Featured: The Violins Played Before Junstan by Lou Kemp

Featured: The Violins Played Before Junstan by Lou Kemp Purchase:

Review: I would describe the novel as steampunk with a comfortable level of magical realism (vampires, daemons, witches and well, magicians).

Celwyn has avoided caring about anyone for hundreds of years, but he’s about to learn the advantage, and cost, of true friendship.

While on a mission to avenge the death of his lover, the immortal peyote-eating magician Celwyn is hired to deliver an automat, Professor Kang, to a priest.

But Celwyn quickly learns that everything the priest told him was a lie.

Now his ship, the Zelda, is stuck in a horrific storm and Celwyn knows he must reconsider his allegiance if he is to steer his vessel in the right direction and continue his quest.

Choosing Professor Kang, the pair journey west, hunting for revenge.

To deflect the attention of the city’s police, they allow an American heiress to join their party as she escapes matrimony in search of adventure.

When the trio encounters an intelligent but superstitious widower – their misfit group is complete. Through battles against malevolent forces and dangerous rescues, the companions start to feel like family to Celwyn, but he has lost someone he loves before and is in no hurry to watch it happen again.

Lou Kemp

Meet Lou Kemp:

Early work was horror and suspense, later work morphed into a combination of magical realism, mystery and adventure painted with a horrific element as needed.

I’m one of those writers who doesn’t plan ahead, no outlines, no clue, and I sometimes write myself into a corner. Atmospheric music in the background helps. Black by Pearl Jam especially.

More information is available at LouKemp.com. I’d love to hear from you and what you think of Celwyn, Bartholomew, and Professor Xiau Kang.


2009 The anthology story Sherlock’s Opera appeared in Seattle Noir, edited by Curt Colbert, Akashic Books. Available through Amazon or Barnes and Noble online. Booklist published a favorable review of my contribution to the anthology.

2010 My story, In Memory of the Sibylline, was accepted into the best-selling MWA anthology Crimes by Moonlight, edited by Charlaine Harris. The immortal magician Celwyn makes his first appearance in print.

2018 The story, The Violins Played before Junstan, is published in the MWA anthology Odd Partners, edited by Anne Perry. The Celwyn series begins.

Presently, my new publisher, 4 Horsemen, has reissued book 1 of the Celwyn series, The Violins Played before Junstan. The remaining books in the series: Music Shall Untune the Sky, The Raven and the Pig, The Pirate Danced and The Automat Died, will debut, beginning in 2023. The companion book, Farm Hall, will be reissued in 2023 where readers will see more of Pelaez, another immortal magician and Celwyn’s brother. A standalone, Sea of the Vanities is due out in 2023.

Review by llama llama:

There are times in my life when I wanted to set sail across the Pacific and then ride a train across Asia and Europe. These things have not happened yet, but reading a novel like The Violins Played before Junstan by Lou Kemp is a great alternative from the safety of my home. Set in the mid-1800s, this novel starts us off in San Francisco with a bang and doesn’t let up until the final page.

What I enjoy most about a story is its ability to draw me into its world through description and the right amount of characterization. The Violins Played before Junstan does just that. I

feel I have been at sea, in Singapore, on a train through Asia, up mountains and across valleys, eventually arriving in Prague. Along the way, we collect a variety of characters, starting with our protagonist, the magician Jonas Celwyn and his companion Xiau Kang.

All of the characters in the novel have their unique traits, even those that are secondary to the main. It is the relationships these characters form and the backstories we learn throughout that provides meat to the story.

I would definitely describe the novel as steampunk with elements of both Victorian-era novels (especially in terms of language) and a comfortable level of magical realism (vampires, daemons, witches and well, magicians).

This was a pleasant surprise as I tend to gravitate toward these types of novels. The language of the era is one that has been butchered by many an author (and screenwriter) of late, but here Kemp’s grasp of the nuance is impressive and appreciated. You really can feel as if you are peering into a past world.

Overall, The Violins Played before Junstan is an excellent read, a true pleasure and one that engrossed me from beginning to end. But it is not the end, and I look forward to the second installment.

Please click HERE to find The Violins Played Before Junstan on Amazon.