Friday, 21 March 2008

Winging It

WINGING IT: The Adventures of Tim Wallis Neville Peat, Longacre, 135 pages, paperback, $24.99

“I don’t know of a single back country bloke who doesn’t respect Tim Wallis,” The speaker is Barry Crump but could be any New Zealander. Sir Tim Wallis has overcome many obstacles in his busy life. Despite several crashes, a broken back, a paralysed leg, business slumps and the attention of the Russian mafia, he has succeeded in turning his weekend hobby into a $30 million fortune, as well as creating a major tourist attraction with the NZ Fighter Pilots’ Museum and the regular Warbirds Over Wanaka display.

Neville Peat has adapted his best-selling biography, Hurricane Tim, into this junior edition with a taut text and a splendid range of photographs. Fact boxes provide background information on everything from deer farming to how Wallis used to hide American dollars in his leg-brace when visiting the rougher parts of Russia. The handsome appearance of this book is matched by its skilful writing. As well as recording Wallis’s sometimes explosive childhood adventures, it also provides an introduction to the early days of deer-stalking, helicopter deer-captures, deer farming and the “chopper wars”.

The range of Wallis’s business activities is remarkable; he even had his own “navy” of deer-refrigeration ships. His flying feats in planes and helicopters include a number of “don’t tell Mum” exploits. The building up of his historic warplanes collection adds to the exciting mix. This is the ideal book for people who think they don’t like reading. Who can put down a book where the first sentence is, “The day Tim Wallis broke his back, the lights went out in Queenstown.”?

Trevor Agnew

This review first appeared in The Press, Christchurch, New Zealand, on 3rd March 2007.

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