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The Caravaggio Conspiracy Paperback – 4 Apr 2012


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Product details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: The Lilliput Press Ltd (4 April 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1843511983
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843511984
  • Product Dimensions: 13.6 x 2.3 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 950,122 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Walter Ellis was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, but now divides his time between New York and rural France.

His new thriller, FRANCO'S MAP, is, he believes, his best book yet. It tells of Hitler's plan to capture Gibraltar in 1940 and close off the Mediterranean to British forces, thus forcing an end to the UK's participation in World War II. Full of intrigue between Francoist Spain and Vichy France, it is also a love story in which the stakes could not possibly be higher.

Published earlier this year, HOW NOT TO WRITE A BESTSELLER - AN EXPERT'S GUIDE, is both a wry account of the author's life and career and a merciless dissection of traditional publishing. Would-be novelists will find it a mine of genuinely useful information about a rough trade in the throes of an unwelcome revolution.

Ellis's novel THE CARAVAGGIO CONSPIRACY, published by the Lilliput Press of Dublin in 2012, received some terrific reviews. A You Tube video, made by Nick Blackburne, in which the author talks about the the book and its inspiration, can be viewed here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E78aNyueeas

The author grew up in the era that immediately preceded the Ulster Troubles - a time that, in retrospect, seems to correspond to that of Middle Earth. His best friend from the age of 11 was his distant cousin Ronnie Bunting, whose malevolent inluence resulted in Ellis's expulsion from his Protestant secondary school, where, as a pupil, he overlapped with the singer/songwriter Van Morrison and the author and sometime Beirut hostage Brian Keenan.


Bunting went on to become Belfast commander of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) and masterminded the bomb attack in the car park of Britain's House of Commons that killed war hero Airey Neave just before he could take up the post of Northern Ireland Secretary in the first Thatcher government. One year later, Bunting himself was dead, murdered by loyalists.


Walter's account of his disastrous friendship with this clever and most ruthless of terrorists was the subject of his 2006 memoir The Beginning of the End, published by Mainstream/Random House and serialised over two weeks in the Sunday Times.


Going on from school to drop out of not one, but two universties - educated, as he put it, to an extent if not to a degree - Ellis finally found his feet as a journalist, working for the Irish Times in Belfast, Dublin and Brussels before moving to Bonn to be with a German girl who promptly dumped him. His career advanced in fits and starts for the next 20 years. He worked for the Financial Times in Frankfurt, London, Amsterdam and Jerusalem, and for three years was chief feature writer of the Sunday Telegraph before moving to the rival Sunday Times as a foreign correspondent and columnist - an arrangement that foundered when he was sued by his own editor Andrew Neil over something he had (not quite) written about Neil while still at the Sunday Telegraph. Undaunted, he next took up an offer to be features editor of The European, a new weekly paper started up by the tycoon Robert Maxwell. This did not work out as planned. Three months into his new appointment, he was sacked to make way for someone Maxwell had met at a party. "You write like a dream, but you have to go," he was told by his editor. Bursting in to the proprietor's office to protest at the unfairness of his dismissal, he was told by the great man, soon to be exposed as a massive fraudster: "I hope you have a good lawyer, Mr Ellis. I certainly have."


Not long after, Maxwell was dead.


It was at this stage Ellis decided that, in addition to freelancing for a number of Fleet Street papers, he would write books. His first, arising out of his realisation that graduates of Oxford and Cambridge seemed to waltz into top jobs that lesser beings had to fight for, was The Oxbridge Conspiracy (Michael Joseph/ Penguin) which turned into one of the most controversial and excoriated titles of 1994. Ellis's only defender within a wall of reviewers otherwise made up entirely of Oxbridge graduates was, ironically, Andrew Neil, in the Financial Times - a curiosity cancelled out the following week when the FT, uniquely, commissioned a second, stinging notice by the Cambridge classicist Nigel Spivey.


A lengthy interval ensued, during which Ellis concentrated on his freelance career. He and his former wife raised a son, Jamie, who became lead guitarist of the indie band Battle and is now a successful record producer, based in London. But he continued to write.


In 2011, THE CARAVAGGIO CONSIRACY was published in Italy by Newton Compton. As Il Codice Caravaggio, it rose to number one in the pocket fiction division of the Italian bestseller lists and came out in Ireland in 2012. Reviewers were impressed. Ellis's accountant was less enthused.


LONDON EYE, a richly comic novel in the tradition of Tom Sharpe, is the story of three college friends about to turn 50 whose lives are threatened by a series of mid-life calamities. It has been widely praised, not least for its comic invention. It should have been turned into a BBC mini-series. The option for that remains open.


Ellis's next novel, soon to be published on Amazon, is FRANCO'S MAP, a thriller set in wartime Madrid that poses the question, what if Fascist Spain had joined the Axis and permitted the Germans to launch a full-scale assault on Gibraltar? If you like the novels of Alan Furst, you are sure to enjoy Franco's Map.


Walter Ellis has lived in Belfast, Cork, Dublin, Durham, London, Brussels, Bonn, Amsterdam and Jerusalem. He has been beaten up by the Royal Ulster Constabulary in Belfast, fired on, in error, by the British Army, beaten up (again) by a Sri Lankan colonel and shot at, on purpose, by the Romanian Securitate, resulting in irreparable damage to an otherwise perfectly good leather jacket. He now lives in New York with his second wife, Louisa, a graphic designer and college lecturer, but spends his summers in Les Fous, a pub in Carnoët, in Brittany that makes its own beer. He has a variety of ailments, including atrial fibrillation, an enlarged prostate and gout, but is otherwise in excellent health.

Product Description

About the Author

Walter Ellis is a journalist who worked as a feature writer and foreign correspondent for The Irish Times, Financial Times, Sunday Telegraph and Sunday Times. He is the author of two non-fiction books, The Oxbridge Conspiracy, about elitism in British higher education, and The Beginning of the End, a memoir of growing up in Belfast as best friend to the man who would become the INLA's most ruthless assassin. Both books were widely reviewed and serialized. Born in Belfast, Ellis now lives in new York.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Louise Ward on 22 Dec. 2012
Format: Paperback
I've just started reading this book and wish I hadn't. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with it, in fact I love it, and there's the problem. You see I'm thinking this would have made a perfect 'reading in the Christmas holidays' book, when you can curl up in the chair uninterrupted and read for several hours at a stretch. But I've started it now- and can't put it down!
Set in the early 1600s, when Caravaggio was painting and in the near future on the death of a Pope, the characters are skillfully drawn and you are swept into the story from the start. In Rome, the Pope has died and the primates are gathered together to elect a new one. But the Muslim faith is encroaching on Europe and there is some dissent about what exactly the role of the church is in modern day. Meanwhile, Caravaggio (real name Michelangelo Merisi) is painting a new commission and discussing the reception of his other works with his reclining naked model, a twenty-year-old courtesan. The book has all the required ingredients of a page-turner; sex, conspiracy theories, mysterious deaths, religious plots and the too-ing and fro-ing between times from the 15th century to the unspecified future. The unassuming hero is Declan O'Malley, an Irish Jesuit and his nephew Liam Dempsey who follow the clues to unravel a plot. Of course, the fact that the story draws on Caravaggio's lost masterpiece The Betrayal of Christ, which hangs in The National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin and which any regular visitor will be familiar with, helps to stoke our interest but this aside it is a great read and one that will be keeping me up late for the next couple of days.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Baytree Press on 28 Jan. 2013
Format: Paperback
Unlike Dan Brown, Ellis writes well and can characterise convincingly. And he's witty with it and tells his story with brio. This is a pacy, well-researched and convincing thriller that takes us seamlessly across the tides of history and the intrigues of court without tripping us up with the clutter of plot or showy erudition. Where has this author been hiding himself?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Colin Smith on 23 July 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a riveting read. It is driven along by the inexorable convergence of dual plot lines as the action switches back and forth between the sewage splattered streets of early1600's Rome and a slightly future 21st century Vatican where a papal election looms. Sanitation may have improved but in some quarters one problem remains the same: how best to assure they get the right pope to deal with an Islamic surge? Four hundred years apart some people come up with the same answers: conspiracy, treachery and murder.

But for Liam Dempsey, an Irish soldier badly wounded in Iraq who has been asked to investigate the suspicious death of a liberal cardinal, the past has left a vital clue behind. It is in a painting by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio that went missing for 200 years until it was discovered in a Jesuit establishment in Dublin. If it is deciphered in time, the makings of an all out war between the West and Islam might be avoided.

Walter Ellis weaves a tremendous tale out of all this. He is particularly good with the Caravaggio chapters, providing a convincing backcloth for early 17th century Rome and its artists. By his mid-thirties Caravaggio, who had shocked the more conservative clergy by using prostitutes and other live models to illustrate his biblical scenes, was well paid but highly controversial. And not only for his work. In both senses of the word the painter was also an infamous swordsman: both a drunken philanderer and an inveterate brawler with a tendency to settle his scores with cold steel. When it comes to the most important fight scene Ellis writes like a veritable Alexandre Dumas let lose at the OK Corral. The novel glows with these vignettes but never loses its narrative thrust as, step by step and give or take the odd red herring, the conspiracy is revealed the way hidden detail is restored to a lost masterpiece after years of disguising varnish has been stripped away. It is tremendously entertaining - a sheer pleasure.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jonny C on 20 July 2012
Format: Paperback
A meaty yet entertaining book. Walter Ellis manages to combine conspiracy, action and a history lesson in the one package.
Characters are rounded and well written my only complaint is that every character is noble in intent. A few more shades of grey would make this a 5* read for me.
Walter Ellis moves the plot along at a great pace and the dual plots work really well.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By PETER PJANSON-SMITH on 22 Jun. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I agree with the reviewer above: why HAVEN'T we heard more about this novel? It's every bit as good as anything by a certain Dan Brown, and a sight better written. It's a richly-textured, fast-paced, lusty and exciting tale that'll keep you gripped from first page to last.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By ron yeats on 5 Oct. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is another terrific book by Walter Ellis. He is an extraordinarily versatile and gifted writer.

In the Oxbridge Conspiracy he analysed the influence of Oxford and Cambridge on national life. Mr Ellis showed that he was an accomplished journalist who could marshal facts adroitly.

In the Beginning of the End, his memoir of his upbringing in Belfast, he described his relationship with a Protestant who became an IRA assassin. This was Mr Ellis as a sensitive writer. I agree with a reader who reviewed this on Amazon: " It is vivid, dramatic and challenges the reader to ask questions about the nature of friendship. But there is much more, too. The book is also about family, growing up, the quality of memory, ambition, hope and disappointment. It is set in the black and white world of the Troubles. Ellis writes beautifully. He is funny, self deprecating and intelligent."

Then Mr Ellis turned to crime, in Anglophobia, a murder mystery set amongst the English ex-pat community in a sleepy corner of France. Here Mr Ellis showed he could craft a traditional story. The characters were rich and hs observations on the ex pat community shrewd and amusing. This was published as a Kindle rather than by a major publisher.

Next came London Eye. This is a fantastic black-comedy about three middle aged friends. Matthew D'Ancona, a former editor of the Spectator and a recent Booker Prize judge, wrote of this: "Walter Ellis is one of the great veterans of the last days of Fleet Street - a journalist of awesome facility and lucidity, who could famously turn out 2,000 words of perfectly-turned prose on just about any subject before (or, still better, after) a proper El Vino lunch. But, rather than wallow in nostalgia, he has produced a superb novel .....
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