As an Assistant Professor of Journalism, Caroline Graham tells aspiring writers to seek out interesting people.
But the character the Bond University academic most wants to have a yarn with at the bar of the Larrimah Hotel remains elusive despite international headlines, an acclaimed podcast and a $250,000 police reward.
“By all accounts, Paddy Moriarty was larger than life in people’s stories about him,” Dr Graham said of the man she has tried to track down since his disappearance from a remote town in the Northern Territory almost four years ago.
“We‘ve had people get in touch with us who met him one night at the pub 20 years ago. He’s just a really, really memorable person.”
The podcast probed the disappearance of Mr Moriarty from Larrimah, a complicated town which at the time had 12 residents, many of them embroiled in a series of feuds.
Since then an inquest has been held and NT police offered the reward, saying they believed Mr Moriarty had been murdered.
Larrimah picks up the story following these developments but is also an ode to the peculiar Outback town, which is also home to a pink pub and a blind pet crocodile.
Dr Graham said relationships had softened in the village with the arrival of three new residents.
“I think we always wanted to tell the story of this town,” she said.
“We had a sense that it might disappear if things changed, and after Paddy‘s disappearance things changed quite rapidly.
“It’s a place that gets under your skin. Almost all the residents came there for a beer, just passing through, and 10 years later they’re still there.
“I said to Kylie the other day, ‘We really should have bought the pub’. Mind you, we were there on the weekend and it was 40C.”
Dr Graham and Ms Stevenson trawled archives in Darwin, Canberra and Adelaide to delve into the pasts of Larrimah and Mr Moriarty, and also travelled to the Gulf Country and the sprawling Brunette Downs cattle station in search of answers.
But she worries Mr Moriarty’s fate might remain unknown, barring the accidental discovery of new evidence.
“It’s a landscape that conspires to keep secrets,” she said.
“By the time they started looking for Paddy there had been days in the high 40s, it had rained several times, and there’s all these sinkholes and WWII bunkers.
“And it’s not like the police could keep a low profile to conduct surveillance in a town of 10 people.”
Dr Graham handed out early copies of Larrimah to the residents and is waiting for the reviews to come in.
The pub’s croc has already had his say, ‘autographing’ a copy by chomping down on it.
Larrimah is published by Allen & Unwin.
Caroline Graham’s top three tips for would-be authors
- “Firstly, it‘s entirely possible to do it. I have always wanted to write a book but felt like it was something that was out of reach. It’s absolutely not. There is never going to be a right time to start. At the time we did the podcast, I was supposed to be finishing my PhD and Kylie had a baby who we took to Larrimah with us. You have to say yes to something when you know it’s the story you want to tell.”
- “Secondly, just write as much as you can. It doesn‘t really matter what the outcome of that is, you’ll still be honing your craft. It’s really hard to show that work to people but push yourself to do that. Take the feedback on board.”
- “Try to live in an interesting way. Talk to people, make friends with people who are different to you. You never know what is going to inspire you.”