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‘Ice-pick-sharp, packed with intrigue, action and spine-chilling suspense. Devour will keep you gripped from the very first page’ Kathryn Fox

Larkin's Latest

Welcome to my blog, Larkin’s Latest. News on thriller authors and great books to read, the writing process and festivals, incredible people I interview and exciting story locations, courses I run, and things that make me laugh!

talking to HSC literture students on crime writing has got me thinking…

October 24, 2012

On 14th November I will be addressing HSC literature students at the Wesley Conference Centre on the topic of crime writing and I am really looking forward to it. Crime writing is an elective HSC subject and the students must answer one question on the set texts (which includes P.D.James’ The Skull Beneath The Skin) and one that is creative crime writing.

As I prepare my speech I find myself playing with ideas on three main themes:

  1. how crime fiction encompasses a very broad range of sub-genres today
  2. why crime fiction, and particularly thrillers, tap into the hot issues of our time
  3. how the cultural background of the authors influences their presentation of right and wrong: is a government assassin the hero or the villain?

As I see it, what all crime fiction has in common is:

  • A crime has taken place or will take place
  • The hero or heroine must defeat the villain (note, hero is almost always successful – but not always)

But what fascinates me is that whilst the detective, PI or forensic expert is still hugely popular there are so many heroes from other areas of expertise: journalists, psychiatrists, doctors, military, hey, even a glaciologist.

What I find even more fascinating is how the big social, political and, more recently, environmental issues of our time are key themes in crime fiction.

So why does crime fiction tend to tap into social, political and environmental issues, more than other popular genres? Is it because the authors are all crazy left wing political activists who need a soap box? Hmm, I don’t think so. The crime fiction genre naturally taps into these issues because they are stories about a crime or potential crime, and what a good crime novel will do is explore the culture, the background, the childhood and so on of the villain and ask why that person has their world view, however sick or warped it might be. How they come to believe that what they are doing is right? What kind of world does a terrorist come from? Who has taught him or her to think that way? Why do they see no other option? Or what kind of world allows priests to abuse children or young adults to take a gun to school and kill as many of their school mates as possible? As the detective tries to discover ‘whodunit’, a good crime fiction novel will reveal, slowly and gradually, the killer’s world view and motivation. By doing so, the author reveals the issue at the heart of the story as well as bringing the reader a well-rounded, believable villain. A villain who is evil simply because he is, really doesn’t make for a credible character, in my opinion.

Anyway, I’ll keep any further details of my talk to myself until I’ve had a chance to share it with the students attending. Only fair they get to hear it first. But if you have any thoughts on these topics, I’d love to hear them, so please leave a comment below.

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Telling Truths: crime fiction and national allegory

October 18, 2012

I am over the moon today because I have been invited to present a paper at the University of Wollongong’s crime fiction convention on 6 – 8th December 2012. As a thriller author I will focus on how thrillers reveal the truth about global social, political and more recently environmental issues facing the world today. I will use Ian Rankin to frame how I see one of the key differences between thrillers and procedural crime fiction:

“In the crime novel it’s more of an internalised chase, one detective up against one individual, you’re very much inside the head of the detective and you’re fairly static, you’re not shifting all over the globe.
When you come to the thriller, what you tend to have is some kind of wide ranging conspiracy involving governments or terrorists, and you tend to have an ordinary person who’s thrown into this and has to try to make sense of it, so you get this externalised chase which goes all over the globe.”
Thrillers tend to tap into big picture, global issues which are key to the story and the hero must prevent the catastrophic event from happening or save people from a terrible injustice, be it the assassination of a U.S. president (David Baldacci’s The Innocent) or a pharmaceutical company experimenting on unsuspecting Africans (John Le Carre’s The Constant Gardener) or the exploitation of the world’s resources threatening the lives of millions (my own thriller, Thirst) or the abuse of women in Sweden (the Stieg Larsson Millennium Trilogy).

I will reveal how the underlying themes in thrillers reflect the fears of the time and why, perhaps, so many people choose to buy thrillers as a way of dealing with those fears.

To find out more about the convention, which is open to the public, please go to this site:

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The elephant in the room

October 14, 2012

A good friend and fellow author Tony Wilson has self-published a wonderful children’s book called The Elephant in the Room. It is beautifully illustrated by Greg Ure. It sparkles with Tony’s usual sense of fun and the charming way he views the world.

There’s an iPad version ($6.95) and a Windows version ($6.95) and they can be purchased through Tony’s website.

This is what Tony has to say about how he came up with the idea for the story:

“The idea was simply to bring the adult expression to life in a literal sense. There is an elephant. There are rooms. Everyone ignores the elephant in the room. Everyone also ignores the elephant in the bath, the pool, the tree, the bed, the grass. The elephant gets sick of being ignored, makes her way to the sink, fill her trunk with water  … do you really want to know how it ends? Do you? I won’t tell, suffice to say the whole family survives and so does the elephant. Indeed The Elephant in the Room 2: The Attention Horde is already at second draft stage, slated for release in 2018. Andy Griffiths said: ‘Very cool and very funny. I can give you no higher compliment than to say that I wish I’d written it!’ ”

Here’s the blog about how it was written, and how rhinoceroses got involved.

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Love Genre fiction? Writing genre fiction?

October 6, 2012

GenreCon is a three-day convention for Australian fans and professionals working within the fields of romance, mystery, science fiction, crime, fantasy, horror, thrillers, and more. One part party, one part celebration of “genre fiction”. It’s on 2-4 November 2012 at Rydges Hotel in Parramatta, Sydney. I will be there encouraging new authors of thrillers and crime fiction, and look forward to meeting you. If you see me, please come up and say Hi. This event is going to be popular, so get your tickets early:

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My battle with the Drake Passage

September 26, 2012

Thought I would share this write up on the total travel website about my time crossing the Drake Passage to Antarctica:

Waves swelled to 10-metres high and winds to 60 knots as LA Larkin battled the infamous Drake Passage.

The British thriller writer was travelling in an ex-Russian oceanographic research vessel that corkscrewed in the wild seas.

Although the stoic Russian crew didn’t bat an eyelid at the conditions, Larkin and her fellow passengers were ordered to their rooms.

“All the outer doors had to be shut because you’d be thrown overboard,” Larkin tells AAP.

“Everyone was told to go into their cabins and lie on their bunks and hang on, stay there.

“I foolishly got up and got thrown from one side of the cabin onto the door – not next to the door but onto the door – because the ship had tilted on its side.”

Larkin laughs at the memory.

“It is like being in a washing machine and you do need prescription-quality seasickness pills,” she adds.

Larkin, who lives in Sydney, was on her way to Antarctica as part of research for her latest novel, Thirst.

She spent three weeks travelling on the research vessel and describes it as brilliant and no bigger than a Russian trawler.

It was far from glamorous, she says, with a shower room like a cupboard and the shower head a hose.

“But because the ship is small, you can get in and out of all sorts of interesting places,” she says.

The author travelled from Ushuaia, at the foot of Argentina, so as to spend the shortest amount of time at sea.

“Drake Passage is notorious,” she reconfirms. “When people say it’s one of the roughest seas in the world they are not underestimating it.”

The crossing experience, she says, depends on the weather, which is difficult to predict.

“We were very lucky,” says Larkin.

“When you come out of the other end (of the passage) there’s this eerie silence and you look out and the seas are inky black.”

Larkin and her fellow passengers and crew advanced down the Antarctic peninsula, which she describes as like the tail of a stingray.

The peninsula is also the warmest part of Antarctica, she says, and has an abundance of wildlife, stunning glaciers and breathtaking scenery.

Antarctica, Larkin adds, is almost twice the size of Australia.

“A lot of people don’t realise how enormous it is and that’s without the sea ice. In winter, the sea ice doubles it in size.”

Larkin spent about a year, on and off, researching for Thirst, during which time she learned about crevasse rescue and polar medicine so she could describe, for example, the impact of hypothermia.

She kept a diary of her experiences and is publishing extracts on her website –

Larkin also spent time with the Australian Antarctic Division in Tasmania and the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge.

This extra research was needed due to the location of the story.

“Antarctica itself is remote; very difficult to get to,” she says, “but everything else pales into insignificance in comparison with Pine Island Glacier, which is where I’ve set this.

“There are probably only a handful of scientists in the whole world who have been there.”

Larkin chose to set Thirst in Antarctica for a few reasons.

She sought a location where the central character, an Australian glaciologist, would be isolated and under pressure.

She also had a personal fascination with the continent and says it was the only place such a story, which revolves around a potential global catastrophe, could occur.

“It’s also an incredibly fascinating, savage, alien environment within which to tell a story.

“I think almost everyone I’ve spoken to has got questions about Antarctica.”

Having described herself as having an adventurous soul, it seems only fitting that Larkin is already writing two more Antarctic thrillers.

Thirst by LA Larkin is published by Murdoch Books, rrp $32.99

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