Llewellyn, Sam 1948-

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Llewellyn, Sam 1948-


Born August 2, 1948, in the Isles of Scilly, England; son of William Somers (an Anglican bishop) and Innis Dorrien Llewellyn; married Karen Margaret Wallace (a writer), 1975; children: William, Martin. Ethnicity: "Slightly Welsh/English/Scottish." Education: St. Catherine's College, Oxford, B.A., 1970, M.A., 1973. Politics: "Tory anarchist." Hobbies and other interests: Wine, sailing.


Agent—Araminta Whitley, LAW Agency, 14 Vernon St., London W14 0RJ, England. E-mail—[email protected]


Musician and writer. Director of Arch Books and New Hat Books.


League of Nightrunners, Baverstock Orpheans, Academy, Cruising Association.



Dead Reckoning, Michael Joseph (London, England), 1987, Summit Books (New York, NY), 1988.

Blood Orange, Summit Books (New York, NY), 1989.

Death Roll, Michael Joseph (London, England), 1989, Summit Books (New York, NY), 1990.

Dead Eye, Michael Joseph (London, England), 1990, Summit Books (New York, NY), 1991.

Blood Knot, Michael Joseph (London, England), 1991, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1992.

Riptide, Michael Joseph (London, England), 1992.

Clawhammer, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1993.

Maelstrom, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1994.

The Shadow in the Sands: Being an Account of the Cruise of the Yacht Gloria in the Frisian Islands in the April of 1903, and the Conclusion of the Events Described by Erskine Childers in His Narrative The Riddle of the Sands, Sheridan House (Dobbs Ferry, NY), 1999.

The Sea Garden, Hodder Headline (London, England), 2000.

The Malpas Legacy, Headline Feature (London, England), 2001.


Pegleg, illustrated by Robert Bartelt, J.M. Dent (London, England), 1989.

Pig in the Middle, illustrated by Michael Trevithick, Walker and Co. (New York, NY), 1989.

The Rope School, Walker and Co. (New York, NY), 1994.

The Magic Boathouse, illustrated by Arthur Robins, Walker and Co. (New York, NY), 1994, new edition, 2002.

Wonder Dog, Walker and Co. (New York, NY), 1999.

Little Darlings, illustrated by David Roberts, Puffin (New York, NY), 2004.

Bad Bad Darlings: Small but Deadly, illustrated by David Roberts, Puffin (London, England), 2005, also published as Bad, Bad Darlings, Razorbill (New York, NY), 2005.

The Return of Death Eric, Puffin (New York, NY), 2005.

Desperado Darlings, Puffin (New York, NY), 2006.

The Haunting of Death Eric, Puffin (New York, NY), 2006.

Eye of the Cannon, Catnip Publishing (London, England), 2007.


Gurney's Revenge, Arlington Books (London, England), 1977.

Gurney's Reward, Corgi Books (London, England), 1979.

Gurney's Release, Arlington Books (London, England), 1979.

Hell Bay (novel), Ballantine (New York, NY), 1980.

The Last Will and Testament of Robert Louis Stevenson, Arlington Books (London, England), 1981.

Yacky Dar Moy Bewty! A Phrasebook for the Regions of Britain (with Irish Supplement), illustrated by Nigel Paige, Elm Tree (London, England), 1985.

Small Parts in History (nonfiction), Sidgwick & Jackson (London, England), 1985.

The Worst Journey in the Midlands (nonfiction), illustrated by Chris Aggs, Heinemann (London, England), 1985.

Sea Story (novel), St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1987, published as The Great Circle, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 1987.

Storm Force from Navarone: The Sequel to Alistair MacLean's Force 10 from Navarone, HarperCollins (London, England), 1996.

Thunderbolt from Navarone: The Sequel to Alistair MacLean's Force 10 from Navarone, HarperCollins (London, England), 1998.

Admiral Nelson: The Sailor Who Dared All to Win, Short (London, England), 2004.

Contributor to periodicals.


Llewellyn's novels featuring the three Darlings were optioned for the screen by Twentieth Century-Fox in 2005.


Sam Llewellyn is an avid sailor who has won recognition for his writings, notably thrillers set at sea. A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that Llewellyn's work "proves that you can flirt with several genres at once and still deliver a gritty, intelligent and original read." In a typical Llewellyn novel, a hardy seafaring man is called upon to investigate foul play of some sort—and his life becomes threatened by the villains and the sea as he pursues the truth. The author's fiction is often cited for its action scenes, but Newgate Callendar noted in the New York Times Book Review that Llewellyn can also be described as "a superior stylist capable of a neat turn of phrase."

Among Llewellyn's earliest entries in the genre is Dead Reckoning, in which a yacht designer discovers that his racing crafts are being sabotaged. Determined to prove the actual safety of his designs, the hero willingly risks his life by entering a key competition. Callendar, in his regular New York Times Book Review appraisal of crime fiction, observed that in Dead Reckoning "the writing is clear and the mystery carefully plotted." In another thriller, Blood Orange, Llewellyn writes about a racing trio undone when their yacht founders, and one of the crew, Alan, is believed drowned. The two surviving sailors, James and Ed, continue with their lives, though Ed himself is suspected of playing a part in Alan's drowning. James suddenly discovers the missing Alan aboard another yacht but, before James can address him, Alan vanishes. Soon afterward Alan is truly found dead. When another of James's acquaintances suffers a boating mishap, he begins to suspect a conspiracy of foul play.

Llewellyn's other thrillers include Death Roll, another tale of seaside sabotage, and Blood Knot, in which a former journalist is framed with the drowning of a Soviet sailor. In the course of the latter story the hero discovers a considerable plot in Estonia, and in unraveling events he finds himself uncovering the circumstances of his own father's mysterious demise. A nefarious plot by neo-Nazis and ex-Soviet intelligence agents also provides the plot line for Maelstrom, in which a jaded environmental activist must unravel his uncle's mysterious death while thwarting illegal whale hunts. In Booklist, George Needham cited Maelstrom for its "engaging" characters and "scenes of high-seas action [that] are wonderfully crafted."

The sea is also a threatening backdrop for The Sea Garden, in which a young bride unearths a human skeleton in the vast and breathtaking island garden which she and her husband have inherited. In this "stylish tale of crime and passion," to quote a Publishers Weekly reviewer, the young woman must delve into her husband's family's past in order to solve the murder—and as she does so her own life hangs in the balance. The Publishers Weekly critic further described The Sea Garden as an "intricate tale of sex and death over the generations," and in Kirkus Reviews, a contributor called the book an "entertaining thriller," animated by Llewellyn's "proven knack of creating lively people."

Aside from thrillers, Llewellyn's writings include children's tales and books of humor. His juvenile volume Pig in the Middle, for instance, concerns a seal pup stranded in a lagoon. While a prosperous fisherman contends that his livelihood is threatened by the seal's presence, a young boy, plagued with a constantly inebriated father and a mean-spirited mother, finds that his own troubled life is somehow enriched by the same creature.

The "Darlings" trilogy, which may eventually debut in movie theaters, relates the adventures of the three Darling children—Cassian, Daisy, and Primrose—who are abandoned by their mother, neglected by their wealthy father, and left on their own to provoke and bully a series of hapless and horrible nannies. This works until Nanny Pete comes along, tough enough (for reasons that are revealed in the first novel, Little Darlings) and creative enough to divert the trio from a life of mayhem into a world of adventure. School Library Journal contributor Melissa Christy Buron called Little Darlings "a cleverly written satire on the ingenuity of children."

In The Return of Death Eric, a brother and sister attempt to revive their father's interest in life and resurrect his former hit band, Death Eric. When ex-rock star Eric Thrashmettle's manager disappears with the family fortune, the children, Lulubelle Flower Fairy (Lou) and Living Buddha (Buddy), face a drastic change of lifestyle unless they can come up with enough money to keep them in designer clothes and exotic hobbies. But Eric's hard-hitting career has left him lethargic and reclusive. Can he and the band be restored to their former glory? Llewellyn creates an escalating series of challenges that the children must conquer if they are to succeed. A Kirkus Reviews contributor called the adventures "hilarious and wonderfully wacky." School Library Journal reviewer Michelle Roberts felt that some of the events strained credulity, but wrote nonetheless that some "readers may be entertained by the absurd plot that, like many aging rockers, doesn't know when to quit."

Among Llewellyn's earliest volumes is Yacky Dar Moy Bewty! A Phrasebook for the Regions of Britain (with Irish Supplement), in which he proposes that Britain be divided by dialect into nine specific regions. Llewellyn also produced The Worst Journey in the Midlands, an account of his arduous, 300-mile rowboat voyage from Wales to Westminster on the Severn River. Though Llewellyn sometimes found himself in dangerous circumstances—at one point he suffered a head injury when he was pitched from his vessel—he nonetheless shows considerable humor in the retelling.

Another of Llewellyn's nonfiction volumes is Small Parts in History, in which, as Basil Boothroyd reported in the London Times, the author "has … hit on the witty idea of digging up nonentities who have played small parts in high matters." Among the seventy-seven subjects in this book are Alexander Selkirk, the shipwrecked sailor who served as the inspiration for Daniel Defoe's classic character Robinson Crusoe. Llewellyn reports that after being rescued, Selkirk commenced a life of philandering and rowdiness. Boothroyd appraised the contents of Small Parts in History as "appetizing bedside snacks."

Llewellyn's The Shadow in the Sands: Being an Account of the Cruise of the Yacht Gloria in the Frisian Islands in the April of 1903, and the Conclusion of the Events Described by Erskine Childers in His Narrative The Riddle of the Sands is a sequel to Erskine Childers's classic seafaring thriller The Riddle of the Sands. Almost a century separates the first printing of the two books: Childers's was released in 1903, Llewellyn's in 1999. The protagonists of Childers's work are two grande bourgeois and amateur yachtsmen. Charles Webb, Llewellyn's protagonist, comes from the opposite end of the social spectrum. He is a fisherman's boy-turned-skipper who foils international espionage at no little peril to himself. In The Shadow in the Sands, Webb is sent into dangerous waters off the Frisian coast, ostensibly to recover sunken treasure. When the real purpose of the mission is revealed, Webb serves his country well. "This sequel is a worthy one," wrote Roland Green in Booklist. Green also cited the novel for its "convincing characterization and seafaring milieu." A Publishers Weekly correspondent found the book "seaworthy" and "riveting."

Llewellyn once told CA: "I have always lived on, by, in, or under the sea, and I have taken great pleasure in telling stories about it. It is always good to have an excuse to spend a lot of the year on a boat."



Armchair Detective, fall, 1989, review of Dead Reckoning, p. 371.

Booklist, November 1, 1994, George Needham, review of Maelstrom, p. 480; October 15, 1999, Roland Green, review of The Shadow in the Sands: Being an Account of the Cruise of the Yacht Gloria in the Frisian Islands in the April of 1903, and the Conclusion of the Events Described by Erskine Childers in His Narrative The Riddle of the Sands, p. 420.

Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2000, review of The Sea Garden, p. 1064; September 15, 2006, review of The Return of Death Eric, p. 960.

Los Angeles Times, February 24, 1985, review of The Worst Journey in the Midlands, p. 4.

New York Times Book Review, May 22, 1988, Newgate Callendar, review of Dead Reckoning, p. 28; April 9, 1989, review of Dead Reckoning, p. 42; May 27, 1990, Newgate Callendar, review of Death Roll, p. 27; April 28, 1991, Newgate Callendar, review of Dead Eye, p. 24; October 11, 1992, Newgate Callendar, review of Blood Knot, p. 27; December 18, 1994, Newgate Callendar, review of Maelstrom, p. 19.

Publishers Weekly, November 29, 1993, review of Clawhammer, p. 57; October 17, 1994, review of Maelstrom, p. 60; September 13, 1999, review of The Shadow in the Sands, p. 63; August 21, 2000, review of The Sea Garden, p. 52.

School Library Journal, August, 2005, Melissa Christy Buron, review of Little Darlings, p. 130; December, 2006, Michelle Roberts, review of The Return of Death Eric, p. 149.

Times (London, England), November 14, 1985, Basil Boothroyd, review of Small Parts in History, p. 13.

Times Educational Supplement, January 6, 1989, review of Pegleg, p. 26; July 14, 1989, Naomi Lewis, review of Pig in the Middle, p. 26.

Times Literary Supplement, July 21, 1989, review of Death Roll, p. 810.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), April 24, 1988, review of Dead Reckoning, p. 7; April 9, 1989, review of Dead Reckoning, p. 4.


Sam Llewellyn: One of Britain's Great Storytellers,http://www.samllewellyn.com (August 22, 2007).