Ngāi Tahu author shares first novel and journey to rediscover his taha Māori

By Mana Wikaire-Lewis

For Ngāi Tahu author Darin Dance a devastating accident in his youth, in which he was run over by a fork hoist and had his leg crushed, helped inspire his latest offering, a thrilling spy novel set in Wellington.

Whiskey, Lima, Golf is about crippled war veteran Tom Yelich, who finds himself in a world of shadows, before finding purpose in his life.

Having co-written a trilogy of books beforehand, Dance’s first solo novel is a reflection of his love for spy thrillers mixed with a “few of my experiences”.

“We all have instances like [my accident]. Something similar comes up in our life where we have to stop and reassess everything, that’s exactly what happened to me.

“I was told I wouldn’t walk unaided again and I just couldn’t accept that.”


Derrin finds his feet in writing and reconnection to te ao Māori.

The accident sent Dance into depression but, with his whānau supporting him, he was able to – literally and figuratively – get back on his feet. He’s been smashing goals since finding his feet again, such as playing touch rugby and reconnecting with his taha Māori, learning more about his language and whakapapa through research and meeting his iwi.

“Our whānau have been disconnected from the iwi for a few generations. I grew up with very little reo Māori in our whānau, apart from when we went to see our grandparents.

“This is how I want my whānau experiences to be more real. We’ve got to incorporate this and become real New Zealanders, real Kiwis. We are more than one culture.”

Out of his rediscovery, he’s even found a passion for rongoā Māori too, something he says learning about even a little can keep whānau up with their health.

“I’ve learned on my hīkoi with te ao Māori is that there’s more than one world view. Māori were very scientific and did a lot of things really well and have kept that knowledge through whakapapa."