On Easter Saturday, 20 April 2019, Petronella’s Gallery and Bookstore hosted Owen Marshall and his wife Jackie Jones. Owen read from his latest novel Pearly Gates. This novel about a small-town, South Island mayor has the locals wondering if it is a roman-à-clef. But that is not essential to the story. Owen Marshall is the king of characterisation and Pearly Gates is no different. The subtle workings of the rise and fall of Pat (Pearly) Gates gives this book a universal flavour in a beautiful, familiar setting. After the reading, who should walk past the shop but Graham Smith, mayor of the Mackenzie District (of which Lake Tekapo is a part). I dragged him in and introduced him as a real-life mayor to Owen Marshall. Mr Smith, bought the book and had it signed by the author but I have yet to hear if he liked it or not.
Only last year (2018) Owen Marshall also published a book of poetry. View from the South is a beautifully produced hardback book in which Marshall’s poetry is complemented by photos taken by his friend Grahame Sydney. The poetry starts with a prologue poem, titled South Island Prayer and the first sentence goes: “God Don’t let me die in Auckland.” The book certainly has a strong South Island voice, but with it comes a sense of humour that makes the poetry very accessible.After reading from both these works and more, Owen Marshall answered questions. I was in my own shop but I would have travelled for hours to listen to the thoughtful and interesting conversation between Marshall and the attendees. It certainly was a treat and honour to host him at Petronella’s.