The Scoundrel Harry Larkyns and his Pitiless Killing by the Photographer Eadweard Muybridge
by Rebecca Gowers
For over a century, a mysterious figure from 1870s California, going by the name of Major Harry Larkyns, has been written off as little more than a liar, seducer and cheat. And he is only remembered at all these days because he was shot dead by the magnificently strange photographer Eadweard Muybridge. A rural court would exonerate the unrepentant murderer, in contravention of all existing laws; and the conduct of the case has barely been questioned since. But was either the killer or the victim quite what he seemed?
In the autumn of 2015, Rebecca Gowers uncovered the startling fact that Harry Larkins, lost brother of her own great-great-grandmother, Alice Larkins, was one and the same as the Harry Larkyns coldly executed by Eadweard Muybridge. Provoked by this into extensive researches, Gowers is now able to lay bare the long-concealed and extraordinary truth about this ‘brilliant waif’.
Part biography, part crime account, The Scoundrel Harry Larkyns shows how, after a catastrophic childhood, Harry grew up handsome, fragile, courageous, and a beguiling reprobate to boot. The exploits of his tragically short life would span three continents, and range from a stint as an adolescent army cadet in India, through a louche spell in Second Empire Paris, to his days as a Bohemian rogue in the American Wild West. He found himself behind bars more than once, won glory in battle, and, hardly less dangerously, had a fondness for chasing notorious women. But what would seal his fate was to fall in love with another man’s wife.
There's much to enjoy in this painstakingly researched account of a forgotten and troubled ne'er-do-well; it's a story that is as eventful as it is tragic
PD Smith, GUARDIAN
This is a cold case investigation into a true crime of passion with a family history twist that more than 140 years later finally puts the unlucky Larkyns' side of the story
FAMILY TREE MAGAZINE
Gripping, cinematic, tragic and tender, THE SCOUNDREL HARRY LARYNS is a belated contender for one of the best books of the year
Declan Burke, IRISH TIMES
Strange, brilliant, quirky and illuminating, books such as this remind us, if we need reminding, that books matter. Nothing else can take you away, take you back, take you to places you've never known, to meet people you would never meet
Rebecca Gowers's gripping tale of a 19th century rogue is a masterpiece of historical detective work
Enthralling writing . . . this is a book that stays with you
Alex Von Tunzelmann
Harry Larkyns's life at times reads like fiction . . . Full marks to Rebecca Gowers for bringing this contradictory and little-known figure properly under the lens
Max Décharné, SPECTATOR
Gowers has taken the cold embers of Harry's life and rekindled them to create a portrait of a fascinating, contradictory figure
A fascinating piece of historical detective work . . . that brings the extraodinary Larkyns to life
HWA Non-Fiction Crown Judges