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Interview: Tony Eyre talks about The Book Collector


Tony Eyre grew up in Auckland before moving to Dunedin in 1978. As a Chartered Accountant for over 50 years, he has had a particular interest in the creative sector, supporting arts practitioners and serving on the boards of various arts-related organisations.


Tony is a strong advocate of Dunedin as a UNESCO City of Literature and has been active in promoting the Dunedin Writer’s Walk, the Dunedin Writers and Readers Festival and is currently Chair of the Dunedin Athenaeum Library. Tony talks to NZ Booklovers.


Tell us a little about The Book Collector.

The Book Collector is a bibliomemoir of my lifetime love of reading, the books and authors that have touched me, and how they have shaped my passion for book collecting. It is a celebration of New Zealand literature as well as a great many of the world’s most celebrated writers. It is also a celebration of the second-hand book shop.


What inspired you to write this book?

Back in 2018, I was giving a talk in the Dunedin Athenaeum Library about Invercargill-born writer, Dan Davin and what his books meant to me. NZ author, Fiona Farrell, was present, and she casually said to me, “You should write it down.” I thought no more of it, but her words were somewhere stuck in my consciousness, and months later, the idea took flight.


What research was involved?

Naturally, as the book is a bibliomemoir, much is based on recall of memories of childhood and growing up, and the place of books and reading in those early years, particularly in Part One of the book. In Part Two, where book collecting comes to the fore, travelling around second-hand bookshops in New Zealand and overseas involved note-taking, reliance on memory of experiences, revisiting books I had read and collected over the years, and fact-checking.


What was your routine or process when writing this book?

I kept a notebook in which I planned the layout of chapters, jotted down extensive bullet points (brainstorming). My actual writing routine was haphazard, with work and other commitments often having to take priority. I preferred to work at night, mainly because that was when I was free, after a busy day. The weekends gave me more flexibility to write.


If a soundtrack were made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.

‘Love Between Friends’ and ‘Book of Love Poems’ from the original soundtrack for the movie,

84 Charing Cross Road’. The 1986 movie, based on the book of the same name and starring Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins, is a nostalgic story of the correspondence between a feisty New York writer and a London bookseller over two decades. The ultimate second-hand bookshop story!


What did you enjoy the most about writing The Book Collector?

The satisfaction of finding the right word, the right phrase to bring a paragraph to life and ultimately to be able to say, “I’m really happy with that chapter – it reads well.”


What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?

I can’t recall. Probably a reflective glass of wine. Finishing the book is just one of many milestones to be reached before the book finally reaches the bookshops.


What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?

The Australian classic, Naked Under Capricorn, by Olaf Ruhen, published by Angus & Robertson in 1958. It’s the story of the great Australian outback and the relationship between a white man, Davis Marriner, left for dead, naked, robbed and abandoned, and the Aborigines who come to his aid. Set in the Northern Territory around 1900, it’s an account of the establishment of a cattle station by Marriner, his dependence on the Aborigines’ knowledge of the country, and how their ancient way of life is gradually destroyed through their contact and dependence on the white man. The book is a favourite because it is a vivid and moving account of Aboriginal life and the issues it raises, which are just as relevant today, as Australia grapples with giving its First Peoples a constitutional voice.


What’s next on the agenda for you?

No definite plans. Hopefully, enjoying the success of The Book Collector over the next year or so!


Mary Egan Publishing



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