Scoop Review of Books

Judicial Seal of Approval for New Rua Book

Justice Joe Williams with Commissioner John Cullen looking over his shoulder

Justice Joe Williams with Commissioner John Cullen looking over his shoulder

Justice Joe Williams launched Mark Derby’s The Prophet and the Policeman: The Story of Rua Kenana and John Cullen at Wellington’s Unity Books on Wednesday night.

The former lead singer of ’80s reggae group Aotearoa sang the praises of the book saying it painted a highly nuanced picture of its two protagonists.

Author Mark Derby

Author Mark Derby

Author Mark Derby credited painter Bob Kerr – whose painting of John Cullen is peering over his shoulder – with sparking his interest in the Police Commissioner who arrested the Maori prophet Rua Kenana in 1916.

The Scoop Review of Books will be publishing a review of the book in the not too distant future but in the meantime you can listen to Paul Diamond’s review on Radio New Zealand’s Nine to Noon show here.

The Prophet and the Policeman is published by Craig Potton Publishing. And you can read more about it here.


  1. Skyler, 21. August 2009, 11:58

    Congratulations Mark! I’ve seen the book and it looks great and I look forward to reading it. It’s an important job to shine more light on that part of our history – I really value the research you do. Cheers, Cerian

  2. Brett, 2. September 2009, 17:00

    I’ve just read the book – it’s a little bit more than the title implies as well, with some intriguing background history on the area and the preceding conflicts between Tuhoe and the NZ govt, as well as some follow-up stories that bring it right up to the arrest of the ‘Urewera 18’ – a really nicely put together book, John Cullen comes out of looking like one of the most miserable arrogant men in NZ history – perhaps some kind of direct predecessor to the ACT party and Rodney Hide.

  3. Katrina, 11. September 2009, 11:02

    I guess I’d better read the book before deciding how it was that Cullen is portrayed as ‘the main man’ behind the capture of Rua Kenana when according to our family history (and archives in Te Papa) it was Bill Neil who physically arrested Rua. As I understand it while the armed NZ police were at the front of the house demanding Rua give himself up, Neil entered the back (having refused to bring a firearm on the mission and only carrying a knife) and arrested Rua himself. Neil was part Tuhoe himself and knew Rua personally though his role was conflicted as both a policeman (first Maori recruited to the police force in recorded time) and being a respected member of this whanau. There were casualties due to members of both parties being ‘trigger happy’ (that is a part of the story where Cullen was no doubt playing an integral role) but it would have been much worse were it not for Neil’s intervention.

  4. Mark Derby, 12. September 2009, 9:48

    Katrina, it’s great to hear from someone with fresh information on this historical event. I hope you’ll read my book and get back to me once you’ve seen how it deals with your relative Bill Neill.

    Mark Derby