Murder mysteries — and the risks

Bainbridge offered up a snapshot of his work when he spoke in
Cambridge

Premier New Zealand investigative and true crime author Scott Bainbridge popped into Cambridge Library recently to talk books and offer a hint at what’s yet to come.

His eager audience left more than an hour later, as keen as ever on his material and with a new-found regard for the risks writing real crime stories attracts for those willing to scrutinise some of society’s murkier characters.

Te Awamutu born and raised, Scott lives in Hamilton.  His most recently published works, ‘New Zealand Mysteries’ and ‘The Missing Files’, add to a body of work that has gripped readers since his first book, ‘Without a Trace: On the Trail of New Zealand Missing Persons’, came out in 2005, with ‘Still Missing: More Unsolved Missing Person Cases in New Zealand’ following in 2008.

A television series on his missing cases ran about a decade ago.

Scott’s third book in 2010, ‘Shot in the Dark: Unsolved New Zealand Murders from the 1920s and ‘30s’, centred on his interest in old-time gangsters, crooks and scallywags.  There were a couple of others between those and the new books, rollicking reads filled with machine-gun murders and even more gangsters.

“I was fascinated then, and I still am now.”

Scott walked his audience through some of the cases he has written about, most of them made possible through the unique access he has to police files.  That helps, he said, but what helps more is the fact people are willing to talk to him “because I’m not a police officer”.

Writing about real crime comes with some risk, and he alluded to some hairy moments.  One involved a thinly-veiled threat to a young family member from a well-dressed man he met up with in a Hamilton café to discuss a case.

A couple of years ago, Scott decided to update historical cases in ‘The Missing Files’.  “A lot had happened … progress had been made on some of the cases I wrote about earlier. So, I decided to amalgamate the information into a new book.” Those include the case of a missing child in 1964 Hamilton and a Scout leader who went missing in the Tararua Range in 1973.

“I was at a loose end after that, and it was suggested I write about Kiwi … that led to the book, ‘New Zealand Mysteries’,” he said.  It includes some of the country’s head-scratching unsolved mysteries and unexplained happenings.  There are tales of strange UFO sightings, crop circles near Ngātea, and stories of a giant race of people said to have lived in New Zealand.

His future projects include more books, podcasts and potentially more television series.

It is all grist to the mill for Scott, whose day job is vastly different.

He works for the NZTA in a job he says keeps him sufficiently solvent to keep on writing.  He remembers being the lad who was always captivated by the crime stories in the Sunday papers he would ride to get for his dad.

“I was fascinated then, and I still am now.”

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