Peter Wells (writer)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Peter Wells

Peter Wells
Wells in 2013
BornPeter Northe Wells
(1950-02-08)8 February 1950
Died (aged 69)
Auckland, New Zealand
NationalityNew Zealander
Notable awardsMember of the New Zealand Order of Merit

Peter Northe Wells MNZM (8 February 1950 – 18 February 2019) was a New Zealand writer, filmmaker, and historian.[1] He was mainly known for his fiction, but also explored his interest in gay and historical themes in a number of expressive drama and documentary films from the 1980s onwards.



Wells's first feature film was Desperate Remedies (1993), co-directed with Stewart Main.[2] This take on New Zealand's colonial beginnings was selected to screen at the Cannes Film Festival, and represented an expressionistic alternative to the "man alone" machismo that dominated New Zealand film in the 1970s and 80s.[3][4]


In the years that followed, Wells concentrated on developing his writing career. His short stories and novels have been widely praised. In 1996 he collaborated with theatre director Colin McColl on an operatic dramatization of Katherine Mansfield's Wellington stories, commissioned for the NZ International Festival of the Arts. Two short stories from his 1991 collection Dangerous Desires have been filmed to date: Of Memory & Desire, the tale of a Japanese couple travelling around New Zealand, was adapted by Niki Caro as her first feature film in 1997. The same year, working from a Wells script, Stewart Main directed 1960s coming of age story One of THEM! as an hour-long short.[5]

In 1998, with Stephanie Johnson, he founded the Auckland Writers Festival, and in 2016 he founded a festival to promote LGBTQI writers.[6][7]

Honours and awards[edit]

Wells's 2003 novel Iridescence was a runner-up in the fiction category of the Montana New Zealand Book Awards and a finalist in the 2005 Tasmania Pacific Fiction Prize.[8] In the 2006 New Year Honours, Wells was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to literature and film.[9] He was awarded the Michael King Fellowship in 2011.

In 2009 Wells was awarded a New Zealand non-fiction literary prize, convened by CLL (Copyright Licensing Ltd) to write a series of biographical essays on William Colenso, entitled The Hungry Heart: The Enquiring Mind. The book “will not be a conventional biography, but an essay series that bears directly on the episodes of heartbreak, loneliness, and sometimes horror that chequered the life of this gifted renaissance man – printer, writer, botanist, explorer, ex-missionary and intellectual maverick”.[8]

Personal life[edit]

Wells, who was gay, was married to the writer Douglas Lloyd Jenkins.[10][7] Wells died from prostate cancer at Mercy Hospice in Auckland on 18 February 2019.[11]



  • Dangerous Desires. Reed Books. 1991. ISBN 9780790002415. OCLC 939604844.
    • Short story collection. Won 1992 NZ Book Award for Fiction and 1992 PEN (NZ) Best First Book in Prose Award.[12]
    • The feature film Memory and Desire (1997) directed by Niki Caro, was based on Wells' short story "Of Memory and Desire" in this collection.[13][14]
  • The Duration of a Kiss. Secker & Warburg. 1994. ISBN 9780790003580. OCLC 939607402.
  • Boy Overboard. Vintage. 1997. ISBN 9781869413194. OCLC 38048570.
  • One of them!. Vintage. 1997. ISBN 9781869413354. OCLC 38587195.
  • Best Mates: Gay Writing in Aotearoa New Zealand (1997) Edited by Peter Wells and Rex Pilgrim. Auckland: Reed
  • Frock Attack! Wig Wars!: Strategic Camp in Desperate Remedies (1997) Auckland: Centre for Film, Television and Media Studies, University of Auckland
  • Long Loop Home: a memoir (2001) Auckland: Vintage. Won the Biography Category of the 2002 Montana NZ Book Awards
  • Iridescence (2003) Auckland: Vintage. Runner-up for the 2004 Deutz Medal for Fiction and shortlisted for the Tasmania Pacific Fiction Prize 2005
  • On Going to the Movies (2005) Series editor Lloyd Jones. Wellington: Four Winds Press
  • The Cat's Whiskers: New Zealand Writers on Cats (2005) Edited by Peter Wells. Auckland: Vintage
  • Lucky Bastard (2007) Auckland: Random House
  • The Hungry Heart (2012) Auckland: Random House
  • Little Joker Sings (2013) Auckland: Random House
  • Journey to a Hanging (2014) Auckland: Random House
  • Dear Oliver: Uncovering a Pākehā History (2018) Massey University Press[15]

Filmography and videography[edit]

  • Foolish Things (1980)
  • Little Queen (1984)
  • Jewel's Darl (1985)
  • My First Suit (1985)
  • Newest City on the Globe: Art Deco Napier (1985). Auckland: Moving Image Centre.
  • Newest City on the Globe (1985). Written and directed by Peter Wells. Produced and edited by Stewart Main. Auckland: TVNZ.
  • A Death in the Family. Film for television with Stewart Main.
  • Drama on Film. Wellington: New Zealand Film Commission.
  • The Mighty Civic (1988) Documentary co-directed by Wells and Stewart Main. Wellington: New Zealand Film Commission.[16]
  • A Taste of Kiwi (1990)
  • Desperate Remedies (1993). Written by Wells and co-directed by Wells and Main. Isambard Productions.
  • Naughty Little Peeptoe, with Garth Maxwell.
  • One of Them Written by Wells and directed by Main.[5]
  • Georgie Girl (2001)[17]


  • Temples of Wonder Installation at the Hawkes Bay Museum, Napier.[18]


  1. ^ Herkt, David. "No more secrets: Peter Wells opens up about his sexuality and his uncertain future". Stuff. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  2. ^ Taonga, New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage Te Manatu. "5. – Feature film – Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand". Retrieved 18 February 2019.[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ King, Richard (5 November 2008). "A Perspective on Desperate Remedies". Retrieved 18 February 2019.
  4. ^ Wong, Tim (25 November 2016). "A Remedy for History". Pantograph Punch. Retrieved 18 February 2019.
  5. ^ a b Screen, NZ On. "One of Them! | Television | NZ On Screen". Retrieved 18 February 2019.
  6. ^ "Same Same But Different NZ". Same Same But Different NZ. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  7. ^ a b "Award-winning writer, filmmaker Peter Wells dies". Radio NZ. 18 February 2019. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  8. ^ a b Herkt, David (18 February 2019). "Obituary: Author Peter Wells". Stuff. Stuff Limited. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  9. ^ "New Year Honours List 2006". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. New Zealand Government. 31 December 2005. Retrieved 18 February 2019.
  10. ^ "Peter Wells, writer and filmmaker who gave literary voice to gay and lesbian New Zealanders, dies aged 69". TVNZ. 18 February 2018. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  11. ^ Chumko, Andre (18 February 2019). "Decorated Kiwi author, playwright and filmmaker Peter Wells MNZM dies". Stuff Limited. Retrieved 18 February 2019.
  12. ^ "Peter Wells". Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  13. ^ Elley, Derek. "Memory & Desire". Variety. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  14. ^ "Memory and Desire". NZ on Screen. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  15. ^ "Wells, Peter". New Zealand Book Council. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  16. ^ "Civic Theatre Foyer". New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage Te Manatū Taonga. 2009. Retrieved 18 February 2019. In the 1980s Auckland's grand Civic Theatre was deteriorating and threatened with demolition. This inspired the local writer Peter Wells to make The mighty Civic, a film about its place in the city's cultural history, which captured the dream-like qualities of the theatre's spaces and helped to galvanise public support for its retention.
  17. ^ "Peter Wells". NZ on Screen. Retrieved 19 February 2019.
  18. ^ "Temples of Wonder - Peter Wells Returns to Napier". Art New Zealand. Retrieved 19 February 2019.

External links[edit]