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Warthogs and All: Researching Prey, a South African Thriller

L.A. Larkin

by L.A. Larkin

I have always been an adventurer and big traveller, so it was inevitable that I’d set my thrillers in exciting locations such as South Africa, which is one of the key settings in my new thriller Prey. England is the other key setting.

I’m also a theme-based writer. Once I know the theme of the novel, then I create the characters who can best tell this particular story. The central character in Prey is investigative journalist Olivia Wolfe, who travels the world exposing heinous crimes. Olivia Wolfe's job means I can send her off anywhere I choose, as long as it’s going to place her in danger, of course! It wouldn’t be a thriller without mounting danger, now would it?

LA Larkin with Lynne MacTavish who inspired Hannah Venter in Prey
Lynne MacTavish (l) the inspiration for the story, and me.

I have been to Africa twice and each time I wanted to stay there. The first time, I was a backpacker and I travelled through eight countries, including South Africa. I so loved what I saw that I almost didn’t make it to Australia. I seriously considered training as a wildlife guide and working in a reserve. During my time there, I learned about a terrible trade that’s controlled by criminal syndicates. I don’t want to say too much as I don’t want to give Prey’s plot away, but it fired up an anger in me that made me want to raise awareness of this terrible issue through my story-telling.

The Start of My Story Prey

When I started to write Prey I knew that if the story was going to come to life on the page I needed to talk to people involved in, and victims of, this particular trade.

LA Larkin S Africa wildlife reserve
I spent a lot of time studying rhino, collecting rhino poo for scientific data,
and patrolling fences at night to protect the rhinos from poachers.

A friend of mine, Lara James, married to best-selling author Peter James, put me in touch with contacts in Johannesburg and at a wildlife reserve soI boarded a flight and arrived in South Africa as a volunteer. I learned about life in Soweto, about the South African police, and about the corruption that allows criminal syndicates to operate in South Africa.

At the wildlife reserve I spent my time collecting data on the reserve’s animals, including a collection of rhino poo for scientific research. Yes, I am now an expert in rhino poo! I also patrolled the reserve’s fences at night, accompanied by the reserve owner. I even learned to shoot, for research purposes only, I should add. Unlike Australia, in South Africa many people carry guns. In Prey, Olivia Wolfe must use a pistol and then a rifle, so I wanted to know what it felt and sounded like to fire one.

LA Larkin S Africa baby rhino tag and vaccinate
I was involved in supporting the vet-led teams tagging
and vaccinating baby rhinos.

Why do I bother to fly all the way to South Africa when there’s YouTube and Google and editorial I can tap into for information? I guess it’s pretty obvious that I love travelling, but it’s also because it enables me to bring a scene in my book to life through the senses – what does it look like, feel like, sound like, smell like, even taste like? Through these bricks of detail I hope to build something that transports the reader to the world of my story.


Order Prey through Clan Destine Press, or via your favourite online bookseller. Visit L.A. Larkin's website, and find her on the following social media:

L.A. Larkin Twitter     L.A. Larkin Facebook     L.A. Larkin Instagram


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  • Eileen Haydon on

    What a fabulous way you have experienced it all&went to great lengths on your trip&follow thru africa

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