Llewellyn, Sam 1948–
Llewellyn, Sam 1948–
Born August 2, 1948, in Tresco, England; son of William Somers (an Anglican bishop) and Innis Dorrien Smith Llewellyn; married Karen Margaret Wallace (a children's writer), 1975; children: William, Martin. Education: St. Catherine's College, Oxford, B.A., 1970, M.A., 1973. Politics: "Tory anarchist." Hobbies and other interests: Wine, sailing, gardening.
Home—Herefordshire, England. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer, editor, and journalist. Arch Books, former director.
League of Nightrunners, Baverstock Orpheans, Council for the Protection of Rural England.
Premio di Littratura per l'Infanzia, Cassa di Risparmio di Cento (Italy), for Pig in the Middle.
Pegleg, illustrations by Robert Bartelt, Dent (London, England), 1985.
Pig in the Middle, illustrations by Michael Trevithick, Walker (London, England), 1989.
The Rope School, Walker (London, England), 1994.
The Magic Boathouse, illustrated by Arthur Robins, Walker (London, England), 1995.
The Polecat Café, illustrated by Arthur Robbins, Walker (London, England), 1998.
Wonderdog, Walker (London, England), 1999.
Admiral Nelson: The Sailor Who Dared All to Win, Short (London, England), 2004.
Little Darlings, Razorbill (New York, NY), 2004.
Bad, Bad Darlings: Small but Deadly, illustrated by David Roberts, Puffin (New York, NY), 2005.
The Return of Death Eric, Puffin (London, England), 2005, Walker (New York, NY), 2006.
Desperado Darlings: Small but Deadly, Puffin (New York, NY), 2006.
The Haunting of Death Eric, Puffin (London, England), 2006.
Eye of the Cannon, Catnip (London, England), 2007.
Dead Reckoning, Summit Books (New York, NY), 1987.
Blood Orange, Michael Joseph (London, England), 1988, Summit Books (New York, NY), 1989.
Death Roll, Summit Books (New York, NY), 1989.
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, Headline (London, England), 1998, Sheridan House (Dobbs Ferry, NY), 1999.
The Sea Garden, Headline (London, England), 1999.
The Malpas Legacy, Headline (London, England), 2001.
Gurney's Revenge, Arlington (London, England), 1977.
Gurney's Reward, Arlington (London, England), 1978.
Gurney's Release, Arlington (London, England), 1979.
Hell Bay, Arlington (London, England), 1980.
The Last Will and Testament of Robert Louis Stevenson, Arlington (London, England), 1981.
Yacky dar Mor 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), illustrations by Chris Aggs, Heinemann (London, England), 1985, reprinted, Summersdale (Chichester, England), 2003.
Sea Story (novel), St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1987.
Great Circle, Weidenfeld & Nicholson (London, England), 1987.
Iron Hotel, Michael Joseph (London, England), 1996.
Storm Force from Navarone: The Sequel to Alistair MacLean's Force 10 from Navarone, HarperCollins (London, England), 1996.
Thunderbolt from Navarone, HarperCollins (London, England), 1997.
Emperor Smith, the Man Who Built Scilly, Dovecote Press (Dorset, England), 2005.
Contributor to periodicals, including the London Times, Daily Telegraph, Independent, Practical Boat Owner, Yachting Monthly, Classic Boat, and Sailing.
British journalist Sam Llewellyn, a frequent contributor to the London Times, is the author of several highly regarded books for children and teens, among them Pig in the Middle and The Return of Death Eric. Llewellyn also pens critically acclaimed suspense novels and works of nonfiction for adults.
Llewellyn is an avid sailor whose interest in the sea is reflected not only in his thrillers but also in his books for children. Born on the Isles of Scilly, a group of islands off the southwest tip of Cornwall, England, he once commented: "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." One of Llewellyn's best-known works, The Worst Journey in the Midlands, chronicles his attempt to row from North Wales to London. Llewellyn's "journey encompassed canals filled with fridges, prams and supermarket trolleys," remarked Richard Williamson in the Sunday Mercury. "There were brusque, unfriendly fishermen, small boys throwing stones and bigger boys firing air rifles, racist graffiti around Kings Norton and slavering Alsatians attempting to board his vessel via the oars. All this he tells with wit and humour in one of the most entertaining and laid-back travel books around."
Pegleg, Llewellyn's first work for children, follows the adventures of young Gussie Smith, who tries not only to avoid the truant officer Snell, but also the secret Russian agent "Pegleg" Arthur Hopcraft. Set in the Scillies, the novel's action ranges from rescuing the spy's tin leg to Gussie's fight to keep his grandmother out of a retirement home. In a review of Pegleg for School Librarian, C.E.J. Smith wrote that Llewellyn's protagonists "balance neatly between caricature and character." A Junior Bookshelf critic expressed amazement at the "breakneck" tempo of the novel, going on to praise Llewellyn for his accurate description of the unique island setting.
Intended for younger readers, Pig in the Middle concerns a seal pup stranded in a lagoon. While a prosperous fisherman contends that his livelihood is threatened by the seal's presence, eleven-year-old Alec Whean, saddled with a constantly inebriated father and a mean-spirited mother, finds that his own troubled life is somehow enriched by the same creature. "The plot moves at a cracking pace," observed London Times contributor Brian Alderson, who also praised the author's "convinc- ing treatment of locale." While admitting that the tale is "exciting enough for any reader looking for adventure," a reviewer in Growing Point suggested that Pig in the Middle also exposes children to environmentalism. Similarly, in a Junior Bookshelf review, Marcus Crouch wrote that, "as well as being a great yarn," Llewellyn's book is both "responsible and very thoughtful."
The Rope School and The Magic Boathouse both feature children who get their just deserts at the end. Running from an angry coachman whose horses she has lost, young Kate Griffiths takes momentary refuge in a British warship in The Rope School. Unable to jump ship before it sets sail and surrounded by sailors who do not realize she is a stowaway—or even worse, a female—Kate finds herself enrolled in the Rope School where she learns to become a sailor and even teams up with an attacking American privateer. In The Magic Boathouse Llewellyn introduces readers to Joe and Doris as they discover an old boathouse while on a seaside outing. When the man in the boathouse allows the two children to blow his foghorn, legions of Romans march from the sea, followed by conquering Normans, all of whom help the two children with their chores. Reviewing The Rope School, a Junior Bookshelf critic wrote that "the characters of both landlubber and sea-going personnel are briskly sketched," while another critic in the same publication claimed that in The Magic Boathouse Llewellyn "has written a lively and entertaining story."
Little Darlings, a work that was compared by several critics to Lemony Snicket's popular "A Series of Unfortunate Events" novels, centers on Cassian, Primrose, and Daisy Darling, a trio of children whose insanely wealthy father ignores their welfare, allowing them to be raised by host of tyrannical nannies. When the children discover that the latest group of nannies is really a burglar ring in disguise, they pool their talents to thwart the ring's criminal efforts. School Library Journal critic Melissa Christy Buron described Little Darlings as "a cleverly written satire on the ingenuity of children and the callous materialism of the" idle rich. Nicolette Jones, writing in the London Sunday Times, praised Llewellyn's narrative style as "sometimes arch but often witty, and in a knowing ellipsis that assumes intelligence in the reader." In a sequel, Bad, Bad Darlings: Small but Deadly, Daisy, Cassian, and Primrose find themselves on a remote island along with their father, who is determined to clear the way for development by paving over the isle's natural beauty. According to Jones, Bad, Bad Darlings "fulfils the eccentric promise of the first book, with its improbable premises, sophisticated wordplay and unconventional morality."
Aging rockers reunite in The Return of Death Eric, a work for middle-grade readers. Death Eric, once one of the world's most famous and outrageous rock-and-roll bands, suffered an abrupt end after lead singer Eric Thrashmettle convinced himself that the band was cursed by the appearance of a raven at the Chicken-stock Festival. Now living in relative isolation in his estate, Eric is forced by financial concerns to the road after his unscrupulous manager runs off with the family fortune. With the help of his children, Lulubelle Flower Fairy and Living Buddha, the aging rocker attempts to convince his bandmates to give the music business another try in a novel that was dubbed "hilarious and wonderfully wacky" in a Kirkus Reviews appraisal.
In addition to writing children's fiction, Llewellyn has also written thrillers set at sea. One of his earliest books in this genre, Dead Reckoning, focuses on a yacht designer who 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. 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, however, suddenly discovers the missing Alan aboard another yacht. But before James can address him, Alan vanishes. Soon afterward, Alan is found truly dead. When another of James acquaintances suffers a boating mishap, he begins to suspect a conspiracy of foul play. Other thrillers include Death Roll, another tale of seaside sabotage, and Blood Knot, in which a former journalist is framed for the drowning of a Soviet sailor. In the latter story, the hero discovers a considerable plot in Estonia, and in unraveling the events, he finds himself uncovering the circumstances of his own father's mysterious demise.
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 Llewellyn's sequel to Erskine Childers's 1903 novel The Riddle of the Sands. The book concerns Charles Webb, a yacht skipper who helps prevent a German invasion of England. According to Booklist reviewer Roland Green, the work contains "convincing characterization and seafaring milieu, not to mention nonstop action." In The Malpas Legacy, a novel set in Ireland, a man discovers that a crumbling mansion once belonging to his girlfriend's grandfather harbors some dark secrets. London Times critic Eve Peasnall called The Malpas Legacy "intelligent and macabre."
Llewellyn, who lives in a medieval farmhouse in Herefordshire, England, with his wife and children, often sails for several months during the year to research his books. Addressing aspiring writers, Llewellyn offered the following suggestion to an interviewer on the BBC News Web site, "Write two pages every day, rewrite the two pages you have written until you are completely happy with them—and be very lucky."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Birmingham Post (Birmingham, England), August 8, 2001, Alison Jones, "Digging Deep into Recesses of the Mind: Author Sam Llewellyn Tells Alison Jones about His Unusual Method of Research," p. 136.
Booklist, October 15, 1999, 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.
Growing Point, September, 1989, review of Pig in the Middle, p. 5206.
Independent on Sunday (London, England), April 5, 1998, Brandon Robshaw, review of The Polecat Café, p. 30.
Junior Bookshelf, October, 1985, review of Pegleg, p. 231; August, 1989, Marcus Crouch, review of Pig in the Middle, pp. 190-191; October, 1994, review of The Rope School, p. 182; February, 1995, review of The Magic Boathouse, p. 22.
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2006, review of The Return of Death Eric, p. 960.
Publishers Weekly, August 21, 2000, review of The Sea Garden, p. 52.
School Librarian, June, 1986, C.E.J. Smith, review of Pegleg, p. 170.
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.
Sun (London, England), July 22, 2005, Sam Wostear, review of The Return of Death Eric, p. 55.
Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England), January 12, 2003, Richard Williamson, review of The Worst Journey in the Midlands, p. 42.
Sunday Times (London, England), March 28, 2004, Nicolette Jones, review of Little Darlings, p. 54; January 9, 2005, Nicolette Jones, review of Bad, Bad Darlings: Small but Deadly, p. 54.
Times (London, England), June 17, 1998, Brian Alderson, review of Pig in the Middle, p. 54; January 8, 2000, Gill Hornby, review of The Sea Garden, p. 22; September 15, 2001, Eve Peasnall, review of The Malpas Legacy, p. 19; May 15, 2004, Amanda Craig, review of Little Darlings, p. 17.
BBC News Web site,http://news.bbc.co.uk/ (August 3, 2005), "Sam Llewellyn: When I Was Twelve."
Penguin Books Web site,http://www.penguin.co.uk/ (November 10, 2007), "Sam Llewellyn."
Sam Llewellyn Home Page,http://www.samllewellyn.com (November 10, 2007).