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Homegrown Books: Searching for Charlie

Updated: Dec 5, 2020

Dione Jones recommends Searching for Charlie by Tom Scott - Upstart Press, 2020


Tom Scott is a satirist, newspaper columnist and cartoonist, who has won numerous awards for his work and has enjoyed a long and distinguished career annoying politicians.

He has written plays and screen plays as well as working as a journalist and, in 2006, was appointed Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services as a writer, journalist and illustrator.


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The story of Charles Upham, VC and Bar, is now the stuff of New Zealand legend, originally brought to life in 1957 by Ken Sandford's biography The Mark of the Lion. Tom Scott's book is not just biography but also describes how and why he wrote the book - an attempt to determine the complex character of New Zealand's most decorated soldier. The book becomes a travelogue as Tom Scott visits the places where Upham went: the battlefields of WW2 where both Upham and the New Zealand division so excelled, the places where he was a prisoner of war and the South Island farmland he loved so much. Scott's style is easy to read and inevitably includes humour. Scott tracked down and interviewed Upham's neighbours and daughters and those friends and enemies still living. He searched out memorabilia and read letters, reports, diaries, summations and articles.

A fair-minded captain, who spoke straight to the point, it was Upham's personal fearlessness which made him such a danger to the enemy - especially on the battlefield with a knapsack of grenades. Upham had a glacial stare which could terrify friends and enemies alike. But he truly hated the publicity his incrediable bravery brought him. His daughters had no idea he was a war hero until they heard about it at school. At home, he was community-minded, generous and collected old horses that he felt should not be destroyed.

Tom Scott has woven a fascinating story in his search for the man behind the legend.

Searching for Charlie is available from Upstart Press or your local bookshop.

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