Hawes, Peter

Hawes, Peter



In Brief

Peter Hawes was a playwright, scriptwriter, and novelist. He worked variously as a researcher, a journalist, an actor, and as a scriptwriter for various television series. He also wrote a number of plays and published writing for children. While living in Barcelona he wrote a bestselling novel in Spanish, La Hoguera - The Bonfire (1974), which was about the Spanish inquisition. In 1995 Hawes published his first novel in English, Tasman’s Lay, an inventive and irreverent account of Abel Tasman’s discovery of New Zealand.

Hawes, Peter (1947–2018), was a playwright, scriptwriter and novelist. He was born in Westport and educated at University of Canterbury (BA 1969), then working as a television reporter and travelling to Spain. He lived there for four years and wrote—in Spanish (with the help of a translator who won a literary award for the project) —a best-selling novel about the Spanish Inquisition: La Hoguera (The Bonfire), published in 1974.

Returning to New Zealand in 1975, he resumed work for television, as a researcher and journalist, and as a scriptwriter for various series, including ‘A Week of It’, ‘Fraggle Rock’, ‘Yours for the Asking’ and ‘Against the Law’.

In the early 1980s he began to write for the stage, quickly producing a string of absurdist plays: ‘Alf’s General Theory of Relativity’ (first professional performance at the Court Theatre, 1981), ‘Ptolemy’s Dip’ (Court, 1982) and ‘Armageddon Revisited’ (Mercury, 1983).

Closer to realism (but still full of surprises) are ‘Goldie: A Good Joke’, a portrait of the early New Zealand painter (Downstage, 1987), ‘1946 The Boat Train’, which examines the effect of the World War 2 on the lives of four women (Christchurch Arts Network, 1991) and ‘Aunt Daisy’ (Downstage, 1989), a portrait of the New Zealand radio personality of the 1950s, with music by 6 Volts. ‘The 1944 Olympic Games’ (one-act) remains unperformed, as do two full-length plays, ‘A Higher Form of Killing’ (about Ernest Rutherford) and ‘The Inquisition Dies’ (developed from material in La Hoguera).

In 1995 Hawes published his first novel in English, Tasman’s Lay, an inventive and irreverent account of Abel Tasman’s discovery of New Zealand. This was quickly followed by Leapfrog with Unicorns (1996), a satirical work based on material gathered in the mid-1980s, when he was the associate director for a Barry Barclay film (The Neglected Miracle), about the ways in which multinational corporations control the world’s food resources, to the detriment of many third-world economies.

On the evidence of his novels and plays, Hawes emerges as perhaps New Zealand’s foremost current exponent of the comedy of ideas. But, always willing to diversify, he has also turned his hand from time to time to children’s books and to acting (in both his own and others’ plays).

Published in 1999 by Random House, Inca Girls Aren't Easy: Thirteen stories, twelve of which are true, was released under the pseudonym, W P Hearst.

The Dream of Nikau Jam was published in 2000 by Random House.

Hawes's novel Royce, Royce, the People's Choice was published by Random House in 2002, and released as an e-book by Random House NZ in 2013. Margie Thomson reviewed the book on its release for the NZ Herald, writing 'Hawes' language is always colourful, as effortlessly evocative as a well-oiled yarnspinner holding court at the pub.'

Peter Hawes passed away on 29 October 2018.


Updated January 2017.