Northland author’s homecoming novel confronts ‘Crimechurch’

Award-winning Northland short story author Michael Botur has published his first literary fiction novel which launches in his hometown of Christchurch this month.

Crimechurch is a hard-hitting, gritty novel following seven drug addicts, bikers, probation staff, concerned parents and partners caught up in a violent feud in the Garden City.

Botur said the book questions cultures of violence which Kiwi males engage in. The novel continues the ‘First World eff-ups’ themes explored in Botur’s acclaimed short story collections –self-destruction, substance abuse, and privilege versus deprivation.

“I’ve been asked how autobiographical my characters’ bad behaviour is,” Botur said. “Crimechurch is mostly fiction but also inspired by mayhem I was personally involved in, mixed with composite characters and mis-remembered situations.”

“I chose to get involved in a lot of trouble around the ages of 18-20 growing up in Hillmorton which is why the novel is searing, honest and straight-up. Even into my 20s, I was still friends with troublemakers – and I still am – so their codes and lifestyle are still influential as I find myself at age 35.”

Whangarei-based Botur said he believes Crimechurch is one of the first novels to narrate the experience of vulnerable youth falling under the influence of white supremacists in the city, though other Crimechurch characters cause damage in the name of gangs or vendettas.

“The book is not a criticism of Christchurch the city, for the record. The book addresses young males in any urban environment large enough for people to treat one another as strangers rather than neighbours.”

Botur said Once Were Warriors author Alan Duff was an ideal person to contribute a Q&A foreword and review endorsing the book. “I have clear memories of appreciating how Duff gets inside the heads of people living hypocritical lives, especially violent males. Crimechurch continues that tradition.”

Rangitawa Publishing director Jill Darragh agreed. “It’s not often as a publisher that I receive a manuscript as interesting and vibrant as Michael Botur’s Crimechurch. Gang behaviour and the rites of passage of these young men and women are mostly subjects avoided by NZ authors. Indeed we have to go back to Alan Duff’s ‘Once Were Warriors’ – a truly iconic novel in NZ literature – to compare.”

“Botur has bravely trodden the path again but I soon realised that Crimechurch is in no way a poor imitation of Duff’s narrative. The characters are fresh and realistic, the story sordid but attention-grabbing and it is appropriate that Alan Duff has recognised this and written a foreword to the book.”

The book follows Botur’s publication of poetry collection Loudmouth in December 2019.

Botur will next launch his sixth short story collection, Hell of a Thing, with The Sager Group, his first US publishing deal with American literary legend Mike Sager.

Crimechurch launches at Tūranga / Christchurch Central Library on February 28 and will have a Northland launch in autumn 2020.


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