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nightmare in paradise cover

For newlyweds, Roger and Irene, life was full of promise as they embarked on their new life together, business partners with the paramount Chief of an exotic and remote island in the Pacific in the running of a small resort and associated tour business. 

The island, Tanna, Vanuatu, retained its traditional lifestyle and that, along with the active volcano and cargo cult, drew people from around the world. The eagerly anticipated romance associated with this simple life was soon dispelled as their time was spent being the interface between sophisticated guests and the witchdoctors, chiefs, and island life. 

This true story follows their life on the island and the troubles which build up, culminating with Roger’s kidnap, ensuing court cases and deaths. It is a humorous and dramatic tale which gives an insight into the realities of the Pacific dream.

In Store Price: $22.95 
Online Price:   $21.95



Ebook version - $AUD9.00 upload.


ISBN: 978-1-921574-28-3
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 252
Genre: Non Fiction

Cover Design— Irene Waters

Illustrations Irene Waters




Cover: Clive Dalkins

Irene Waters
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published:  2018
Language: English


     Read a sample:    


Written for


my mother, Audrey Mathers,

who has waited long past her 70th birthday,

 the promised time for this book.



Dedicated to


my father, James Mathers,

Annie Stroh and

Steve Jacobson


Without you this book would not have been written.

All of you are loved and missed.


About the author


Irene Waters currently lives at Noosaville on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. Being a Registered Nurse, she worked mainly in intensive care/coronary care; finishing her hospital career as clinical nurse educator in intensive care.


A life-changing period on Tanna in Vanuatu was followed by recovery time as a farmer at Bucca Wauka. Having discovered she was no farmer and vowing never again to own an animal bigger than herself, she took on the Barrington General Store. On the store’s sale she and her husband decided to retire and renovate a house with the help of a builder friend. Now, believing they knew everything about construction, they built their own house. When a coal mine became their next-door neighbour, they moved to Queensland.  

Irene had been writing Nightmare in Paradise and with the desire to complete this, she enrolled in a Post Grad Certificate in Creative Industries which she completed in 2013. Following this, in 2016 she completed her Master of Arts by research in the field of memoir. 

Irene Waters blogs on Reflections and Nightmares (photography and writing) and has had work published in Eavesdropping, an anthology, and also in a 2017 Flash Fiction Anthology put out by the Congress of Rough Writers. She has short works and essays published in the literary magazine Idiom23 in both 2013 and 2014 and a number of scholarly articles in text magazine. A full list can be seen at https://irenewaters19.com/publications/ 

Irene Waters’ contact details:

Website: irenewaters19.com

Email: irenewaters19@gmail.com


Author’s Note 


I began writing Nightmare in Paradise soon after our return to Australia. It started as a book for the family but morphed into a memoir for publication after I joined the River Writers in Gloucester. Special thanks to Marg Collett, Diane Montague and Steve Jacobson and the other members of the group for supporting me along the trail. Having moved to Queensland and coming to a standstill with my memoir, I thank Central Queensland University and Professor Donna Lee Brien for getting me back on track when I undertook the Post-Graduate Certificate in Creative Industries.

After completing this course, I continued doing a Master of Arts by research. My research led me to question memoir writing and I became aware of how unreliable memories can be. I even questioned whether dialogue had a place in memoir. The dialogue in this narrative is not word for word as it happened, but in the style spoken by that person. My memories are true to what I recall happened. These are my recollections of this period of our life, and mine alone. Many of these memories are supported by letters, court records and photographs. Some names have been changed to afford privacy to the person concerned.


The troop carrier sliced through the dark heat of the night as it hurtled, at speeds none would attempt in daylight, towards the volcano. I knew I was with other people but apart from Michael, the owner of Tanna Beach Resort, I had no idea who was riding in the back with me. No-one spoke, everybody lost in their own thoughts. Mine were a nightmare. A nightmare that allowed the terror I normally felt when negotiating the sharp hairpin bends over the steep mountainside to remain hidden. The visions in my mind were vivid, in full red colour, whilst the reality of where I sat was grey, as though a mist had descended obscuring the others who sat with me. I’d felt disconnected since our cook, Elizabeth, had rapped urgently on our door.

‘Missus! Touris emi killem long volcano!’ She stood agitated, her eyes matching the hysteria in her voice.

‘Killem mo killem ded?’ I asked.

‘Killem ded,’ she replied.

The bile intensified my desire to vomit. No. It can’t be true! The words echoed in my head as I screamed for Roger, my husband, to follow us. As we raced down the hill to the resort, Elizabeth filled me in on the detail. I was working on automatic pilot. I became the intensive care nurse and my need to get to the other side of the island, to the volcano, and offer any nursing assistance was overpowering. She may not be dead, I kept thinking. She may not be dead. By this time Elizabeth had told me one of our tourists, a Japanese girl, and one guide had died. Still I hoped…

 Read a sample of the book: 


Chapter 1

The Start 


It was 1992. Finally, more than just friends, Roger and I grasped our love for each other and looked forward to making a life together. Having worked as an intensive-care nurse for fifteen years I found myself burnt out and desiring change. Roger had already opted out. Some astute real-estate decisions had given him the opportunity of leaving the workforce when his first marriage ended and he enrolled as a full-time university student in an economics degree. He too wanted change. We decided that, not only would we live together, we would become business partners.

We looked at a couple of options. The hardware shop at Balgowlah was for sale but it was quickly dismissed as Roger couldn’t raise any enthusiasm for nails, new rope and planks of timber. When the old Stockton Ferry came on the market we felt its appeal and were keen to purchase it. We could see ourselves providing lunch tours around Pittwater on the Northern Beaches of Sydney. But no matter what creative accountancy methods we used to simulate a profit on paper, the supplied figures refused to allow the business to be viable. Reluctantly we turned our backs on it and a couple of weeks later were relieved at our lucky escape. A squash ball left my racquet with the perfect poing, directly into Roger’s eye socket. He screamed with pain and was quickly admitted to Sydney eye hospital. As he lay in his bed, bandaged and immobile, he heard on the radio news that the ferry had sunk with a boatload of elderly American pensioners on board. Fortunately, the skipper, Donnie, a sixty-year-old, one-legged, one-eyed Harley Davidson rider, knew his boat well and recognised a problem from the ferry’s lack of response to his touch. The potential buyers, operating it for a trial, slopped in water up to their ankles as they served morning tea, unaware of the danger they and their passengers faced. With Donnie’s quick thinking, they managed to save all the old folk. We breathed a sigh of relief at our close escape and continued to look for the ideal business.

After hearing of my parents’ and later some family friends’ holiday adventures in Vanuatu, Roger decided that an exotic island vacation would make a good birthday present for me. As a geology student at Macquarie University I knew about the world’s most accessible active volcano on the island of Tanna and I insisted any holiday in Vanuatu must include a trip to Mount Yasur.

Although we had a wonderful holiday on Efate, the nation’s main island and location of the capital, Port Vila, the trip to Tanna was the highlight. The island is one of the most southern in the chain of islands which make up the Republic of Vanuatu. It is situated well north of the Tropic of Capricorn on latitude 19 degrees south, which is the same latitude as Townsville in Australia and Fiji. It is two hundred and seventeen kilometres from the main island, Efate, where the capital Port Vila is located.

There was much about the small island that enthralled us: its rugged splendour, the idyllic black pebble beach, the naivety and friendliness of the Ni-Van people and the simplicity of their custom lifestyle. Then there was the volcano, Yasur. Some English engineers had created an extremely frightening road over the jungle-covered mountain range that divided the island in two. This road was very steep and narrow with many hairpin bends. However, the fear I felt of the road paled to insignificance when standing on the edge of the crater as it exploded, throwing from deep within its core red-hot molten rocks and releasing pungent sulphur fumes which burnt the lungs, creating an experience I knew I would never forget................. 



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