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Reviews

The Goat Castle Murder

“In Michael Llewellyn’s 20th novel, The Goat Castle Murder, the author proves once again what a fine writer of historical fiction he is. Like his earlier novel “Creole Son,” which was inspired by the French painter Edgar Degas’ months spent in New Orleans, this new book is based on true events. ‘The blood drying under the Mississippi moon was the bluest in Natchez.’ How is that for a riveting opening line? Thus, begins a brief prologue that leaves the reader eager to learn more about the 1932 murder of former socialite Jennie Surget Merrill, which the Natchez Democrat proclaimed to be the ‘Most Brutal and Atrocious Crime in the History of County.’ No doubt it was! The Goat Castle Murder is a recounting of a true crime, and the author’s commitment to research of the events around it is evident. But it is also a fine piece of historical fiction, and reads as a can’t-put-it-down mystery novel as well. Llewellyn is a master at description as in this passage set in the once magnificent Glenwood: ‘In the parlor, vines sprouted through broken windows and trailed up walls to strangle chandeliers, their tendrils leached white from lack of sunlight. Chickens nested in furniture that once belonged to the Lees of Virginia, and pig droppings fouled floors where Mississippi’s most aristocratic feet once waltzed away soft Southern nights.’ Impeccably written and rich with detail, The Goat Castle Murder is a provocative story of lost grandeur, peppered with elements of incest, insanity, and extreme eccentricity. What more could a reader want?” —The Louisiana Advocate

“Michael Llewellyn’s impeccably and intricately constructed historical novel, The Goat Castle Murder is  shrouded within the puzzle of a conventional murder mystery as we move back in forth in time from a Natchez, Mississippi, shattered by civil war, to the atrophy of overcrowded, rat invested tenements of New York City. We encounter worlds we thought we knew, but realize through this author’s incisive perspective, we did not. This is the strength of the novel, not simply the uniqueness of the worlds he gives us but the insular nature of his viewpoint. While in language approaching William Faulkner, Eudora Welty and Flannery O’Connor, this is not the familiar aristocratic entropy we encounter in their fiction but a fully unique society. These are definitely not the “Confederates” we thought we knew. These were the lavishly wealthy driven not by loyalty to any cause but by personal obsession. This element of unique plotting is the strength of The Goat Castle Murder along with Llewellyn’s ability in use language to achieve unique, heightened imagery in creating the visual story. And from the onset, dominating the story is the dead woman—who and why. For the reader who likes a good historical novel, this is a must. For the reader who likes an intricate whodunit, this is also a must. For the reader who likes both, this is a gift.” –Gene Farrington, author of The Blue Heron 

Creole Son

“When the great French painter Edgar Degas traveled to New Orleans in the autumn of 1872 he expected a peaceful visit with his New Orleans relatives and new inspiration for his art. He found much more. Little did Degas realize, post-Civil War New Orleans was a city that continued to struggle under the throes of Reconstruction, a city that was policed by unfriendly Union troops and governed by corrupt and violent politicos. In Creole Son, Michael Llewellyn paints a vivid picture with words of life in New Orleans at that time, while chronicling the known details of the artist’s sojourn in the city. Many readers will be aware that Degas’ mother, Célestine Musson, was a native of New Orleans, and it was in the Esplanade Avenue home of her brother, Michel Musson, where the artist resided during his visit of several months. Also living in the home was Edgar’s brother René and his bride Estelle whom Degas lovingly renders in his artwork. The author also takes us to Michel Musson’s cotton brokerage in downtown New Orleans, the subject of one of Degas’ most well-known and important paintings, A Cotton Office in New Orleans. It is apparent that Llewellyn has knowledge of both art history and technique, and as we read we share in the artist’s process of creating this great work. Llewellyn has clearly done his research and has a gift for dialogue. ‘There’s something very strange about this place, this wild mixture of land and water that warns and inspires with its very impermanence,’ a fellow artist tells Degas as they watch the Mississippi River. Llewellyn’s deft handling of historical detail entwined with an engrossing fictional narrative will appeal to lovers of history, lovers of art, and lovers of a good read. Creole Son succeeds in delivering what historical fiction should deliver. It engages, it educates, and above all, it entertains.” –The Louisiana Advocate

“The challenge of writing historical fiction is finding the balance between factual events and the fictional story the author tries to weave into that reality. In his work Creole Son: A Novel of Degas in New Orleans, Michael Llewellyn finds that balance by crafting a tale that is rich in both history and imagination.  The beauty of Creole Son is its historical depth and accuracy. For readers not familiar with Edgar Degas, they will learn how he and his peers, including his good friend Édouard Manet, began to move away from Neo-classicism towards Impressionism. Llewellyn effortlessly blends the art world along with a thorough understanding of its terms and technicalities into his work, but he does so in such a way that readers without a major in art will still be able to understand its principles. Llewellyn also brings the political complications of Reconstruction to the forefront of his novel. Edgar’s brothers along with their uncle Michel Musson are part of groups in opposition to Radical Republican Governor Henry Warmoth and his constituents. Political issues dominate a great deal of the plot’s overall conflict, but the author makes the politics engaging instead of weighty. Author of seventeen books as well as multiple travel articles, Michael Llewellyn brings New Orleans alive in Creole Son. Expertly blending fact and fiction, Llewellyn crafts an enjoyable novel that readers will delight in discovering.” –Southern Literary Review 

“Artist Edgar Degas is justly famous for his many lyrical and revealing paintings of ballerinas, but in Michael Llewellyn’s Creole Son: A Novel of Degas in New Orleans, we are presented with a fascinating portrait of the sometimes irascible but emotionally restrained artist himself. Llewellyn, who lived in New Orleans for a number of years, writes convincingly of a chaotic, sensual, dangerous and exotic city that is seething with racial tension, criminal politics, sexual license and moral ambiguity. When I started the book, I had no idea it was going to go to these dark places, but with Degas as a companion, it was enthralling to experience the strange and haunted streets and cemeteries, Mardi Gras balls and brothels, as well as the intimacy of his daily life in his mother’s family. Llewellyn crafts a strong and persuasive argument for New Orleans having brought Degas to a new and daring way of painting, experiences that freed his artistic abilities as much as they opened his heart and soul. The descriptions of how he thought, observed and painted his subjects are finely wrought and very well written, showing detailed knowledge of the artist’s style and methods. A book to be savored.” –Literary Grace Notes

I thoroughly enjoyed Creole Son, especially the sections in which Degas is sketching and painting. Llewellyn captures with compelling detail Degas’s artistic excitement and inspiration. I also learned a lot about 19th century New Orleans politics from the impressive research, and admired the way Llewellyn met the challenge of writing a convincing novel set in the Francophone 19th century, no easy task. It’s so difficult, as I’ve found, to write in one language while reminding readers that the characters are speaking in another. I was not surprised to learn Llewellyn had been a painter. The frenzy of the inspired eye and hand coordination rang so true that it couldn’t be invented.” –James Nolan, author of Higher Ground

“With skill and sensitivity, Llewellyn captures the interaction of art and violence, ugliness and beauty, the transition of an artist, a man and a world.” Barbara Hambly, author of A Free Man of Color

“Llewellyn deftly imagines the beauty, peril, internecine struggles and seductiveness of late 19th century New Orleans as seen through the troubled artist’s eye.” Ciji Ware, author of Island of the Swans 

Creole Son captures the rich history and color of New Orleans in the late 1800s, a history that was not much known to this reader. Degas himself is a sympathetic, sometimes maddening character. Good portrait of an exotic time gone by.” –Leslie Jacobs, author of Sidewalk Voodoo

Past Time

“The characters of Past Time are very well-drawn and completely believable in the period of Tsarist Russia, circa 1914. I also appreciated the mysteriously referred mechanism of the time shifts and the allusions to a mystic race of time keepers. The time traveler, Madeleine, shows the proper fear of blurting out information that she should keep quiet, but I enjoyed the little bits of modern speech she spills into the Imperial Russian household. Well-paced, satisfying ending, and a lot of fun to read.” –Richard Sutton, author of The Red Gate 

Past Time is the second of Michael Llewellyn’s time travel series. I really enjoyed the first, but I loved this one. The story takes the time-traveling heroine back to 1914 Russia. The author paints such a vivid portrayal of St. Petersburg in that fateful year that you easily visualize each aspect of the story. I am really looking forward to the next book in the series. This is a wonderful read and I recommend it most highly.” Gregory Lindeblom, author/photographer, Masculine Beauty

Still Time

Still Time is evocative of a new kind of historical time-travel/mystery/thriller that delights and informs the reader. Steeped in New Orleans past and present, Llewellyn creates a steamy, sultry, ultra-romantic atmosphere that will have you craving gumbo and beignets. Heroine Madeleine St. Jacques transforms quite satisfyingly from quiet librarian to cunning, action-oriented belle-of-the-ball once she is singled out by transcendent ‘forces’ to fulfill a critical mission in the past. Llewellyn’s history is accurate and illuminating to the nth degree, especially in regard to the looming Civil War, which will make historical fiction readers happy, and his time-travel devices are innovative and clever, so time-slip fans will appreciate that as well. There’s a fun romance thrown in for a well-rounded introduction to “Maddy” and her friends. I hope this book is the first of a long-running series. –Mary F. Burns, author of The Spoils of Avalon

Communion of Sinners

“Author Michael Llewellyn has cooked up a savory literary paella inspired by the hidden history of California’s Spanish missions and flavored with a touch of investigative journalism and the beauty of the Pacific coast. Mysterious deaths, long held secrets, heartbreak and wonderful descriptions of food and wine combine in this compelling new novel to create a feast of a book.” Anne Hillerman, author of Spider Woman’s Daughter 

Twelfth Night

“Entertaining…a solid sense of life in antebellum New Orleans.” –Publisher’s Weekly

“Llewellyn has a real gift for atmosphere and characterization…exploiting the rich possibilities of the Quadroon Balls, the class conflict of Mardi Gras, and the voodoo legends of Congo Square and Marie Laveau…Twelfth Night will be the gilded bean in your king cake.” —New Orleans Times-Picayune.

“Accurately captures the atmosphere of New Orleans and Mardi Gras. The background material is well-researched, the spicy story is well-written and the pace is suspenseful.” –The Jackson Clarion- Ledger 

Writing as Michel LaCroix 

Alex in Wonderland

“Tennessee Williams meets Jackie Collins with a dash of Truman Capote…The perfect novel to read while sipping a mint julep and fanning yourself on the veranda.”Michael D. Craig, author of The Ice Sculptures: A Novel of Hollywood

“A hilarious and utterly compelling story of one man’s search for identity, independence and love, at the risk of rejection and forsaking a family inheritance. A sizzling mix of fast-paced storytelling and lyrical sexuality.” Durell Owens, author of The Song of a Manchild

“Richly entertaining. Celebrates New Orleans in fine style. Fully loaded with plot, heart and rainbow-colored characters. Everything you could want is present and accounted for.” Edge Boston