Bloodalcohol by Michael Botur, A Horror Book Review by Jeremy Roberts
Publisher: Next Chapter
To quote Marlon Brando playing Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse, Now – “Horror has a face… horror and moral terror are your friends.” In Aotearoa, that face (deservedly) belongs to Michael Botur, author of Bloodalcohol – a collection of ten varied, scary as (!) horror stories that certainly push moral boundaries. After reading them (I recommend 1-per-day) you might feel like a jittery survivor but will also feel thrilled and satisfied. They will likely fill you with terror, but you will find yourself wanting more. I guarantee it.
Yes, Michael Botur has done it again. It is now apparent – for those of us who have read most of his published work, that Botur has huge gonads as a writer. He is not – to quote Alan Duff, one of this country’s “literary midgets” imitating others, afraid to offend. Botur absolutely has his own voice, letting his art trumpideology – not the other way around.
Botur has a very cool prose style packed with ‘Botur mannerisms’ and the succinct, not-a-word-wasted mode of a poet. Horror aside, the stories contain marvellous, often very funny characterisations, and JAW-DROPPING narratives with surprising endings. As with his previous books, you can’t help but admire the way he writes so authoritatively about things surely beyond his own personal experience. These ten stories have a broad range of Kiwi locations, lifestyles, careers, personalities, motives, psychologies, jargons – all handled effortlessly. Botur is just as comfortable being a teenage girl from Kaitaia, as he is being a drug-addicted anaesthesiologist in Auckland.
He quickly hooks you into a story – e.g., from ‘Butterfly Tongue’: ‘Kaitaia. End of the country. Last stop before the ocean. I was glad to turn 14 but it felt like I was spending my birthday in a desert. Would’ve hitchhiked the hell outa there, changed my dumb name, got a big city Auckland identity, but I had no boobs to score a ride with. Black hair, short, all ribs, skinny and pale as a popsicle stick. No boy would ever notice me …’
Then keeps you turning the pages eagerly, midway through – eg., from ‘Racing Hearts’: ‘Half a million bucks to train each of us – which is why Dadu trailed behind us, demanding reports in that accent that never left my ears. Had to please the guy till he went away and I could go rummage in the surgical garbage. Patients’ half-used anaesthetic bottles on my trolley supposedly headed for the incinerator went inside me; unopened bottles or blister packs, when I could get them, were smuggled out under my nutsack’.
And finally releases you after a startling finish to the tale – e.g., from ‘Luke’s Lesson’ – about an extreme, vengeful Bible-basher: ‘Talking gangsta, now. Talking with balls. Cause people finally respect Brotha Luke. Luke leads the revolution. Lizzy H sends through a picture of a cross she’s carved into her unconscious boyfriend’s back …’
Michael Botur? We are talking major talent. Bloodalcohol deserves to be at the top of your reading list for 2024. Go buy.
Bloodalcohol by Michael Botur
From the author of The Devil Took Her comes a collection of ten fresh tales of horror.
A South Island road trip turns murderous as a dangerous drifter smells a secret in her co-dependent pal.
Millionaire Kiwi conservationists learn too late how little Mother Nature cares for mankind.
A Far North teen confronts the terrifying truth about why Mum separated from Dad years ago.
In his most powerful collection yet, Botur challenges you to look at life through the lens of horror. Struggling to bond with a savage stepchild, losing your son to a gang of ghostly boys, doing desperate things to get famous, battling bullies, surviving school, chasing elite status in the medical world, and getting good with God.
With a unique flavour of New Zealand, the stories in BLOODALCOHOL are bittersweet, horrifying, tender – and astonishingly original.
Jeremy Roberts is a resident of Napier, NZ, where he lives with his wife and daughter. He MC’s at Napier Live Poets, interviews poets on Radio Hawke’s Bay, and is poetry editor for the VINES journal. His work has been published widely – including NZ Listener, Landfall, Takahē, JAAM, Poetry NZ, and Phantom Billstickers. Jeremy has performed and recorded poems with musicians in Aotearoa, Austin, Saigon, and Jakarta. His first poetry collection was ‘Idiot Dawn’ (poems 1981-87). ‘Cards on the Table’ was published in 2015 and ‘The Dark Cracks of Kemang: The Bajaj Boys In Indonesia’ was published in 2022, by IP Australia. He was awarded the Earl of Seacliff poetry prize in 2019. https://www.read-nz.org/writer/roberts-jeremy/