Medal for services to New Zealand, and in 1997 was awarded an honorary doctorate in literature from Auckland University.
Literary awards and accolades heaped on Shadbolt for his works include: The New Zealand Book Award (1981), the James Wattie Award (1978, 1981 and 1987), the Katherine Mansfield Memorial Fellowship (1998) and Memorial Award (1963, 1995), the Burns Fellowship (1963) and the Scholarship in Letters (1959, 1970 and 1982).
His novels have been awarded the New Zealand book of the year award four times and he is the only New Zealander to have won the Katherine Mansfield Short Story Award three times.
Shadbolt was also inducted into the Waitakere City Walkway of Fame in 2000 for his contribution to New Zealand. In 2002 came the AW Reed Lifetime Achievement Award for developing an impressive and well-respected publishing history, and encouraging and assisting many of New Zealand's foremost writers.
Shadbolt himself pinned his success to the influence of renowned author Katherine Mansfield. "She couldn't help but be an influence. There were so few other New Zealand writers at the time. I discovered her [writing] at the age of 20 - and her magic remains."