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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

Media and Reviews

Post a review on Amazon.com.au or GoodReads and your quote could appear here.

Thirst gets 4 star review

January 12, 2016

Helen Goltz Reviews has given 4 stars to THIRST over the Chrsitmas break. I am so proud this action-conspiracy thriller is still getting such lovely reviews.

‘Move over Matthew Reilly’s Scarecrow because Luke Searle is in town. I loved Reilly’s Scarecrow series and I was looking for a thriller that would keep me on the edge of my seat. I found it in Thirst. This is a fantastic read by L.A. Larkin.’

You can read more of the review here.

Thank you, Helen!

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Caving to Insidious Chinese Censorship by L.A. Larkin

June 12, 2014

The ABC’s The Drum, on 4 April 2014  http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-04-04/larkin-caving-to-insidious-chinese-censorship/5367068

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.

On March 24, 2014 I was busy writing an action scene for my next thriller. My central character had just witnessed the horrifying assassination of a young girl in Afghanistan, brave enough to speak out against a drug-trafficking warlord.
The phone rang and a senior editor at Reader’s Digest Australia informed me that my Antarctic thriller, Thirst, had been censored by their Chinese printers.
Thirst, published in 2012 by Murdoch Books, was part of a Reader’s Digest volume of condensed novels destined for distribution in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia and India. Not, I might add, in China.
China is where the books were being printed and the Chinese printers demanded that all references to Falun Gong be removed and that the word “torture”, as it related to a Falun Gong practitioner, had to be deleted. I was told the printers would accept the words “religious belief” instead of Falun Gong and “torment” instead of torture.
But, of course, these are not my words. Such changes distort my opinions and the context of my story. Through a third party commercial enterprise China was attempting to use Reader’s Digest to affect opinion on the touchy topic of Falun Gong outside its own borders by deleting it from my book.
I made the decision not to make the required edits and Thirst was dropped from the volume. The editor at Reader’s Digest sympathised with my decision and I recognised that she was caught between a rock and a hard place, with budget and time constraints.
So imagine my surprise when I read an article in The Sydney Morning Herald on April 2, 2014 by Nick Galvin in which the managing director of Reader’s Digest Australia, Walter Beyleveldt, flatly denied there had been any censorship.
I had assumed that in Australia, and other countries in which we are not arrested, tortured and imprisoned for having views that differ from our leaders, book publishers robustly resist censorship, especially extraterritorial censorship.
Is the profit motive so important (and printing in China so inexpensive) that Reader’s Digest effectively cedes editorial control to the printer?
They are not alone, of course. Bloomberg China was recently accused of repressing investigative reporting regarding corruption among the Chinese leadership for fear of damaging their business interests there.
Google suffered from years of battling China’s censorship laws and has been criticised for capitulating. But in both cases the product or the story was targeted at the Chinese market. My novel in the Reader’s Digest volume was not.
In our interconnected globalised world, in which publishers outsource to the cheapest provider, does this mean that China’s power to censor free speech, anywhere in the world, is far greater than we might imagine?
I never thought that as a fiction author I would find my work being censored. Nor, it seems, did Reader’s Digest. Their senior editor told me she only knew of it happening once before and that was for a non-fiction book by Sir Edmund Hillary that mentioned Tibet.
As a result of my experience, I now realise how important it is for writers, authors, their agents and publishers to be aware of the ramifications of printing in countries where freedom of speech is controlled. We owe it to our readers who want to know that the book they have just purchased reflects the opinion of the author and hasn’t been tampered with for political reasons.
What has happened to me demonstrates the insidious influence of globalisation and the triumph of commercial interests on freedom of speech. China is a cheap place to print, but it comes at a price.
As Tony Abbott’s trade delegation arrives in China next week I wonder if China’s human rights violations and ever-widening censorship powers will even be discussed.
As I return to writing my next novel, and think about the Afghani woman in my story who dies because she tries to tell the truth, I have to ask, what price freedom of speech?
L.A. Larkin is an Australian crime fiction and thriller author.
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Chinese Censors Twist Arm of Reader’s Digest

From The Epoch Times, 3 April 2014 by Joshua Philipp.

http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/598785-chinese-censors-twist-arm-of-readers-digest/

Australian thriller novelist L.A. (Louisa) Larkin was working on her next novel on March 24, when the phone rang. On the line was a senior editor at Reader’s Digest, which was scheduled to print a condensed form of her last novel, “Thirst.”

The company that prints Reader’s Digest in China had stopped the presses, and demanded that Reader’s Digest remove references to Falun Gong and torture from Larkin’s work. Larkin was given two choices: censor her novel or lose the deal.
“I almost felt this was part of a story because it was so unexpected, and so unheard of,” Larkin said in a phone interview from her home in Sydney.
What was particularly concerning, she said, was that the edition being printed was not for China. It was for Reader’s Digest markets in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, and India.
“This is about censoring extra-territoriality, and it is a way of controlling a world view of China, according to how China wants it to be,” Larkin said.
She refused to censor her work, and Reader’s Digest removed her novel from the edition.
A Reader’s Digest representative said it had no background on the issue. There was no immediate response from its Australia office.
Social Media Buzz
Twitter has been ablaze, however, with writers and authors around the world expressing their dismay.
Philip Patterson of Marjacq Scripts, Larkin’s agent, said authors have a clear reason for concern. He said in an email, “The implication for writers are that they then start asking their publisher or representatives, ‘Will my work be changed?’”
“I doubt any writer with an ounce of integrity would be a willing party to this,” Patterson said.
Larkin was told by Reader’s Digest it considered having the edition printed in Hong Kong instead, where it wouldn’t be subject to China’s censors. Doing so, however, would cost $30,000 more.
In the end, the $30,000 was more valuable to Reader’s Digest than preserving freedom of speech for its authors.
“What has happened here is that Reader’s Digest has used a Chinese printer, and they have pretty much told a very large American and international publisher what they can and cannot do, and I find that very worrying,” she said.
The mentions of Falun Gong and torture are only a small part of Larkin’s novel.
“Thirst,” which was published in 2012, is a thriller about a group of mercenaries who besiege a team of scientists at an Antarctic research station.
One of the characters trapped in the station is a Chinese-Australian named Wendy Woo. The character fled to Australia from China because her mother was arrested for practicing Falun Gong, and she later learned of the tortures her mother endured from Chinese authorities as a consequence of not renouncing her beliefs.
“If I submitted to China’s censorship and removed the references to Falun Gong, I’d feel I had betrayed my own beliefs, but also betrayed the character and her mother in the novel, and also what my readers expect of me,” Larkin said.
A Targeted Belief
Falun Gong is a traditional Chinese meditation practice that teaches adherents to live according to the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. It has been violently persecuted by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) since 1999.
Falun Gong is also among the five groups that have become the main focus of Chinese censors. The others are Tibetans, Uyghurs, Chinese democracy activists, and proponents of Taiwanese independence.
A 2013 report from Freedom House explains why the CCP focuses on these topics, stating, “These issues touch on some of the most egregious and systematic abuses taking place in China today, pointing to the CCP’s nervousness of regime violence being exposed, as well as the human costs of international silence.”
The report also warned that Chinese censors were trying to expand their censorship abroad—particularly on these topics. Cases range from the French satellite company Eutelsat cutting the signal of overseas Chinese television network New Tang Dynasty to “show a good gesture to the Chinese government,” to reports in November that Bloomberg News was self-censoring its articles to avoid angering Chinese authorities.
Larkin was told by Reader’s Digest that it had been pressured by China previously to censor a nonfiction work that mentioned Tibet.
She said, however, that the attempt to censor her work was the first she has heard of that applied to a work of fiction for distribution outside China’s borders—and she finds the implications deeply concerning.
Larkin said, “It shows the vulnerability to authors and publishers when they use a country where freedom of speech is not available.”
Additional reporting by Matthew Robertson.
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The Guardian 30 March 2014

How Reader’s Digest Became A Chinese Stooge by Nick Cohen in The Guardian

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/29/readers-digest-chinese-stooge-censorship

The notion that the formerly mighty American publisher Reader’s Digest would allow the Chinese Communist party to censor its novels would once have appeared so outrageous as to be unimaginable. In the globalised world, what was once unimaginable is becoming commonplace, however. The Australian novelist LA (Louisa) Larkin has learned the hard way that old certainties no longer apply as the globalisation of trade leads to the globalisation of authoritarian power.

The fate of her book is more than a lesson in modern cynicism. It is the most resonant example of collaboration between the old enemies of communism and capitalism I have encountered.
Larkin published Thirst in 2012. She set her thriller in an Antarctic research station, where mercenaries besiege a team of scientists.
Larkin was delighted when Reader’s Digest said it would take her work for one of its anthologies of condensed novels. Thirst would reach a global audience and – who knows? – take off. Reader’s Digest promised “to ensure that neither the purpose nor the opinion of the author is distorted or misrepresented”, and all seemed well.
One of Larkin’s characters trapped in the station is Wendy Woo, a Chinese-Australian. Woo fled to Australia because the Chinese authorities arrested her mother for being a member of the banned religious group Falun Gong. Larkin has her saying that she had not “learned until much later of the horrific torture her mother had endured because she refused to recant”.
State oppression in China is not a major theme of a novel set in Antarctica. But Larkin needed to provide a back story for Woo and a link between her and the villains of her drama. In any case, she was a free author living in a free country and was free to express her abhorrence of torture and the denial of freedom of conscience. Or so she thought, until she discovered last week that she was not as free as she thought.
The cost of printing makes up the largest part of the price of book production. Publishers have outsourced manufacturing to China, like so many other industries have done. The printing firm noticed the heretical passages in Larkin’s novel. All references to Falun Gong had to go, it said, as did all references to agents of the Chinese state engaging in torture.
They demanded censorship, even though the book was a Reader’s Digest “worldwide English edition” for the Indian subcontinent, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore – not, you will note, for China.
Phil Patterson from Larkin’s London agents, Marjacq Scripts, tried to explain the basics for a free society to Reader’s Digest. To allow China to engage in “extraterritorial censorship” of an Australian novelist writing for an American publisher would set a “very dangerous precedent”, he told its editors. Larkin told me she would have found it unconscionable to change her book to please a dictatorship.
When she made the same point to Reader’s Digest, it replied that if it insisted on defending freedom of publication, it would have to move the printing from China to Hong Kong at a cost of US$30,000.
People ask: “What price liberty?” Reader’s Digest has an answer that is precise to the last cent: the price of liberty is US$30,000. The publisher, from the home of Jefferson, Madison and the first amendment, decided last week to accept the ban and scrap the book.
Globalisation has turned the world upside down. Reader’s Digest was so anti-communist in the cold war that its enemies muttered that the CIA might as well have been funding it. They sneered at its middlebrow manners as much as its politics – “I mean condensed novels for Christ’s sake.”
In 1982, the sight of Solidarity, a genuinely working-class movement, rising against the Soviet occupation of Poland, disoriented the western left. Susan Sontag, who knew how to hurt when she had to, wiped the smiles from a few lips by raising the despised Digest. At a meeting at New York town hall attended by the publisher of the Nation, and many another eminent figures from the American left, she told her listeners that they had been so keen to defend the victims of McCarthyism and American capitalism that they had forgotten about the victims of Soviet communism.
Imagine if you will, she continued, “someone who read only the Reader’s Digest between 1950 and 1970 and someone in the same period who read only the Nation or the New Statesman. Which reader would have been better informed about the realities of communism? The answer, I think, should give us pause. Can it be that our enemies were right?”
The audience booed her. But although you can find many on the left as indifferent to universal human rights today, I’ll say one thing for them: no one can smack them over the head with Reader’s Digest now.
During the cold war, business had to be anti-communist. The communists wanted to take capitalists’ money and, on occasion, to kill them too. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the rise of the state capitalist dictatorships in Russia and China, defending free speech, defending even the right of an author to criticise torture in passing, may risk the chance to profit. For if China offers the cheapest printers and a huge market, who wants to alienate its leaders? No one, if the grotesque spectacle of the “market focus on China” at last year’s London Book Fair was a guide. The British Council and the British book trade kept the Communist party sweet by refusing to invite any Chinese “visiting authors” whose work had upset the regime.
When the Chinese Communist party was Maoist, Reader’s Digest denounced it. Now it guarantees profits, Reader’s Digest censors on its behalf. When Putin was in the KGB, bankers, lawyers and industrialists deplored the old Soviet Union. Now Putin is in the Kremlin, they ensure that the first aim of David Cameron’s advisers in the Ukraine crisis is to do nothing that might “close London’s financial centre to Russians”.
Everyone knows LP Hartley’s line: “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” If that were ever true, it isn’t now. For most people, the present is foreign and frightening. The intellectual left that Sontag so magnificently upbraided in 1982 had little real power. You only had to look at it to see that.
By contrast, the publishers, banks and corporations, who have taken over the role of deferring to Moscow and Beijing, have power and money and the ability to use both.
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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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