Author wants to make sure “they don’t just fade away”
21 November 2017
Palmerston North-based author Mike Ledingham hopes his new novel about old army soldiers struggling to survive will help get more people to read.
‘They Don’t Just Fade Away’ is Mike Ledingham’s third book, following ‘Once a Grunt’ and ‘Always a Grunt’. Whereas the first two books were made up of short stories from army and civvy life, his new one is a full-length novel.
Mike, a former SAS and NZ Infantry soldier who is now based in Palmerston North after living in Featherston, draws on a collection of his own life and stories from others he has known, what they have done and what they have told him about.
“Over the past four or five years I’ve learnt my trade and learnt how to link things together; and learnt how to be patient and let things happen. So, I am not trying to rush it to finish it,” Mike says, when describing his writing journey.
“It was hard for me, because I like doing things tomorrow. I like to finish things. If I get a job, I like to do it quickly.”
The novel tells the story is about two old guys. One of them gets into trouble and his former army mates help him out.
“He did a runner down to his old mate on the West Coast, and I have just used things I have heard and seen or been told about and just built those into a story.”
However, his book also shines a light on the treatment not only of old soldiers but also vulnerable elderly people, and how they can fight back.
Mike said he drew on his experiences working in an old people’s home in Australia and with the disabled in New Zealand.
“I know there are some people who take advantage of the elderly people, so I’m just trying to bring a little bit of attention to that, you know.”
At the South East Asian Veterans Affairs Reunion in Rotorua in November, the old soldiers were talking about things - medical stuff - and how they can help each other.
“One of the things that came out is that if you know someone is a bit down, go and talk to them to see what you can do.”
The main character Bill, you can see the strength of character; the strength of mind that the army built into him, said Mike.
“A lot of the guys are like that. They make their own decisions and try to take something through to the finish. Then they go to their mates for help.”
The novel is set in a number of areas in New Zealand, with the focus mostly on Northland and the West Coast, Mike has an affiliation for those areas.
He lived up North on a farm in the 1960s, and when he got out of the army, he and his family lived in Whangarei for 15 years.
When he came back from his first trip overseas, he spent a few years with the 2nd Canterbury, Nelson, Marlborough and West Coast, and would go over to the West Coast to do training weekends.
“I was always struck by the characters we met there – there were some cool characters there. I always liked that area.”
Most of the feedback from readers of his books was good, with people saying: “I cracked up when I read your story; I knew who that was”.
Some of the things that happened were true and the guys know who did it, but Mike hasn’t used their names.
“What I have struck is that people who don’t read a lot will read my stories and enjoy them, so hopefully we can continue in that vein and get more people reading,” Mike says.
They Don’t Fade Away will be launched on in Featherston on 26 November at:
11 am-noon at Featherston RSA, 57 Fox St, Rimutaka Hill, Featherston 5710
With an author reception at 4.30 pm at Fareham House in Fareham House, 80 Underhill Rd, Rimutaka Hill, Featherston 5710
For more information, contact BMS Books Ltd