Future IRB makes an appearance in Chapter 18 of alumnus’ new thrillerBy Steve Koppes
Last March, novelist Patrick Larkin (A.B.,’82) found himself in a tight spot. Exploiting an unexpected opportunity, Larkin had only three and a half months to outline, research and write a 115,000-word thriller that would become the fifth novel in Robert Ludlum’s Covert-One series.
Larkin wanted to set one of his scenes in a nanotechnology research facility. His attention soon turned to the University and its Interdivisional Research Building, currently under construction.
“I was looking around the University’s Web site and found wonderful amounts of concise information about the IRB project, and even floor plans and pictures from the construction site,” Larkin told the Chronicle via telephone from his home in northern California. “I thought, boy, this is great. I’ve got all the information I need.”
Larkin quickly incorporated real-life details of the IRB into Chapter 18 of the novel, The Lazarus Vendetta, which was published last October by St. Martin’s Press.
“I’m familiar with the Hyde Park area, so it seemed like a natural place. I had my suspicions that the University would be heavily involved in nanotech research.”
The IRB is scheduled to open in August, when it will become home to 100 research groups from both the Biological and Physical Sciences divisions. The building is not quite yet open in Larkin’s book, either. As Chapter 18 opens, work crews are putting finishing touches on the building. “When it was finally up and running, biological and physical scientists would share the building’s state-of-the-art facilities,” Larkin wrote. “The hope was that working side by side would help them transcend the narrow and increasingly artificial boundaries between the two traditional disciplines.”
The Chronicle declines to reveal further details about the IRB’s role in the plot. The curious will have to read The Lazarus Vendetta to find out. Suffice it to say that Larkin’s plot involves murder, mayhem, an eco-conscious protest movement and international intrigue.
In addition to his latest novel, Larkin is the co-author of five bestselling thrillers with Larry Bond, including Red Phoenix and The Enemy Within. His first solo novel, The Tribune, was published in 2003. Set in ancient Rome, it is the first in a series.
Larkin’s specialty in historical and military fiction began at age 9, when he wrote a medieval battle story as an assignment in the fourth grade. “I’d love to find it again and see if I was cribbing from the Battle of Crecy or Agincourt,” he said. “I had vast, thundering charges of knights, and I had longbowmen firing on them, and I had pikemen. I had a lot of fun writing it. I can’t remember the characters who were in the story, but I remember the action scenes.”
After completing his English degree at the University, Larkin went to work in Washington, D.C., as a congressional researcher. He also completed some free-lance assignments for a Chicago game company, writing the background history for a science-fiction game called Battletech. Following a seminar he gave about the game at a convention in Baltimore, a fan invited him to join a group of game aficionados in northern Virginia.
This was shortly after the publication of Tom Clancy’s Hunt for Red October in 1984. When Larkin showed up at the appointed address, it turned out to be Larry Bond’s residence.
“I met Larry, walked in his front door and there was a fellow sitting on the floor, chain-smoking and typing away on a Macintosh computer. Larry said, ‘This is Tom Clancy.’”
That day, Bond and Clancy were war-gaming the battles they would depict in the book Red Storm Rising. Months later, the two went to work on separate projects. As an ex-Naval officer and intelligence analyst, Bond needed a writer to collaborate with, and Larkin volunteered the instant he found out. “It was pure good fortune,” Larkin said.
Larkin now is feverishly working on the sixth book in the Covert-One series that Ludlum started. Titled The Moscow Vector, it is scheduled for publication in July, leaving Larkin with another tight deadline.
“Tight deadlines impose fear. It’s a great motivator,” he said.