James McNeish, novelist and biographer, is the author of some twenty- five books and plays. His reputation was established overseas with Fire under the Ashes (1965), a biography of the anti-Mafia reformer Danilo Dolci with whom he worked in Sicily.
His novels include Mackenzie and Lovelock, nominated for the 1986 Booker Prize. His themes embrace justice (The Crime of Huey Dunstan), polemic (The Mask of Sanity: the Bain Murders) and focus on the place where personal morality and politics meet. His multiple biography Dance of the Peacocks (2003) has become a standard work in the literature of expatriatism.
McNeish has been called ‘the wild card in New Zealand literature’. He says, ‘I’ve always been an outsider, and am quite comfortable with that.’ He lives in Wellington and was knighted for services to literature in 2011. Photo by Gil Hanly.