Lamensdorf, Len 1930- (Leonard Lamensdorf)

views updated

Lamensdorf, Len 1930- (Leonard Lamensdorf)


Born June 22, 1930, in Chicago, IL; son of Maurice and Gertrude Lamensdorf; married Joyce Greenbaum, August 5, 1952 (divorced, October, 1974); married Barbara Witkowski, March 16, 1975 (divorced, February, 1986); married Erica Mamis, May 4, 1997; children: (first marriage) Lauren, Mark. Education: University of Chicago, B.A. (with honors), 1948, J.D., 1952; Harvard University, graduate study, 1952-53. Hobbies and other interests: Travel.


Home—Santa Barbara, CA. Office—SeaScape Press Ltd., 1010 Roble Ln., Santa Barbara, CA 93103. E-mail—[email protected]


University of Chicago Law Review, Chicago, IL, managing editor, c. 1950-52; Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, research associate on American Law Institute federal tax reform project, 1952-53; attorney and real estate developer, 1953-86, building, owning, and managing stores, office buildings, and regional shopping centers in various cities from coast to coast; SeaScape Press, Santa Barbara, CA, cofounder, principal, and writer.


Gold Benjamin Franklin Award for young adult fiction, 2000, for The Crouching Dragon; Silver Benjamin Franklin Award, book of the year award, Foreword magazine, and Independent Publishers Award, all 2001, for Gina, the Countess, and Chagall; Children's Choice Award, Children's Book Council and International Reading Association, and Independent Publishers Award, both 2003, for The Raging Dragon.



(Under name Leonard Lamensdorf) Kane's World, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1968.

In the Blood, Dell (New York, NY), 1974.

Gino, the Countess, and Chagall, SeaScape Press (Santa Barbara, CA), 2000.

The Stolen Scrolls, SeaScape Press (Santa Barbara, CA), 2001.


The Crouching Dragon, SeaScape Press (Santa Barbara, CA), 1999.

The Raging Dragon, SeaScape Press (Santa Barbara, CA), 2001.

The Flying Dragon, SeaScape Press (Santa Barbara, CA), 2003.


(And executive producer) Cornbread, Earl, and Me (screenplay), American International Pictures, 1975.

(And songwriter) The Ballad of Billy Lee (solo show), first produced, 2001.

Also author of three-act plays The Guest House (based on a nonfiction book of same title), first produced in Provo, UT, at Brigham Young University; and The Survival Game.


Len Lamensdorf is an attorney and businessman who bases his fiction on his extensive travels in the United States and Europe. Born and raised in Chicago, Lamensdorf always enjoyed writing stories and plays. Although he undertook a career as a lawyer, a real estate developer, and an owner of numerous commercial properties, he never lost his love for fiction or his urge to write. In the late 1990s he and his wife Erica formed SeaScape Press to publish his novels.

The Crouching Dragon is the first book in a series, "Will to Conquer," in which Lamensdorf explores the adventures of fourteen-year-olds Will and Louise, who live in Normandy, France. In The Crouching Dragon, Will and his friends commandeer a crumbling castle laden with artifacts and treasures spanning many eras, from medieval times to the Nazi occupation. A blend of fantasy and historical fiction, the novel is meant to appeal to readers in grades four through twelve. In Booklist, Sally Estes called the work "an unusual, intriguing adventure tale, with a touch of fantasy gaming." The critic particularly cited the novel for its "suspense-laden conclusion." James Cox of Children's Book Watch deemed The Crouching Dragon to be "enormously entertaining for young readers," and Knoxville News-Sentinel reviewer Jan Avent noted that the book is "so much fun to read, [kids] will not realize they also are absorbing lessons in honor and integrity." Marjorie Hack in Staten Island Advance stated that the novel is "steeped in action, intrigue and gossipy anecdotes."

After Will and Louise save the ancient castle from plunderers and rescue its artifacts from opportunistic treasure hunters, they travel together to Paris to live, go to school, and pursue their adventures through history. In The Raging Dragon they encounter a youth group called Clandestin (the children of fighters from the French Resistance movement of World War II) and a sinister group of DragonSlayers, whose activities include a plot against French President Charles de Gaulle, terrorist incursions into Algeria, and even a bomb plot targeting U.S. President John F. Kennedy and his wife. Their adventures lead the duo from France's most revered architectural treasures to the depths of the Parisian underworld. Needless to say, Will and Louise manage to defeat the forces of evil and earn the gratitude of everyone involved.

In The Flying Dragon Will and Louise are rewarded by the Kennedys with a trip to the United States in 1961, only to encounter yet another evil plot, this time a plan that could actually precipitate World War III. The books in this series are quite long (the third title runs to 500 pages or more), allowing the author to infuse his stories with historical facts, maps and other drawings, and detailed descriptions of everyday life in the 1960s. Though some critics suggested that this approach might overload the typical attention span of the young target audience, others felt that the series could be attractive to serious young history buffs looking for adventure.

Gino, the Countess, and Chagall, Lamensdorf's first adult novel under the SeaScape imprint, tells the story of a gifted Italian artist named Gino Bondone who struggles to find a foothold in the competitive art world of postwar Italy and France during the 1950s and 1960s. Patty Engelmann commented in Booklist that "Lamensdorf presents a glowing tribute to the world of art through the life of a talented and charming painter who personifies a zest for life." Leeta Taylor wrote in ForeWord magazine: "Part gorgeous travelogue, part astute museum commentary, part lexicon of love and gas- tronomy, Gino, the Countess & Chagall is both filling and light at the same time." A writer for Publishers Weekly called the work "voluptuous" and "lighthearted."

Lamensdorf once told CA: "When asked what I do, I sometimes say, ‘I am a lawyer by profession, a regional shopping center owner-builder by trade, and a writer by choice.’ The fact is, who I am, what I am and what I do, are all the same: I am a writer. I have been one since my first-grade teacher, Mrs. Moore, sent me to the principal's office with a poem I had written. I have never wanted to be anything but a writer—of something. Across the years this had included school and college plays and novels—especially novels. I do not favor any particular genre, but have assayed stories ranging from the college world to business, young adult fantasy-history to humor-satire, modern art to sports, mystery, adventure—you name it.

"The beauty of the modern technological revolution is that, although I have had publishers like Simon & Schuster and Dell in the past, I no longer have to whine and plead with agents, publishers, and the like—and eventually lose all control over my work because I'm neither Stephen King nor John Updike. For a remarkably reasonable sum of money, I can publish and promote my own works, as I am presently doing with my wife Erica, under the aegis of SeaScape Press. I can work with a profound sense of joy and achievement. I will have no control over reviewers, distributors or booksellers, but the Internet gives me the means to reach at least part of the market directly. There is no guarantee of success, but what fun it is!"

Lamensdorf later added: "Recently I wrote The Ballad of Billy Lee, a solo show with original songs. Billy Lee was an African slave who served as George Washington's valet, but was in fact his closest companion in war and peace. Eighteen years younger than Washington, he was a superb horseman, a bold soldier, and a literate aide, responsible for George's most important papers at the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention. He was freed at Washington's death and was the only slave individually mentioned in the great man's will—given a lifelong pension and all his living expenses. Lee's unflinching courage and unswerving loyalty clearly had a powerful impact on our first president, helping to greatly change his views on slavery, and his eventual condemnation of it as a crime against man and God. The first live reading by a distinguished black actor drew an audience of hundreds, who responded with standing ovations. A print version is nearing publication, and a television miniseries is in serious negotiation."



Booklist, September 1, 1999, Sally Estes, review of The Crouching Dragon; October 15, 2000, Patty Engelmann, review of Gino, the Countess, and Chagall; October 1, 2002, Sally Estes, review of The Raging Dragon, p. 313; January 1, 2004, Jennifer Mattson, review of The Flying Dragon, p. 846.

Children's Book Watch, October, 1999, James Cox, review of The Crouching Dragon.

ForeWord, December, 2000, Leeta Taylor, review of Gino, the Countess, and Chagall.

Knoxville News-Sentinel, July 11, 2000, Jan Avent, review of The Crouching Dragon.

Publishers Weekly, October 16, 2000, review of Gino, the Countess, and Chagall.

School Library Journal, October, 2002, John Peters, review of The Raging Dragon, p. 168; March, 2004, Hillias J. Martin, review of The Flying Dragon, p. 216.

Staten Island Advance, April, 2000, Marjorie Hack, review of The Crouching Dragon.


SeaScape Press Web site, (August 8, 2007).