April 13, 2011

You can tell this book by its cover

A Farmer’s Affair
The Legend of the Land Rover Icon
Duncan Munro
306 pages, $56
ISBN 978-0-473-17894-9

For several months before I was able to borrow a copy of this self-published title, I'd been hearing praise from people who know the author. I must have been asked, expectantly, a dozen times if I'd seen the book and what I thought, often with the enthusiastic rider, “you’ll really like it”. So I’m feeling like a right bastard to be sitting here and wondering what the fuss was about? I thought it indulgent, poorly written, lacking research and urgently in need of a good edit. It tested my resolve to read it cover-to-cover – and I really like Land Rovers. PublishMe of New Plymouth did an excellent job with the production; this is a handsome volume once past that dreary cover design that, perhaps, says something about much of the content within. However, there are some good and interesting photos, well reproduced. If you do buy a copy, skip directly to Chapter 14, which is about recovery. Mr Munro is an experienced off roader; he's at his best here and the chapter contains lots of useful information. 
Phil Hanson

Update: The author has responded, three times, in the comments below.

4wdNewz has also looked at these books:


  1. I admire Duncan for having the guts and gumption to produce his book. Good on you, Duncan! I'd have some respect for your opinion if you'd got off your arse and done something like this rather than just sitting there and slagging off other people's efforts.

  2. All books, magazines and websites have their supporters and detractors.
    I knew that not everyone would like my book - that’s life. There are some who really enjoy the anecdotal stories but will probably get lost in Chapter 14 on recovery. I am glad you recommend that chapter.
    I take full responsibility for the total book content and design (good reasons for those choices) as I self-published the book.
    I suggest people Google: A Farmer’s Affair The Legend of the Land Rover Icon, and check out the reviews of: PublishMe, 4x4 Action magazine, NZ4WD magazine and Car Mag Reviews website. There are similar good reviews in two lifestyle magazines: Valley Voice and Rural Living. It is to be reviewed in the Waikato Times and the Land Rover Owner International about now, so board coverage of comments are coming through. Some are already planning to keep this book as a collectors book, which is very complimentary.
    After looking at the range of reviews, you may get a better understanding if this book is for you or not. I have many comments back that are at the opposite scale of Phil’s, each to their own.

    Duncan Munro

  3. I'm glad Duncan responded. I agree with everything he says, and the comments of Anonymous. This is a great book, a must-have book and it's completely beyond me why you would think otherwise. I, for one, will not be reading your blogs any more.

  4. What book were you reading? The book by Duncan Munroe that I read was a fully professional publication packed with well written stories and anecdotes. Duncan is a true gentleman and your so called review disgusts me.

  5. Landrovers are K-rap so it followes that anything about them is K-rap. Who cares get over it.

  6. I just have to say something here. I don't like anonymous postings, but I'm going to have hide behind a pseudonym myself as I am an active Land Rover enthusiast, have met Duncan Munro, been to his farm and our paths may well cross again, in which case I would prefer to avoid unpleasantness. I agree that Duncan is a gentleman and a highly experienced off roader who possesses huge knowledge and expertise; but these attributes do not make him an author and I agree with everything in the review. The book is just not very good and I wish the posters who have jumped in to laud Ducan's efforts as a writer would take off their rose coloured glasses and take an objective look at the book.

  7. It is a pity that some people think it is their duty to jump in and be defensive on the Mr Monroe's behalf. Book reviews come in all shades and are generally not personal, and this certainly was not a personal attack. From his comments I see he has broad enough shoulders to take it. Those who chimed in as his defenders need not have. It is a mark of Mr Hanson's openness that he has chosen to publish all the comments.

    Anon. The anonymous poster on the 13th and 14th April appears to have an axe to grind, was bored and decided to spread some unpleasantness, and/or is just an unpleasant person who seems to see that it is their right to spread litter.

    I have not got round to reading the book yet but I will. As a local production it will be useful to retain alongside various local history books. Such things add value and colour to our landscape. Many locally published books I have now are also quite poorly produced, but are all interesting in their way.

  8. :) Let us keep life in perspective.
    This book is just a story based around rural farming life, Land Rovers and their owners’ stories, off-road and in New Zealand. There are massively more important issues in the world that concern me more than what individuals’ think of my book. However a healthy debate on the book could possible help some people make an informed choice as where to buy or not, so I will exercise a right of reply.

    As I started to write the book I received very good advice from four very difference sources – highly regarded by the wider community and me. Quite some critiquing took place by a multi-award winning author, a soon to become author, someone who has been in the publishing business for over 20 years and my wife - none with tainted glasses. They challenged me on
    · The ownership of the style, the content and the presentation of the book.
    · The balance of the book.
    · The readability, flow and presentation of the book.
    · And don’t take for granted that non-Land Rover or non-4WDer readers will understand points. What do you mean by that?
    Believe me when you start to write a book you are very conscious of what people will think, and you get some positives and negatives from day one and you know right from then some will not like your book.

    Since people have bought the book, I have received good reports from all over New Zealand. I have received email replies within days of them getting the book saying they couldn’t put it down, liked (loved) it and wanted to let me know. Many are people who we don’t know each other from a bar of soap. Since (last Anon) you know me, I am quite happy to show the emails to you.

    Over the last few days I have talked to four different sources about me now getting two negative responses. A highly respected lady who is a retired high school English teacher married to a Series 3 Land Rover owning farmer, a highly respected lady who is a retired primary school teacher and home schooler, her husband (a friend) has just given his book to his friend and is getting a replacement book, and a highly respected owner editor of the local Pohutukawa Coast Times weekly newspaper. They can’t understand the negativity but we all realize that there are different books for different people and such will be the case for this book.

    However a few months ago I had to plead - ‘GUILTY’. In the book I referred to myself as more of a storyteller than anything. However the evidence is out in the public domain in a very solid form. I have
    · Written a story of approx. 66,000 words and put them in a book.
    · Collected and complied many photos and put them in that book.
    · Chosen a range of cartoons that depicts the farming scene consistent for that book.
    · Listened to and taken note of very good advice, but not always done it their way.
    · Designed the book.
    · Hire very good layout, publishing and printing expertise.
    · Paid all the bills, taken all responsibility and retained ownership.

    The evidence is so overwhelming that I cannot plea ‘not guilty’ to being an ‘author’.
    The English language declares me ‘GUILTY’ of being one.
    · A writer of a book
    · Originator or creator.

    Dictionaries are quite clear. Last Anon, I take it what you mean is that I am not a good author or possibly am a bad author and possibly others have poor taste.

    Anyway, the English language declares me an author, I see myself as a ‘storyteller’ and it’s the people who will enjoy and get something from the book that I am looking to reach and they probably don’t care about all this. Now I will go back to concerns that are much more important.

    PS. Some have asked ‘Am I going to write another book?’ Before some cringe, I need to replenish my retirement fund and have a big feed. Writing, it can be a long time between lunches. If I do, it will not be based around a vehicle or off-roading. There is a bigger world out there. Cheers :)

  9. :) When I started to put the finishing touches to my book I started to think I would also like a book on the Land Rover story in the standard automotive style. Not to displace mine but to sit beside mine to tell the full story.
    I have just bought and read: Land Rover - Series One to Freelander, written by Graham Robson. It is an updated second edition published in 2006. It is a great reference resource. It doesn’t cover the latest Defender Tdci or the Range Rovers. The publisher had already published the Range Rover story but the Range Rover story and influence comes through well as Graham writes of the development of the other models.
    Graham lived not far from Solihull, commuted through the English countryside to work and much of his profession appears to be in automotive journalism. He has a great knowledge of the Land Rover history and development and in his writing you see his driving and assessing of Land Rover coming through and that he is drawing much from his notes and articles as he wrote his book. He draws on other colleagues’ work and comments as well. He covers the Land Rover history; the historical events and influences of the day in England, the designers, the engineers and the companies that owned Land Rover.

    A great book, however New Zealand doesn’t get a mention? The words - mud, rocks, water and ice only get a mention a couple of times each. He writes about client feedback that would bring about changes but not one client (owner/driver) has a name or story included, not one off-road destination in all Great Britain is mentioned except the company’s test tracks. His book is one half of the Land Rover circle, mine is just as an important part illustrating something of the second half, covering:
    · Personal stories of over 35 New Zealand owners from a wide variety of occupations and interests.
    · The off-road and backcountry stories with notes, comments, tips and some warnings.
    · New Zealand. The people have names (not just bunched together as faceless ‘clients’) and the New Zealand places and destinations.
    This second part of the Land Rover story is what Ray Stone encouraged me to continue to write and considered just as important as the - ‘Car company in-house, vehicle launches, automotive journalists’ articles, the dealer and client signing the papers and finishing as the vehicle drives out of the car yard’ history! Without Maurice Wilkes having a foot in both camps (farmer and car company owner) there may never have been a Land Rover story.

    My book has about six tiny mistakes (spelling and grammar) and that is about the same as Graham’s book, but I haven’t picked up any big mistakes nor had any pointed out to me.
    John Reid, 4x4 Action, in his review states ‘It is different but he liked it …’
    Julian Wells, Car Magazine Review website, made a remark before he had reviewed it about ‘Automotive Books should have …!’, but afterwards he gave my book Five Stars.
    Comments from my first overseas sale, from Karl Harris, Falkland Islands (mistakes his): Hi Guys My old man came up to mine the other day and gave your book to my son, he like me is a right land rover nut. We are haveing a right giggle reading it. Its all very interesting. We live in the Falkland Islands and it is mostly farm land. [sheep & cattle] The old man has a s mall place about 40miles from the town, only 14 acres but is surrounded by about 400,000 acres of sheep farm grazing land. We can come and go as we like on all of it. Anyway its always about land rovers, I have three … . The old man has …(three) … . My brother has a … (two) …. I have a shed full of others like 230g wagons, Iltis jeep & 416 Unimog truck.[All Ex Argentine from the 1982 war. oh and a tank] My wife and I pluss our two boys and little lady were last in NZ in 2006 from early july till end october. We love the place, the pace and way of life. You guys have it all. A great book Thanks Karl
    Most automotive books don’t have a ‘giggle factor’. I am proud mine has, light-hearted humour too is part of the Land Rover history. :)