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No Dreadlocks No Cry

While Warner Brothers and director Lee Tamahori (Once Were Warriors, Die Another Day) prepare to turn former Gisborne Herald reporter Angus Gillies' Ngati Dread trilogy into a TV series, this could be a good time to get a set of the books.

Footsteps of Fire covers the 1985-1990 period when more than 30 buildings, including houses, businesses, the police and fire stations, a primary school, churches and a marae, were burned.

One Rasta was beheaded by another and the leader of the sect was shot and later died on the operating table. The head of the Gisborne Armed Offenders Squad was kidnapped and several police officers were found not guilty of assaulting Rastafarians.

The second volume, No Dreadlocks No Cry, looks closely at the trial of the policemen for the kidnap and assault of Maxwell.

The book also chronicles three other cases in which police were alleged to have assaulted Rastafarians and most of the major fires in Ruatoria, including churches and a marae.

Revelations, the third part of the story, covers the latter years of the Rastas' reign of terror and the fatal clash between Rasta leader Chris Campbell and vigilante Luke Donnelly.

The Ngati Dread trilogy uncovers new information on all these events. The books are illustrated by Gillies' partner, Tui.

Gillies sees the trilogy as a historical document, a chronicle of one of the most bizarre chapters in modern New Zealand history.

“There's renewed interest in the trilogy every time something pops up about it.”

Because rumour, anecdote and mythologising around significant events often come to stick as the “real” story Gillies' interviews-based account “is there in black and white”.

To order copies at $25 each plus postage, or the whole trilogy, email the author at angusjamesgillies@gmail.com

BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE: Angus Gillies' Ngati Dread trilogy chronicles the events of the five years of a Rastafarian sect's reign of terror in Ruatorea in the mid-1990s. After a period of quiet in that time, a Rastafarian man, his wife and child managed to escape their house after it was set alight. The Gisborne Herald file picture