RIP Bert Hingley

Many authors and those in the literary art world are mourning as we mark the passing of publisher Bert Hingley. His funeral is today on the Central Coast north of Sydney.

Bert worked in the world of books as a reviewer and columnist until he was appointed publisher at Hodder & Stoughton NZ. His list won many awards and his bravery in publishing New Zealand fiction led to what we now describe as a ‘golden age’ of publishing in that genre.

He published new women writers such as Sue McCauley (Other Halves), Marilyn Duckworth, Joan Rosier Jones and Keri Hulme. Bert contracted The Bone People after two printings by the Wellington-based Spiral collective and repackaged the book before entering it in awards; it became the first New Zealand novel to win the coveted Booker Prize. His list also included seminal books on New Zealand social history and the environment. He also published picture books and novels for children.

There will be many tributes appearing – from NZSA we say, oh so sadly missed.

Bert and Cheryl Hingley

Stephen Stratford has an obituary here:

Joan Rosier Jones says: The news of the death of Bert Hingley will be a shock to many. In the 1980s Bert was editor at Hodder & Stoughton, Auckland, and he began the renaissance of fiction in the New Zealand market. The genre had been in the doldrums for some time, considered too challenging. But not for Bert Hingley. In particular he published women writers with notable publications – Kerry Hulme’s Booker Prize-winning, ‘The Bone People’ and the ground-breaking novel – ‘Other Halves’ by Sue McCauley and Joan Rosier-Jones’ ‘Cast Two Shadows’. As an editor he was wise and affable, a willing mentor, and probably the last one to take his authors on a long, boozy lunch.

He was an important part of many authors’ lives, not just as their publisher, but as a friend and bon vivant. It was therefore a blow to many, who included writers such as those mentioned above and Maurice Shadbolt, Michael King, Philip Temple and Lloyd Jones, when Bert decided to accept a position with Hodder & Stoughton, Australia. Most of his New Zealand authors made a point of visiting Bert and his wife, Cheryl, when visiting Sydney. They were both always hospitable and eager for news of the New Zealand literary scene. Bert Hingley will be sadly missed on both sides of the Tasman. Our condolences go out to Cheryl and their sons, Benjamin and Gabriel.

Bert Hingley waving goodbye, with Paul Donovan and Margaret Hamilton

NZSA CEO Jenny Nagle was fortunate to work with Bert: I worked with Bert Hingley at Hodder & Stoughton NZ from 1982-1987 and again at H & S Australia from 1989-1994. At the latter, I was lucky enough to have the office beside his. I remember the joke at the time Bert crossed the ditch that several small NZ vineyards would go bust when he left the country. In the NZ years, I was so proud to champion his NZ fiction and children’s publishing list to the educational market. I remember uplifting launches for Sue McCauley, Joan Rosier-Jones, Maurice Shadbolt, Marilyn Duckworth, and Russell Hayly and the moving celebration we had for Keri Hulme, MC’ed by Michael King when she won the Booker for The Bone People. Michael presented Keri with a greenstone taonga that he had been given, saying it had now come home – it was a spine-tingling moment. Bert’s NZ fiction list won many NZ awards and the Booker Prize.

Bert is legendary for perfecting the art of the publisher’s lunch and in Australia I would accompany him (as ‘marketing’) to these; quite regularly we were thrown out when they set the tables for dinner. In Sydney, I lived close by and Bert and Cheryl invited me to join in with NZ visitors – generous, lengthy occasions with wine and stories flowing freely. Once or twice someone overindulged and I remember a posse hunting Balmain in search of Sam Hunt – we eventually him found lying on a tombstone.

I remember Bert’s generosity, his bonhomie, his perceptive and entertaining wit and his love for Cheryl and the boys – one wedding anniversary he hired an opera singer to perform a surprise serenade from Cheryl’s favourite opera, under their bedroom balcony. Theirs was a great love story. This is an untimely death for one of life’s great characters, an inspired storyteller, someone who made a significant contribution to our literature and he is remembered with much warmth and affection. RIP.

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