Here is what I think I will say in my verbal pitch to the publisher. If you heard this pitch would you be tempted to look at the manuscript further? All comments appreciated.
I am Irene Waters. I am going to tell you about my first manuscript “Nightmare in Paradise” completed at 54,000 words. It would sit on the bookshelf between Sarah Turnbull’s All Good Things and Julian Evan’s Transit of Venus. Although I have written in various forms throughout my life, I have never attempted to have my work published. I have completed a post-graduate certificate based on writing at Central Queensland University where my manuscript made up the creative component. I have almost completed the first draft of the sequel.
Nightmare in Paradise is my true story of the four years that my husband and I spent as business partners of the paramount Chief on the remote Pacific island, Tanna in Vanuatu, in the running of a small resort and tour business. The island attracted people from round the world who came to see the world’s most accessible, active volcano, the traditional lifestyle and cargo cults. We knew that things would be difficult. We knew there was no electricity so we took an electrical system. We knew we would have to build our own house and took a kit home. We knew that the island’s people lived a traditional custom lifestyle complete with witch doctors and chiefs but we thought we’d fit in. We believed the resort was doing well with many guests. What we didn’t know was that the resort was bankrupt and had no guests, that water could only be obtained at high tide with the use of a pre World War II hand pump used by a pumper that held the resort to ransom. Nor did we know that the gas refrigeration could not even keep a few bottles of beer cold. Imagine, running a restaurant without refrigeration – we killed as the orders came in. The narrative follows our time on the island, describing the difficulties in running, in bizarre conditions, what was to become a successful resort, with chapters devoted to the traditional life and cargo cults. As we turned the fortunes of the resort around our troubles unfolded and multiplied.
Most chapters of this dramatic yet often humorous tale are a complete story in themselves, yet linking all is the gradual increasing tension that happens between Chief Tom, Roger and me. A key point in the narrative is when the strained relationship reaches a crisis with Roger’s kidnap. This leads to time in Vanuatu’s legal system. First criminal then civil. Having been awarded by the Chief Justice sole operating rights we return to Tanna, choosing to manage the other resort as we felt safer at a distance . This had a new set of problems culminating when a guest is killed at the volcano.
I would like to read a small amount from the manuscript. The passage I have chosen is at the end of a chapter which deals with the trials, tribulations and amusing incidents that happen in a restaurant without refrigeration. It is at a point where we have finally installed our electrical system and now, with refrigeration, guests no longer have to watch our waiter, cleaver in hand , running around the restaurant chasing the chicken they had ordered for their dinner.
Luckily our second shipment of goods arrived by early April and we managed to get our electrical system up and running. We could then pre-cook the curries and spaghetti bologneses which made life easier for us. This improvement caused us much amusement. The freezer was in our house which was about three hundred yards from the restaurant. Between the resort and the house was pitch black nothingness. An order would come in and one of us would grab the torch and run to the house. Everything would be pulled out of the chest freezer in the attempt to find the desired article. Once found we would then run back to the restaurant where the reheating process would take place. Our labeling system left a bit to be desired and often the wrong item would be brought back : so it was off, running again. We all took turns and we were all jolly fit as a result.
One day a technician flew in to service Tanna Coffee’s equipment at their roasting house located near White Grass. He ate his lunch at our restaurant. He asked me what I would recommend he have to eat “the chicken curry or the chicken soy”. I recommended the curry. I went and placed the order and off Joseph ran. He came back empty handed not having been able to locate any curries. Off to the house Roger went. I went back in and said “I’ve been thinking about it and I think you really should try the chicken soy as you can get curries anywhere whereas chicken soy really is an island delicacy.” He agreed and I went back to the kitchen to tell Peter that when Roger came back with the chicken soy our guest would happily have it. Roger came back with the soy, Peter started to cook it only to discover that it was in reality a chicken curry. At this point Roger said he would go and talk to our guest and persuade him to have the chicken curry. Our guest pointed out that “Irene says I really should try the chicken soy”.
Roger decided truth was the only option and the patron agreed to have the curry. Roger returned to the kitchen where Peter happily tells him “ Em i oraet. Mi fala convertum kurri. Em i nambawan soy nomo.”
I carried the converted meal out to the table and said “ I don’t know what it is now but I hope you enjoy it”.
Peter was an excellent cook and although the curry differed only from the soy by either the use of “Keen’s” curry powder or soy sauce both meals were somehow particularly delicious. Our guest agreed with Peter’s assertion of “nambawan” when he said “I want the converted version next time I come.”