Author: Michael Botur Category:

“Michael Botur’s writing is a breath of fresh air. Just read him. You’ll see what I mean. This dude can write.”—Alan Duff, MBE, author of Once Were Warriors

Michael Botur’s work grabs you by the throat and won’t let you go. His artful short stories throb with pain, hope, misunderstanding, reconciliation, remorse, and surprise. As one reviewer said, “The authenticity is so scary, you wonder where this man has been and what demons followed him home.”

With his sixth collection of stories, this leading young New Zealand author and journalist finds purchase for the first time with an American publisher. In Hell of a Thing, a cowardly father seeks a more exciting son; two lovers on a posh date dine on self-delusion; and an author turns his back on his past—until the past demands violent closure. We meet artistic terrorists, renegade daughters, an Uber driver from Waziristan, and a crew of casino kids up past their bedtime—everything with a distinctive Kiwi flavor that lends a counter-clockwise swirl to otherwise familiar settings.

There is a ring of authenticity to Botur’s dialogue and physical descriptions, an unvarnished street language punctuated with demotic vocabulary and agitated rhythms, combined in collages of invective, obscenity, and acute observation. Says a reviewer: “It’s as if Mr. Botur hung out at fast-food outlets after midnight—swilling bad coffee, listening to conversations, and jotting observational notes under the garish yellow lighting.”

Michael Botur is the author of four acclaimed short story collections and one collection which hardly anybody read. He has published creative writing in most of New Zealand’s literary journals and has won various prizes for short stories and poems; likewise, he has published journalism in most major newspapers and magazines in that country. He lives in Whangarei with his two kids.


An excerpt from Hell of a Thing

From “This Generation Needs a War”

A whistle blows. The words Auf wiedersehen! materialize on the billboard. A wave of moaning collides with a current of cheers. Rolls of toilet paper arc through the air. A terrace seat lands on the grass. There’s plasticky smoke coming from a fire somewhere. Bottles breaking. Another whistle. I hear English accents. Somebody shoves me in the back and I have to follow the tide out.

England supporters ooze onto the clean stone streets. We wash over everything. I see an old man get punched from behind, his scarf torn off and taken by some little kid. Guys are running at each other doing kung fu kicks. A paramedic is flattened with a paving stone. A police horse drops steaming shit as a bunch of guys pull its bridle, ripping the rider off, punching the horse. The cops sprint to safety. We stampede after them, spilling into alleys, restaurants, pubs, a chocolate café. There’s a Greenpeace thrift shop and the hooligans form a queue, sending out baskets of ammunition, shoes, bottles, dinnerware. People hurl plates and mugs at the police. The porcelain explodes in white puffs on their riot shields. The police retreat. England supporters file into a McDonald’s. Men in yellow scarves are running out screaming and throwing trays and milkshakes and Wet Floor signs.

Clinging to a statue on a stone island with frightened tourists is Huria, looking minuscule under a thick woolen hat and a giant backpack, holding her mobile, stabbing it with a fingertip.

Something buzzes in my pocket. It’s a text from Huria.


I try to cling to the iron rails around a rubbish bin but I’m sucked downhill and I only stop when I slam into the arms of a grinning ginger twin who tells me he’s been looking for me everywhere. Time to get back to work. This isn’t a holiday, pal.