Larrikin; a boisterous, often badly behaved young man; a person with apparent disregard for convention; a maverick
I didn’t set out to write a larrikin. In fact I thought I was writing a serious book. But then Lachie Munro, the hero, or anti-hero of Something For Nothing emerged. It’s a common flaw of mine; to think I am writing something very dramatic only to discover it is in fact a comedy. Not that I think Something For Nothing is only funny. It is also an observation of the craziness of modern blokes and bloke-culture, things I find both fascinating and naturally funny. Who knows what would happen if I actually tried to write something funny!
Larrikin is a word that gets thrown about a lot to describe anyone who misbehaves or is a bit of a joker. But the word has a closer connection to crime than you probably realise. The original appearance of the word is lost but it seems to be derived from a street patois, dialect or a misheard quote describing someone as “larkin’ about”. The term was used to describe the lower class, similar to a hooligan, both words you didn’t want to be described as. Australia may claim to be classless but no one wants to be seen as lower class, which is why so many crime novels have characters that are upper class, aspirational, and most definitely well off. That is not the Australia I’m interested in.
But through exploring so many true crimes and crooks for television series’, I developed a theory that people become involved in crime for two reasons. The first was that it’s the family business. Many criminals have family crime roots spanning generations with each new generation doing their apprenticeship to rise up the ladder. The second type of crook, which is becoming more prevalent thanks to the ridiculous amounts of money illegal drug supply appears to offer, are the people who make a stupid mistake that plunges them in over their head.
Lachie Munro sits somewhere in the middle – the modern, 21st century larrikin. I’m not sure how to respond when Leigh Redhead says that Lachie is just the sort of guy her crime character, private investigator Simone Kirsch, would want to have a fling with, or when a journalist tells me she has developed a crush on Lachie.
Just like a lot of people, Lachie likes the idea of being able to bend the rules, push things just that little bit further than allowed. You only have to look at Coles supermarkets decision to cut back on their self serve checkouts due to people “incorrectly” scanning items to see exactly the sort of behaviour Lachie Munro exemplifies. No one sees themselves as a bad person. We are all heroes of our own tales
Even the lovely Karen Miller, the Fishery Officer Lachie falls for, has her own agenda. Just like Lachie’s poor decision that kick starts the story, Karen makes her own gamble that escalates and threatens everything she has worked for just to get what she wants.
Writing a larrikin is tricky. You can’t just splatter the text with Alf-Stewart-stone-the-flamin-crows dialogue. People don’t talk that way (sadly). My ear is finely attuned to how people speak. There is a rhythm and a cadence. I have a notebook filled with odd utterances I’ve heard people say. Just the other day I heard a bloke express how much he was looking forward to drinking his long neck of beer. What he said though was ‘This’ll be a dead marine by the time I hit the station’. I have no idea where that phrase comes from but it’s fantastic and sure to turn up in the next Lachie Munro misadventure.
I love Lachie. I have no idea where he emerged from in my unconscious but I’m glad I was paying attention when he did. Australia is a rich and diverse community. We aren’t all university educated, aspirational, inner city denizens. Thankfully, we aren’t all larrikins either. But having both makes life just that little bit more interesting.