In a Time Machine to Eddie Herrick’s Fiordland Moose

Tony Orman talks to Anya Forest the author of a new vibrant book that brilliantly blends a slice of science fiction with Fiordland history.

Anya Forest has just written and self published a new book “Home from the Homer”. It’s an intriguing story of how the Williams family, en route to Milford Sound via the Homer tunnel, suddenly find themselves whisked back in time to the days of Eddie Herrick and his moose hunting when he shot two bull moose. Herrick was guided by the legendary hunting guide Jim Muir who even as a teenager was sought after as a guide by the country’s top deerstalkers.

In the book, via the time machine scenario Fiordland has the family trapped. Children Zoe and Seth are separated from their parents and must reach Milford Sound in an attempt to escape the past.

But the reality is they are trapped in the past, so in their journey they inevitably and fortuitously cross paths with not only Eddie Herrick, his wife Ethne, Jim Muir, but a surveyor John Christie establishing the line of the Milford Road, “Young” Bob Murrell, even the Lost Tribe of Fiordland, Richard Henry and a few other historical figures.

Adventure abounds such as an encounter with the giant Haast eagle, the predator of moa, crossing torrent like rivers and more. It is a book innovative in its concept, extremely well written and quite enthralling. It says it’s “for ages 10 to 14 and adults who enjoy a good yarn.” I wondered if a ten year old was somewhat young for such a book of some 350 pages.

So I exchanged some questions and answers with Anya.

You say book is aimed at 10 year old and up. In retrospect, would you think 10 year old would be ok. Perhaps more 12 or 13?

Anya:- Yes, perhaps 12-13 years, although I had a range of children read the book in draft from ages 10-15 and adults as well. Of course, it depends on the children’s reading age rather than their chronological age. Two 10 year olds who read it in draft could read it with no problems; another could read it, but asked his parents for help with a couple of words. All 12 year olds have read the book with no problems.

Question: What generated the idea of the book?

Anya:- I’ve been fascinated by moose since I was a child, and I’ve always wanted to write about Fiordland, and about the Milford Road. Then I thought of the idea of a modern day family going back in time to meet the people and animals that make the area so special. I was staying with gundog friends in Central Otago and leaving for Fiordland the next day, to drive the Milford Road again, see the Homer Tunnel and have a look around at possible settings for my book. A friend of my hosts called in unexpectedly, heard I was going to Fiordland, and started reminiscing about hunting in Fiordland back in the day and seeing moose browsing damage. I was absolutely riveted, and then read Ray Tinsley’s books The Call of the Wapiti and The Call of the Moose. Because I wanted to include the theme of friendship in my book, I particularly enjoyed reading about Jim Muir, and Eddie and Ethne Herrick. I thought if I could find their families, and learn more, I might be able to include them in my book. More ideas grew from there!

Question: So you tracked down those families?

Anya:- Yes. After I’d read Ray Tinsley’s books I located the Herrick and Muir Families to find out more. I am deeply appreciative to both families for their encouragement and assistance, together with the Mackenzie and Murrell Families and the Hollyford Trustees. My story was made so much more authentic and detailed because of the families’ involvement, and the inclusion of some fantastic historic photographs.

Question: While the book is fiction, it has a good deal of factual history in it from talking to the families and research?

Anya:- Yes that’s right. As a result, although my story is fiction, it also weaves in a large amount of historical fact.

Question:- It’s quite remarkable that the book will undoubtedly appeal to children as well as adults.

Anya:- When I started writing I intended to write a children’s book, but I never expected to learn so much along the way on an adult level. This has meant my book also appeals to an adult audience.

Question: It must’ve been an interesting journey for you in researching the historical side?

Anya:- Yes. I found as it went along I was gaining a completely different perspective on Fiordland, and what it means to face challenges – and learned a fair bit about hunting too! For instance Eddie Herrick as well as being an exceptional hunter, also had a detailed knowledge of native plants and bird life, and this has also been incorporated into my book. So, the “few pages” I originally mentioned to the Muir and Herrick Families grew into a chapter, and then another, and then one of the main storylines!

And their characters began to emerge. By all accounts Jim Muir and Eddie and Ethne Herrick had wonderful senses of humour, so there were more than a few laughs when the families were reminiscing.

It was also very special for me to be able to read and learn about Ethne Herrick and the early Gazette article referring to her “particularly brilliant” stalking ability, when several of the earlier hunting books focused more on Eddie Herrick and Jim Muir. Major Wilson noted in his book “My Stalking Memories” that, when hunting, “Mrs Herrick made it clear she required no favours…and came through splendidly, better than some men stalkers.” Having studied various leaderboards and trophy lists in my research has made me more aware than ever of Eddie Herrick’s meticulous planning and enviable hunting records, and anecdotes abound of Jim Muir’s incredible guiding ability, speed and endurance. Three legendary hunters and special people, who are now so real to me.

Question: Where do you live?

Anya:- At the moment we’re based in Auckland, but as we used to live in the South Island, and on Stewart Island, we try to head south regularly to escape the rat race!

Question:- No doubt you’ll be keen to get to Fiordland some more?

Anya:- The research I have done and the people I’ve met and learned about have definitely given me a new appreciation of Fiordland. I’m looking forward to heading back there this summer and visiting a few of the places that are in my book, now with knowledge of their history. Herrick Creek and the Seaforth River and Murrell’s Grand View House are included on the list!

Footnote:- “Home from the Homer” by Anya Forest, Price $34.99. Self published. Available in bookshops.
Enquiries to info@anyaforest.com

My comments are:- “Anya Forest’s writing style seems effortless as she captures the predicaments, personalities and atmospheres. The book is very well produced enhanced by photos of the personalities of yesteryear and the wildlife. Anya Forest obviously revels in the outdoors and the bush and her enthusiasm and passion and sensitive story telling, make it a wonderful book.

The book is stocked by good book sellers such as Paper Plus. If not give them details of contact with Anya as above and get a copy. Highly recommended for both youngsters and adults.”

Tony Orman – Hunting & Outdoor Writer

Parts of this interview and review were published in New Zealand Guns & Hunting (May/June 2019, Issue #172)
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