Awesome value and in time for Christmas

November 29, 2009
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The World’s Fastest Indian, by Roger Donaldson (Random House NZ, RRP $55)

He’s a Kiwi icon and a good southern bloke but there are probably a lot of us who still don’t know as much about Burt Munro as we really should.

Munro was a bit of a maverick: he had a love of speed (and was quite fond of the ladies, too, from all accounts) and a real passion for old motorbikes.

He took that passion and turned it into a story that in reality was far more exciting and uplifting than anything a room full of Hollywood screenwriters could ever invent.

Roger Donaldson’s movie made the man himself a bit of a household name as he should be but beyond the movie, there is far more to the Burt Munro story.

Its probably fair to say that here in the south we have taken his achievements for granted.

However, Donaldson saw just how special he was when he made his documentary Offerings to the God of Speed (Munro’s pet name for his broken bike parts) in 1971. It was then he decided he wanted to make a movie about the life of this extraordinary man. But it would be another 34 years before that vision finally became a reality in the form of The World’s Fastest Indian, a movie that took just one small section of Munro’s story and brought it to the big screen.

The result was a fantastic movie that showed the world (including New Zealand) that we had something to be proud of.

Making the documentary and film meant Donaldson collected a vast array of material over those 30-odd years: photos, news clippings, interviews and memories. Add to that the masses of information from scrapbooks of the Munro family and you have something almost as special as Burt himself.

The book is a scrapbook of his life, complete with photos from his trips to Bonneville, transcripts of his interviews with Donaldson delivered word-for-word so we can get to experience Munro in his own words, snapshots of his life here in Invercargill and much, much more.

Subtitled a scrapbook of his life, it’s packed with insights into the life of the man behind the movie, Invercargill’s original boy racer.

The end result is something that feels incredibly personal, and incredibly special: it really is like looking through the family photo album and it’s easy to see that the whole process of putting together the book was a labour of love for Donaldson.

It also comes with a bonus DVD that has the Offerings to the God of Speed documentary, a Munro interview, deleted scenes and an on-the-set feature from The World’s Fastest Indian movie.

At $55, this is excellent value and I’d have happily paid more than this for the book by itself.

If you’re looking for Christmas present ideas, I reckon this one’s a cracker.

Jillian Allison-Aitken

I come from the other land down under, where men are men, and sheep are nervous. I'm a sub-editor and in the past have been a proof-reader, news editor and web editor. I am also an ex-columnist, and book and software reviewer for the local daily newspaper.I still read. A lot. And surf the web. Also a lot.You'll find a little about both of those pastimes here, and on By George.

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