Paul Cleave’s tour of Christchurch: The Pain Tourist

Paul Cleave launched his new book, The Pain Tourist at Scorpio Books last Thursday night, talking with his publisher, Kevin Shaw from Upstart Press

The Pain Tourist

Mystery readers of Christchurch turned out to give Paul a warm welcome. The wine was flowing and the shop was overflowing with expectant mystery readers - fantastic support for one of our most successful hometown writers. I spoke to one, a huge fan, who has read and re-read all his books, and has never been disappointed. That's high praise, and it's well-earned.

Three times a winner for Best Crime Novel at the Ngaio Marsh Awards, Paul is known for his intense, freight-train approach to a story that may very well keep you up all night reading (and then keep you up the next night worrying about the dangerous types lurking in your neighbourhood).

Cleave's first book, The Cleaner, is being adapted for television as we speak. Six years in the making, Paul's understandably cagey about its release date - and we're all hankering to know.

A self-confessed reader of horror (and crime), has Paul read The Final Girl Support Group? Not yet, he says, 'Is my book like it?' I can see a similarity in the premise: The Pain Tourist is based on voyeurism and copycat crime: people who get a thrill from visiting places and acquiring grisly souvenirs from a place where something awful - like a murder - has happened. It's a tram-ride through the dark side of a Christchurch in Cleave's imagination - locations I'm sure some of our Show Day tourists would not care to visit.

So what's the story? After nine years James Garrett, shot in the head, has woken from a coma, his parents both dead on the scene, the only other survivor his sister Hazel. His mind still feels eleven years old, his body that of a twenty-year old man. The killer was never caught.  James has a unique mind. He has a photographic memory. While asleep, he built Coma World: an alternative reality in which he grew up with his family. Can you imagine the shock of waking up? Having trouble adapting, he retreats there when things get tough. Is James safe? His photographic memory makes him special - and a target - not just for whoever got away with killing his parents, but several copycats as well.

Where did the idea come from? Paul says he saw a 60 Minutes documentary on someone who actually did create his own consciousness - Baseball World - while in a coma.

Cleave likes to re-weave familiar characters into his stories. In this one, he re-introduces DI Rebecca Kent (The Quiet People), working a crime scene eerily familiar to the one that killed the Garretts. Is the killer the one that got away, or a copycat? 

Paul has developed Rebecca Kent's role into a 'kickass' main character; teaming her up with the well-loved Theodore Tate, who last appeared in 2014. Tate is now working on re-enactments of crime scenes for TV.

'Just try to stop him getting involved,' says Cleave. Rebecca is emotionally flawed, says Paul, 'because she got blown up.' Evil laughter...

The serial killers, and Paul says there are three of these (horrors), are based on Joe from The Cleaner, who Paul is planning to bring back at some stage. It was a complicated plot to bring together. Once again, Cleave has staged his story in a a kind of Upside Down, dark version of Christchurch that has us looking over our shoulders for the sinister underbelly.

It's ironic to the author that his character Tate was ten years older than Paul when he first wrote him, now he is only six months older and Paul is ten years older than him. 'Theodore Tate doesn't have old man knees,' quips Paul.

The Paul and Kevin show was entertaining and had an informal feel; after all we were in the author's hometown.   

The Pain Tourist is Paul Cleave's thirteenth novel. Unlucky for some, but this book looks a winner.

More from Paul Cleave

Paul Cleave's first book (2006) The Cleaner to be made into a film: Company behind Mad Men funds new TV show to film in Christchurch |

Mysteries and Horrors