Manslaughter victim Matthew Coley's sci-fi novel published from handwritten notes

Teresa Ramsey/Fairfax NZ

Matthew Coley's parents Mike and Laraine Coley have published their late son's science fiction novel.

Matthew Coley's legacy was found in handwritten notes in a box on the floor of his flat.

His family made the discovery after travelling from Coromandel township to Invercargill following his tragic death in April last year. The 40-year-old gifted writer was killed after receiving a "single blow to the head" in Invercargill during a night out.

His mother Laraine said if they hadn't made the journey to Invercargill, Matthew's legacy may never have been found.

Matthew Coley, whose book Cy has been published posthumously.

Matthew Coley, whose book Cy has been published posthumously.

"I went into his flat, I saw the pile of papers and we knew he was writing a story because it had been ongoing for several years," she said.

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"I found all of this on the floor. It's all handwritten, going back years. [The book] could have gone to the dump. I'm pleased we went to Invercargill and found them."

Mike and Laraine Coley have published their son Matthew's science fiction novel 'Cy'.

Mike and Laraine Coley have published their son Matthew's science fiction novel 'Cy'.

Matthew had been working on his science fiction novel, Cy, for about 10 years. Some of the pages were mixed up and many pages were not numbered, but the book was there, it just needed sorting out.

Laraine took on the task of typing out the handwritten notes, slowly but surely putting the book together for her son.

"I didn't have to do any writing myself, it's totally his writing," she said.

Matthew Coley's sister, Cherie Aarts Coley, right, with cousin Adriana Karetai at the book launch in Carson's Bookshop, ...

Matthew Coley's sister, Cherie Aarts Coley, right, with cousin Adriana Karetai at the book launch in Carson's Bookshop, Thames, on April 9.

"We decided we would finish his story, have it published as a memorial to him."

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There are many levels and threads to the story, from artificial intelligence to archeological explorations in Egypt and searching for spiritual revelations among Maori.

"Since childhood, Matt had a deep fascination with all things cosmic," Laraine said.

However, the ending of the story was never quite complete, she said. "We put it out there as he had done it. We will add an addendum as to where the story was going on the website."

Matthew's father Mike Coley said he enjoyed the book, which was launched last month at Carson's Bookshop in Thames.

"It was very poignant in places. He sort of brought himself into it as a little note here and there."

Matthew Coley's science fiction book Cy.

Matthew Coley's science fiction book Cy.

Matthew Coley was born in Thames and lived his early years on the Thames Coast before his family moved to the Coromandel town of Pauanui, where he developed a love of surfing. 

He graduated from the University of Waikato with a degree in business management before embarking on an OE. When he returned to New Zealand, he spent many years moving around the country, working as a chef.

"He was a bit of a wanderer," Laraine said. "He lived a very simple life. He was really into writing and it was creative writing.

"I'm just stunned, parts of it I was thinking, 'wow, did you really write this Matt?'."

Matthew settled in Invercargill a few years ago, drawn by zero fees at Southern Institute of Technology's Peter Arnett School of Journalism in 2014. The course was canned when he was part-way through, but he continued to write.

He was also working on shaping surfboards and shaping hand planes, with an aim to open a surf and board shop in Invercargill.

Those plans were cut short with one punch to the head - often termed a "king hit" - by Invercargill teen Tyrone Palmer, who was later sentenced to 22 months' jail for manslaughter.

"There's nothing regal about a king hit," Laraine said.

"It's actually a coward's punch, because Matthew didn't see it coming. He had his hands by his side and didn't even get a chance to defend himself."

In August last year, the family spoke out about New Zealand's problem with youth-related violence and alcohol.

His parents did not believe Palmer's sentence was adequate. A short sentence sent the wrong message and was not long enough for rehabilitation.

Matthew died in Invercargill Hospital the day after the attack. After his death, his organs were donated to needy patients.

Donating Matthew's organs was a difficult decision to make for Matthew's family, but they wanted to honour his wishes, Laraine said. He has saved five lives so far, which his parents describe as "bittersweet".

Along with the book, Matthew's memory also lives on in Pauanui, where a memorial seat has been erected. His parents have also had his surfboards completed.

Laraine said Matthew's book was selling well following its launch, which was attended by friends and family.

"It was a nice little crowd, it was nice to see some of Matt's old friends."

Proceeds from the sale of the book will support Organ Donation NZ, Victim Support and a youth at risk programme.

"I'm not out to make money out of my son's book, I just wanted it out there and if it can do any help, that's what the idea is."

The book can be purchased from Carson's Bookshop in Pollen St, Thames, or online at

 - Stuff


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