Small slice of Booker prize

ALEXIA JOHNSTON
Last updated 05:00 12/02/2014
Colin Townsend
MYTCHALL BRANSGROVE/ FAIRFAX NZ
SPECIAL MENTION: Colin Townsend has received an acknowledgment in The Luminaries, the latest Man Booker Prize winner. Author Eleanor Catton said she owed a ‘‘debt of inspiration’’ to Mr Townsend for his research on the Hokitika prison, which she used as background for her book.

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Timaru author Colin Townsend can claim a little of the latest Man Booker Prize for himself - sort of.

And it took a mate across the ditch to recognise the fact.

"I got an email from a mate in Australia saying they just finished reading this book, The Luminaries . . . and the author [Eleanor Catton] made mention that she owes a debt to me for my book Misery Hill [which] inspired her.

"I thought 'hello, what's going on here?"'

Townsend, who had heard of the book but not yet read it, purchased a copy of it yesterday to "make sure his mate wasn't having him on".

"In the acknowledgment page . . . there I am."

The page reads "This book is not a factual account by any means; however I owe a debt of inspiration to Colin Townsend's account of the Seaview prison, Misery Hill . . ."

"I thought ‘well, all right'," Townsend said.

"I was quite flabbergasted that somehow she thought my book was helpful in her book and, as I say, ended up getting [the Man Booker] prize."

Catton, a New Zealander, won the prize in October last year, making her the youngest person to win the sought-after award.

Townsend wrote his book, Misery Hill, in 1998.

"Many moons ago I was with the justice department on the West Coast and I heard about the prison that used to be in Hokitika.

"When I got there nobody could tell me where it was. I was given three locations so I became a bit curious. I started to research it."

Then some "bright spark" suggested Townsend turn his research material into a book, he said.

"With the help of a computer and spellcheck I gave it a go and that was the end result."

It was the first book he wrote. He later added to his writing accomplishments with books for the Timaru Multiple Sclerosis Society and Timaru Hospital Radio.

He also wrote a book called Gallipoli 1915, which pays tribute to the soldiers who were there.

However, it is his book Misery Hill, which has been most successful, with it still selling regularly in Hokitika. It can also claim a piece of stardom.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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