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The nature of violence


Former military intelligence officer (and Las Vegan) Tim Larkin’s latest book, When Violence is the Answer, could be mistaken for a self-defense manual. It is that, but it is also a reasoned meditation on violence in our society: what it is beyond media portrayals, how all of us benefit from identifying both predators and our own tendencies. We called Larkin for a brief Q&A.


How accurate is this assessment: “When Violence Is the Answer is more of a psychology book than a self-defense book”?

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I would agree that my goal is not simply to train someone to defend himself, but to think about the subject of violence differently, and understand it as a tool that may be critical for them to understand at some time in their lives. The main thing I try to get across is, studying the subject and understanding how violence works does not make you violent. … The most peaceful people I know are the ones who understand how to use violence, and will do everything necessary to keep it out of their lives.


The book seems to be most relevant to people least likely to read it — hotheads and pacifists. How do you solve that conundrum?

The book hits the middle of the road people enough that the fringe people on both sides are beginning to come around. The reason I went with a larger publisher is to reach a larger audience for that very reason. Your focus on intention resonated with me.


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Is it possible to sum this up for people trapped in an auto-pilot world?

In the world of self-protection and law enforcement it’s called situational awareness, but it really is the basic idea of yoga: understanding where you’re at. … I tell people that they’ve been sleeping with their head on a railroad track and telling themselves they’re fine because the train didn’t come last night. My idea is to get people to take their head off the track so they don’t even have to worry about the train.

Desert Companion welcomed Heidi Kyser as staff writer in January 2014. In 2018, she was promoted to senior writer and producer, working for both DC and State of Nevada. She produced KNPR’s first podcast, the Edward R. Murrow Regional Award-winning Native Nevada, in 2020. The following year, she returned her focus full-time to Desert Companion, becoming Deputy Editor, which meant she was next in line to take over when longtime editor Andrew Kiraly left in July 2022.