All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Larrimah by Caroline Graham and Kylie Stevenson

on August 2, 2022

Larrimah
Caroline Graham & Kylie Stevenson
Allen & Unwin
2021, 392p
Read via my local library/Borrow Box

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}: A dying town, a missing man. One of Australia’s greatest mysteries – two whodunnits, twisted together.

Larrimah: hot, barren, a speck of dust in the centre of the nothingness of outback Australia. Where you might find a death adder in the bar and a spider or ten in the toaster. Maybe it’s stupid to write a love letter to a town that looks like this, especially when it’s someone else’s town. A town where there’s nothing to see, nothing to buy and the closest thing to an attraction is a weird Pink Panther in a gyrocopter whose head falls off intermittently. A town steeped in ancient superstition and pockmarked with sinkholes. It’s Kadaitja country. People go missing in the bush there, the traditional owners say.

It’s doubly stupid to write a love letter to a town where someone did go missing and one of the remaining residents might be a murderer. A town at the centre of one of the biggest mysteries outback Australia has ever seen – a weird, swirling whodunnit about camel pies and wild donkeys and drug deals and crocodiles, a case that’s had police scratching their heads for years, while journalists and filmmakers and Hollywood turn up, from time to time, to ask what the hell happened here.

And it makes no sense to fall for a place when the town is crumbling into the dust and it looks a lot like your love letter might end up being a eulogy. But whatever happened in Larrimah, it’s strange and precious and surprisingly funny. Journalists Kylie Stevenson and Caroline Graham have spent years trying to pin it down – what happened to Paddy Moriarty and his dog, how they disappeared, how they might take the whole town and something even bigger with them.

This was so fascinating!

I first saw this book when it was published last year but I have to admit, I never really looked into it and didn’t really realise that it was actually a non-fiction book. The cover looks kind of whimsical, like it’s more of a happier story. I first heard about the actual story of missing Larrimah man Paddy Moriarty via Max & Occy, an Australian vanlife YouTuber who is currently travelling around the Northern Territory. In driving from Uluru to Katherine, he stopped in at Larrimah and talked about listening to the podcast and showcased the local pub in the video. He made the podcast sound so interesting so I ended up listening to all of the episodes over 2 days and then I decided to see if I could grab the book. Borrow Box came through with the instant gratification and I read this in a day.

Larrimah is a tiny town in remote Northern Territory (let’s face it, most things in the Northern Territory are probably classified as remote). It at one stage, had just 12 residents…..and most of them hated each other in some way or another. It’s a complex town, most of the residents were over 70 and had been there a long time. Some were banned from the local pub, the only real place to socialise although there’s also a teahouse as well that mostly caters to tourists. In December 2017, local man Paddy Moriarty and his dog simply vanished. Searches of his house indicate that wherever he went, he probably went willingly and was not planning to be away for long: there were no signs of a forced entry or struggle. He had some food on the bench he probably intended to eat for dinner that night and the remains of a roast chicken a tourist had given him for his dog, Kellie. Her collar was there and Paddy’s keys, wallet and medication were all still in the house. An extensive search via ground and air revealed nothing – if Paddy had fallen or had a medical episode, his body would’ve been visible to searchers. Kellie never showed up. Both of them simply just disappeared and no credible trace has ever been seen of either of them, ever again.

Caroline Graham and Kylie Stevenson spent extensive time in Larrimah researching this – Stevenson was actually there before Moriarty disappeared, on a writers retreat bankrolled by the estate of the late Australian author Andrew McMillan. She met Moriarty while she was there and had a vested interest I suppose, in investigating what could’ve happened to him. They spoke to almost every one of the 11 remaining residents and all of them were amazingly frank with both the journalists about the ins and outs of their complex relationships with the other members of this tiny town. Feuds were common, pranks played, shouting matches. To be honest, you could make a case for almost any of the other residents having been involved somehow.

It seems obvious that someone out there knows something. But unfortunately, this book doesn’t have the answers because they aren’t known. As of now, the investigation is still ongoing – an inquest determined that Paddy Moriarty almost certainly met foul play and that someone does have information that they are just choosing not to come forward with. And that that person is probably one of his closest neighbours (NT coroner, Greg Cavanaugh). There is also a reward of $200,000 that has been established by the police.

I can see why Graham and Stevenson got so involved in this – the further you get into it, the more fascinating it is, especially as they undertake side quests to investigate Paddy’s past and various claims that he made about what he was doing prior to coming to Larrimah as well as whether or not he potentially had any children out there. The more you know….the less you know as every new piece of “information” or every new person spoken to just tends to bring about more questions and less answers.

This feels fantastical but it’s all real. It’s been brilliantly laid out here – I really recommend both the podcast and the book, undertaken together because the podcast includes all the interviews with the residents and you can put voices to the names.

8/10

Book #130 of 2022

I’m going to count this one for my 2022 NonFiction Reader Challenge hosted by Shelleyrae @Book’d Out. This is the 5th book completely so far this year out of the 6 I set for myself:

1. Social History

2. Popular Science

3. Language

4. Medical Memoir

5. Climate/Weather

6. Celebrity

7. Reference

8. Geography

9. Linked to a podcast

10. Wild Animals

11. Economics

12. Published in 2022

Using this to tick off the category linked to a podcast – Lost In Larrimah is the podcast and is done by the same authors.

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