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Whangaparaoa zombies enlisted to improve literacy

Posted at 4:27pm Tuesday 18 Feb, 2020

Inspiration for Paul Charman's first Sci Fi novel, The Real Taranaki Zombies, came from a World War II weapons programme at Whangaparaoa Military Camp that aimed to create a tsunami weapon, as well as the desire to encourage boys to discover a love of reading.

Paul, who went on to work as a journalist, says he was a poor reader until the age of 11, when he was introduced to Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.

From then on, he has had his nose in a book, although he admits it's a bit less often these days thanks to distractions like Netflix.

“For me it was Lord of the Rings, for another generation it was Harry Potter. It's important to find that one book that gets boys, in particular, into reading,” Paul says.

His book is aimed at boys aged 14 and older and Paul hopes to attract their interest with a tale of adventure that has three 14-year-old, motorbike-riding boys as protagonists.

Paul was always drawn to quirky, human interest stories from history during his time as a journalist, and found it fascinating that in World War II the Army, based in Whangaparaoa, was looking into whether it could use strategically placed explosives to cause a wave to wipe out Japanese garrisons.

In his book, Paul extrapolated that idea into a scheme of ‘enhancing' wounded soldiers with life-restoring chemicals – thus the ‘zombies' of the title.

“The problem is, the zombies don't like taking orders, so they go rogue,” he says.

The action unfolds in Red Beach and other locations in Whangaparaoa, including the Army Bay tunnels, as well as New Plymouth.

Paul has dedicated the book to his close friend, the late literacy advocate Graham Crawshaw, of Windy Ridge Boys' Farm in Warkworth.

“I was inspired to write the story after volunteering at reading camps that Graham ran on his property at Windy Ridge,” Paul says. “We mustn't be sanguine about a generation of children choosing not to read.

Love of reading opens the door for them to succeed in life – poor literacy holds them back.”

The book is Part 1, and Paul says there are at least two more parts to go. He is working on Part 2, with the same protagonists and a story obtained by delving into his mental archive of local history.

The Real Taranaki Zombies - Part 1 can be ordered from The Book Depository online.

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