Murder mystery novel has Balclutha setting


Award-winning novelist and ex-Clutha resident Rob (RWR) McDonald paid tribute to the area he grew up in in his book The Nancys.

The story follows Tippy Chan, who is 11 and lives in Riverstone, a small town in a fictional South Otago.

Tippy, her uncle Pike and his boyfriend Devon try to solve the mystery of her teacher’s murder.

“I chose to model my fictional town on Balclutha as I wanted to have somewhere to reference but also a licence to change details if I needed to,” McDonald said.

“For example, the local paper, Riverstone Bulletin, is based on the old Clutha Leader offices that were on John and James Sts.

“This is where I grew up and have been back to every year.”

Now based in Melbourne, McDonald won the best first novel prize for his book The Nancys at the 10th anniversary Ngaio Marsh Awards in Christchurch in late October.

He was born in Balclutha, and grew up on a sheep and venison farm near Owaka.

“I think South Otago is beautiful and underrated,” he said.

“From the rolling green hills, to Clutha River, the coastline and our small towns it really is a very special place
— and a great setting. Ithas everything you could want in a book.”

Before writing The Nancys, McDonald had never even shown anyone his work.

“I always loved to write but it was something personal that I did. I had done a screen- writing course and had written two first-draft film scripts. Also I had written a novella which had a similar setting and was a police procedural.”

He had some advice for up-and-coming murder mystery authors.

“It is OK if you don’t know who the murderer is when you start. There are a lot of crime writers, including myself with The Nancys, who have this happen to them.

“I would also say learn the craft. That is something we all need to do and it is ongoing . . . And most of all, keep writing.”