The Great Circle is a yacht race. The instructions are simple: sail round the world, leaving the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn to port. Completing the race is not so simple. And winning it is very, very hard – not only because of the weather, but because there are a lot of people sailing a lot of boats, and most of these people have to win battles with their personal demons before they can even think about winning races….
Great Circle was a bestseller when it was first published. It has been out of print for ten years. It is fast, furious, salty, authentic and unputdownable. Get the ebook here
My ancestors lived on Tresco in the Isles of Scilly, thirty miles or so west of the westernmost point of Cornwall. It is a place of great beauty and violence, warmed by the sea but exposed to waves that have come all the way from America. This novel begins in 1829. It is rooted in a battle between two men for the love of beautiful Mary Prideaux, witch, healer, child of islands unchanged for thousands of years. One of the men is Nicholas Power, a Dublin doctor fleeing a shameful past. The other is the iron-willed philanthropist Augustus Smith, come to the islands to carve an ideal kingdom from the stubborn rocks and the even more stubborn people.
The novel is an interweaving of historical fact, fiction and rumour, against a background of passion, mayhem and shipwreck. Hell Bay has sold nearly 100,000 copies in the Isles of Scilly (population about 2000)
“A thumping great novel”
The West Briton
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The Iron Hotel
Several Februaries ago, I read a newspaper story about a rustbucket freighter that had run itself aground on New York’s Coney Island beach, and discharged a swarm of illegal immigrants into the freezing surf. It had taken them three months to travel from the South China Sea. Conditions on board had been bad. But it was hard to find out just how bad, because the immigrants had either vanished into New York or been repatriated. So I decided that I had to write a novel about life on a ship full of illegal immigrants. The research for this book took me into meetings with pirate-hunters in the Sulu Sea, conferences in the boardroooms of Hong Kong and all the way across the Pacific in a rustbucket freighter.
“Llewellyn’s writing is clean, flowing, unaffected, sometimes with a touch of poetry… may he sail on and on”
New York Times
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I have always admired Erskine Childers’ book The Riddle of the Sands. For one thing, it was the first modern thriller. For another, it is one of the greatest novels about living and sailing on small boats. The story, in case you have not read it, concerns the discovery of German plans to invade Britain in 1902, and their thwarting by Davies and Carruthers, a pair of amateur yachtsmen. The Riddle’s only flaw is that the villain, the renegade and class traitor Dollmann, drowns himself from shame at the denouement.
This flaw has always bugged me – I have met many villains, and none of them showed any trace of this kind of self-sacrifice. So after several cruises in the Frisian islands I wrote The Shadow in the Sands, being the story of the events of the subsequent year, told not by a gentleman yachtsman, but by Charlie Webb, a paid hand or hired crewman on a gentleman’s yacht. This is the first book in which a paid hand has his say. The perspective is working-class, the language earthy, the yachting unsportsmanlike. The book can be read on its own, or as a continuation of the Riddle – which everyone should read.
The Sunday Times
“A racy and first-rate continuation of the Riddle of the Sands”
Mail on Sunday
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It was Tresco that got me started on the sea. Its world-famous Abbey Gardens also got me started on gardens. A mixture of the two impelled me to write this novel.
The Sea Garden is the story of a family who live on an island. It spans a hundred and fifty-odd years. During this time family members were born and fell in love and died. They also created a great and famous garden.
Now it is 2001, and new terraces are being dug. A skeleton comes to light. It quickly becomes apparent that in the Sea Garden – and all others – beauty is only a by-product. Seduction is to do with procreation. Fertility comes from decay. The main business of gardens is sex and death.
“Dazzling…Patrick O’Brian meets Daphne du Maurier – at last!”
For three years the Llewellyn family lived in a semi-detached castle on a crag above Southern Ireland’s Blackwater River, a place that inhabits a special space somewhere between truth and fiction. There are many stories about the people who live on this huge, mysterious waterway. In the Malpas Legacy, I have invented a river of my own: a dark river, set about with great crumbling houses, inhabited by people who have lived in isolation for so long that they can hardly remember how the normal world functions. It is a river wound about with secrets. Some of them are mildly interesting to the historian. Others, buried in locked minds and long-lost libraries, are a matter of life and death.
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