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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!

Writing detective crime fiction

May 19, 2014

I ran a detective crime fiction course recently at the NSW Writers’ Centre and I kicked off with a very brief history of the detective novel and the different styles and sub-genres of detective stories available today. As I’m sure everyone knows, the 1920s was the “Golden Age” of crime fiction, a time when the amazing Agatha Christie was working her magic. In 1928, a gentleman by the name of S.S. Van Dine created his “Twenty rules for writing detective stories”. Many remain true today, but when I read them they always make me smile because he is so very black and white about what constitutes a detective novel. I particularly like rules 6 and 7:

6. The detective novel must have a detective in it; and a detective is not a detective unless he detects. His function is to gather clues that will eventually lead to the person who did the dirty work in the first chapter; and if the detective does not reach his conclusions through an analysis of those clues, he has no more solved his problem than the schoolboy who gets his answer out of the back of the arithmetic.
7. There simply must be a corpse in a detective novel, and the deader the corpse the better. No lesser crime than murder will suffice. Three hundred pages is far too much pother for a crime other than murder. After all, the reader’s trouble and expenditure of energy must be rewarded.
He’s right, of course. But most of all I agree that we owe it to our readers to write a satisfying climax, that surprises and delights, with a juicy twist, for good measure.
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ABC Radio’s Mark Colvin and I talk censorship

April 9, 2014

I was very honoured to be asked to join Mark Colvin on his PM radio show to talk about censorship recently. Here is a link to the conversation transcript and the audio file so you can listen to it, if you wish.

The PM, Tony Abbott, has recently attacked the ABC, claiming it is biased and not on Australia’s side. In my opinion, what he’s really complaining about is that the ABC is, in fact, reporting in an unbiased way and is asking the PM awkward questions. He doesn’t want the ABC to talk about Edward Snowden or about the plight of boat people arriving here. He prefers the tame press who know that if they keep the PM happy, he’ll give them the scoops. There is very little true journalism left. The days when journalism was about uncovering the truth, no matter whom it might upset, are almost gone. There are powerful corporations to consider, mining contracts to take into account. In the UK, the BBC, The Guardian and The Independent soldier on and do a valiant job. In the USA, The New York Times and The Washington Post are still brave enough to delve into delicate topics. In Australia? The ABC and SBS. I’m saddened to see the commercial TV news channels in Australia doing beat up stories on minor issues that are little more than gossip and propaganda. Where are the intelligent, well-researched, and challenging stories about the truly big issues impacting us all?
Hands off the ABC, Tony Abbott, and get used to criticism. Or would you rather a subtle censorship of the ABC? Is that where you are heading?
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Beating my own drum

April 5, 2014

After being on the receiving end of Chinese censorship, I wonder if China’s ever-widening powers over free speech will even be discussed when Tony Abbott’s trade delegation arrives there next week, writes L.A. Larkin.

I was asked to write a piece for ABC’s The Drum, which was published yesterday, 4 April. My story has highlighted China’s efforts to control what is said about it beyond its own borders, at a time when our PM, Tony Abbott, is gearing up for his visit to China next week, accompanied by many of our top corporations. Click here, to read my article in The Drum.

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When is censorship, not censorship?

April 4, 2014

Fascinating piece in The Sydney Morning Herald by Nick Galvin on 2 April 2014. It has to be read to be believed. Follow this link to the site here. In it the MD of Reader’s Digest Australia, Walter Beyleveldt, ‘flatly denies there has been any censorship,’ when their printers in China insisted that the words Falun Gong and references to torture of a Falun Gong practitioner in my thriller, Thirst, due be in a Reader’s Digest volume, must be deleted. When I said I would not allow China to censor my work, Thirst was removed from the Reader’s Digest volume.

Beyleveldt’s comments in The Sydney Morning Herald article has caused outrage around the world from authors, journalists, bloggers and from the book-loving public because he is denying Reader’s Digest has caved into Chinese censorship.

Here are just some of the hundreds of tweets about this article and the attempted censorship of my work:

From Actual Litte in France: #Censure d’un #imprimeur chinois : le Reader Digest courbe l’échine #Chine #censorship CC @lalarkinauthor

Australian Society of Authors:  ASA concerned by censorship of Australian author @lalarkinauthor:…

Chair of NSW Writer’s Centre and editor, Linda Funnell:  Shame on you @readersdigest not backing your author @lalarkinauthor in face of Chinese…

Mark Colvin, ABC Radio, PM Show: Dear @ReadersDigestAU, remember the 1st law of holes: when you’re in one, stop digging.… cc @lalarkinauthor

Dianne Blacklock, author:  @lalarkinauthor Oh boy, that’s nasty!

Blogger, Literary Minded:  Australian thriller writer @lalarkinauthor has refused to bow to censorship demands from Chinese printers

Official Jargon: @ReadersDigestAU @lalarkinauthor “censorship” sounds so blunt. “The book was lightly harmonised…” is better.

Paula Weston: It seems censorship is alive and well. Just ask @lalarkinauthor about her recent Readers’ Digest experience…

Dean Crawford, author:  @lalarkinauthor You’re welcome – it does indeed present ominous questions about future author censorship.

Michael Robotham, referring to earlier article in The Guardian, UK on this same issue:  Profit and politics trump free speech.

The last laugh goes to The Australian’s Strewth column, 3 April 2014:

“A BIG bravo to Reader’s Digest Australia managing director Walter Beyleveldt for staying true to the reality-fighting spirit of Monty Python’s Black Knight (“’Tis but a scratch!”). L.A. Larkin’s thriller Thirst was to be included in a Reader’s Digest anthology, but ran into trouble when the Chinese printers insisted on the removal of the words “Falun Gong” and “torture”. But in Fairfax Media’s story, it was this contribution from Beyleveldt that stood out: “I absolutely would not call it censorship. We wanted to take out some stuff from her book and she wouldn’t let us, so we were left with no choice other than to pull her book.” 500 stars.”

Thanks to everyone for your support and for making me smile!

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Fiction author censored by Chinese Government through its printers

April 1, 2014

I never thought I’d see the day when my thrillers would come to the attention of the Chinese Government. But THIRST, my Antarctic thriller, has done exactly that. A condensed version of the story was due to be released in a Reader’s Digest fiction volume destined for Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia and India. Not, I might add, for the Chinese market. But the Chinese printers contacted Reader’s Digest demanding that the words Falun Gong be removed and that a character’s torture, because she would not recant her beliefs, was to be changed, using the word ‘torment’ instead of ‘torture’. I refused, and I was withdrawn from the Reader’s Digest volume.

If you would like to know more, please follow this link to Nick Cohen’s article in The Guardian and The Observer in the UK Sunday 30 March 2014, and the Australian Guardian.

I would like to add that Reader’s Digest was caught between a rock and a hard place and sympathised with my decision not to alter my words. Both the publisher and the author lost out as a result of the censorship.

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