John Mulgan was part of a gifted yet uneasy group of young New Zealanders who made their mark between the wars - men such as Ian Milner, James Bertram, Dan Davin and Geoffrey Cox. An Oxford Graduate, he worked as a publisher at Oxford University Press before leaving for the front in World War Two.
Fascinated but sometimes troubled by his home country, Mulgan saw New Zealand as a place of challenge and austere demands, a land that produced men more practical than cultivated. In his famous novel Man Alone, he depicted it as a tough, often heartless country, characterised by the solitary figure who has come to symbolise the male New Zealand psyche. He wrote more warmly of the place and the people in his poignant memoir, 'Report on Experience', published after his death.
Mulgan was a glamorous figure: handsome, gifted and good at anything he attempted. His last years were spent fighting in the Allied cause in Egypt and Greece, where he distinguished himself. But there were darker threads, too, which culminated in his decision to take his own life in Cairo, just after the end of the war and aged only thirty-three. In this penetrating biography, Vincent O'Sullivan draws on a large collection of personal papers, official records and contemporary memoirs to paint a vivid portrait of a man who came to represent so much about his country and his time.