Writing Inspiration: My Dad

Writing Inspiration: My Dad

It’s not every day that a goblin comes to your workplace – and has the same nose as you!

There can be all kinds of reasons why someone makes the fateful decision to become a writer. Or it may be no single thing – rather a number of them. One of the big influences for me was my Dad, Bob Larkins. I am thinking about family a lot at the moment. So let me introduce my Dad and tell you why he was such a key influence on me.

Dad’s London days

Bob Larkins lived a very interesting life. In his younger days he was passionate about acting, starting in repertory theatre in Hobart. He had great vocal versatility, which allowed him to move into voiceover work with 7HO radio. This was to open doors for him when he moved to London in the 1960s.

Timothy Dalton was the second James Bond Dad met. On Radio Caroline he interviewed Roger Moore. (Also seen here, Bill Collins.)

London was a place of great opportunity in those days. Dad took work in the office at the Mermaid Theatre, probably hoping to get into professional acting. However, it led in another direction. Through a friend he got the chance to move to Radio Caroline. This was a pirate radio ship moored in international waters. I love being able to legitimately say my Dad was a pirate!

Years later Dad would admit he fudged the truth to land the job. He told them he had worked as an announcer on 7HO. His job had actually been writing and voicing ads. The first interview he did for Caroline was with Alfred Hitchcock. Having fudged his way into the job, he was peeing himself. But he was passionate about movies, so he loved the chance Caroline gave him to meet big name stars.

Dreams on Hold

Once a family of four kids came along, Dad set aside his acting dreams, but not his love for movies and writing. Before I was born, my parents brought my brothers back to Hobart. Dad worked in copywriting there for many years, but did acting and film production on the side. Somehow, while also raising four kids and working full time, he also managed to write a Western novel. He was never successful in getting it published, but that didn’t stop him writing.

Dad’s love of words found another outlet though. Some of my early memories are of going to the library every week. We could pick out 2 fiction and 2 non-fiction books. I was a precocious reader so by the time I was in about grade 5 he started recommending books to me. Not your usual children’s books. I’d already read all those. No, Dad put me onto writers like Ray Bradbury and Roald Dahl. It was pretty exciting to sneak in among the adult shelves at the library and pick out grown up books.

Word Games

Dad was thrilled to meet Sir Richard Attenborough, director of Ghandi. Dad met few people whose knowledge of movies paralleled his own, but Sir Richard was one of them and the conversation was very lively.

Dad also taught me that words were fun. After ballet class Dad would meet me and we would catch the bus home. One of our regular pastimes was to play word games as we waited. When he lived in England, Dad got to hear the ‘My Word’ radio quiz show. In the final round regulars Frank Muir and Denis Norden would be given a phrase such as ‘A stitch in time saves nine’. They would then spin a long tale to explain the origins of the phrase, but with a twist. For example, ‘Superacalifragilisticexpialidocious’ was explained as a shopping list: ‘soup, a cauli, fridge, elastic, eggs, pea, halitosis’.

Dad and I used to play our own version of this at that bus stop. I remember him telling a tale about a young Egyptian Pharoah who, after many obstacles, finally got to celebrate his birthday: ‘A Foo and his mummy, A Soon, partied’ (a fool and his money are soon parted). No doubt this sort of training is why I love writing filk and playing with words so much now.

Back to His Dreams

Long before IMDB was invented, Dad had an encyclopaedic knowledge of movies. He could tell you who was the gaffer on a 1960s Western, how many academy awards the director had won and all sorts of other obscure facts. For years he worked as a film reviewer for the Mercury (Hobart’s local paper), which meant we got free tickets to the movies all the time. Eventually he channeled this expertise into a book about the actor Chips Rafferty, which found a publisher (Macmillan), in 1986. This opened the door for a move to Sydney and work with Mr Movies himself, Bill Collins, as his researcher.

It was his dream job. Dad got to watch movies, write about movies and meet those involved with movies on a regular basis. Meeting Audrey Hepburn (left) was the highlight of his time at Channel 10. Later he moved to the ABC and undertook the same sort of film-based research work, his last job.

In 1999 Dad passed away from pancreatic cancer. His final writing passion project, a biography of soldier turned actor Audie Murphy, was published posthumously.

My Dad’s legacy to me was a love of words, wordplay, books and reading. He showed me being a published author was a possibility, not just a dream. There are two things that make me very sad though: that I never got to introduce him to his grandchildren, and never got to hand him a copy of Harlequin’s Riddle. It is, after all, dedicated to him.

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