Reviews: Trompe L’Oeil: A Trick of the Eye


William Spear:

“If you miss in a book the dizzying romanticism and urgent vitality of say John Fowles, perhaps when you read The Magus the first time; if you love the cool sophistication and edgy wit of James Salter, or the slightly off balance, ‘is it really true’ situations Pynchon or Vonnegut ask us to believe in; if you crave the deep mysteries and stark realities that inform the lives seen by Paul Bowles, or for that matter even the plain fun and dash of Ian Flemming, then you will be swept away by Trompe l’Oeil, for that is the pack Gardner McKay is riding with in this profound fairy tale. Like no one else can, McKay really puts the fun in profundity!

The more exotic and beautiful the bird, the more lovely his song and plumage, the stronger is the world’s determination to capture and own it. In Trompe l’Oeil, Gardner McKay’s just released masterpiece we see  “the world’s greatest artist”, Simon Lister running for his life from a wide assortment of dark side deputations all competing to have their own   “painter in a cage”. If it is at one level an exciting chase, at the same time it is one of the great love stories of the age, for, at his side in this desperate life or death dash for freedom is the beautiful, mysterious and ephemeral Savoia, who is his witness and guide, who conspires and inspires and, in her way, teaches Simon, okay, I’ll say it, ‘the meaning of life’.”

Steffen and Deborah Foster:

Like discovering  a forgotten masterpiece in the attic, Trompe L’Oeil turns everyday life on its head.  Where we thought we were living a boring average existence, suddenly we are in possession of an immense treasure.  Mystery,  suspense and mastery  combine to “trick” the reader into daring to believe the unbelievable and ultimately to hope that the imagined world is the real one.

Seldom does a novel dare so much, and deliver so fully on its premise of the power of  mind over matter. Gardner McKay carves his way through the fashionistas of the Art World and delivers a clear insight into the mind of an artist. He does this at the same time as telling one of the great love stories of all time.

Trompe L’Oeil is more than a “deceiving of the eye,” it is an unrelenting exposure of the soul of man as a creator and lover.

As McKay would say of something he found to be remarkable, brilliant, new and insightful…“ yes, I think it is quite useful”.

Colby Chester:

I have just moments ago finished a book that fascinated, frustrated, aroused and amazed me. It is like nothing I have ever read, something I realize now that could only have evolved from one unfettered imagination, one remarkable mind, one monkishly-disciplined writer whose previous creations, varied and whimsical as they are, gave no hint to what he was ultimately capable of creating.

I am quite speechless. My God the man could write!

Other excerpts from readers:

If you read only the top layer of frosting of this many tiered wedding cake of a book you will surely get your money’s worth and be entertained and amused, but you will miss the great lessons in it, of which there are several. You might make the mistake of dismissing the “art crime of the century” as another superficial rant about art and money when in fact the crime of the century is really about wasting or selling our precious, one time only opportunity to participate in real life: of letting ‘them’ dictate the terms of our lives, or of giving away our most valuable treasure for the proverbial mess of potage: of not loving and appreciating life enough. When you turn the last page of Trompe l’Oeil, you will want to go out and get right at it and maybe change course if you are not on the true path. At the bottom of it, isn’t that what they say art is supposed to do? Change your life?


“If you have forgotten what it is to be in love, Gardner McKay’s wonderful masterpiece Trompe L’Oeil  will transport you right back to where you left off. His last, and surely most important book is indeed the ultimate love letter: to us, and to life itself, and he reminds us that what puts deep love at the core of an honestly and completely lived life also requires the supremely courageous and heart-breaking task it is to finally let it go.


“If you, as I often am, are a bit chary of posthumous books of writers you love, and you worry that someone has gone in and made a mess of things, don’t be. Gardner McKay wrote every word of Trompe l’Oeil, and read it out loud too in his wonderful public radio series “Stories on the Wind”. Any changes here are simply punctuation, spelling and continuity matters. All of the industrial strength McKay magic comes through perfectly.”





5.0 out of 5 stars: A little Twilight Zone a lot about love

July 21, 2019

Format: Kindle Edition

In the early chapters I was uncertain what was real and what was delusional. The book is very well written & carries the reader through a long journey through love and loss. The journey is filled with captivating descriptions of people and places. I found myself reading it especially for his ability to describe the wholeness of the love he felt for his woman. i have never read anything like it.


T. Wood

5.0 out of 5 stars: One of the strangest stories I have ever read.

August 7, 2018

Format: Kindle Edition

This kind of story is not anything like what I like to read. I chose this book for two reasons. I was intrigued by all of the five star ratings. People said they could not put the book down. I had to put it down several times. It took me a while to get through it because I wasn’t sure of what I was reading and what was real. I had to try to absorb it the best I could. The second reason I chose this book is the author himself. When I was around 12 years old, I feel in love with Gardner McKay. He was to me and still is one of the most handsome men I had ever seen. I watched the series “Adventures in Paradise.” Even though I am not so sure I enjoyed the story, it was very different and I could not bring myself to give it anything but five stars to honor the man who was my very first celebrity crush. I guess that seems a little strange, but this story was one of the strangest I have ever read.



5.0 out of 5 stars: the love of his life

July 22, 2018

Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase

Trompe L’Oeil by Gardner McKay was published posthumously by his wife, Madeleine McKay. She worked tirelessly, motivated by her strong belief in his incredible talent. After completing the novel, I am indebted to her for bringing this remarkable work to us.The story concerns Simon Lister, a famous artist. While hiding out in “Tribeca West Historic District,” in 1963 Simon finds Anna, the love of his life. It is a strange meeting, but the love is reciprocated. It deepens and is so intense that the reader can almost feel it. Simon is reluctant to let his love go. He hangs on to her in a startling way. At times it is difficult to distinguish what is real.

In addition to being a love story, this is also a tale with action and plenty of mystery. I was frequently on the edge of my seat as I read about the couple being pursued from the south of France, to Italy and the Mediterranean. These settings were well described and made the adventure more exciting. Ultimately Simon disappears.

The author uses an interesting strategy by having two narrators. The first is a writer, who is seeking information on the infamous Mr. Lister in order to locate him. This narrator seems to be honest and credible. A journaling format provides us with a different narrative, that of Simon Lister and provides a window into his disturbed mind. These voices are very distinct.

I found this book fascinating because Gardner gives us insight into the mind of an artist. He exposes the deep sentiments of lovers who do not want to part, especially in death, making us all mindful that true love has too little time. The trompe l’oeil proves to be fooling the reader into trusting the implausible and ultimately to hoping that the imagined world truly exists.

Readers will not be disappointed. This book is very unique, well crafted, imaginative and a heart stopper! The author writes skillfully about what he knows. He does an excellent job. What a legacy Gardner has left.



Lynn Alsobrook

5.0 out of 5 stars You simply follow the beautifully written descriptions of travel

June 13, 2016

Format: Paperback|Verified Purchase

This book is the story of a man who refuses to believe his enigmatic lover is dead. Through many twists and turns the reader realizes that they too believe that she is still alive. You simply follow the beautifully written descriptions of travel, food, locations and love. It takes you to a place you’ve never been, a place that doesn’t exist. I was mesmerized by each chapter as it unfolded and lead me along, in belief, that this story was true, in every sense of the word.

Thank you Madeleine for taking on the enormous task of making this book possible for us to enjoy.


Jeffrey Ilardi

5.0 out of 5 stars: Can’t put this book down.

February 1, 2016

Format: Paperback|Verified Purchase

What a wonderful book. I am most familiar with the radio series but the book is really amazing. A great story that will have you guessing all the way to the end. If you are looking for a book you can’t put down, this is the one!


5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars

May 13, 2017

Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase

Another great story by Gardner McKay. Love all his books



5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars

January 15, 2017

Format: Paperback|Verified Purchase

Great Book.



S Landes

5.0 out of 5 stars Damn, Gardner McKay could write!

February 7, 2016

Format: Paperback|Verified Purchase

WOW – I have just finished Trompe L’Oeil. I am just one of the hundreds of thousand girls from the 1950’s & 60’s that grew up loving Gardner McKay for his role as the adventurous and romantic Captain Adam Troy on Adventures in Paradise.In retrospect, was Gardner an actor? No, not really, but damn that man could write!! Gardner draws you into this amazing love story just as his character Simon draws you into his paintings. But with great talent comes a price to high for Simon to pay. His insanity leads him to destroy all of his famous works. Hiding on John Jay Street he finds the love of his life. His love for Anna takes him to Paris where he loses her. His love for her is strong enough to bring her back to him. But as greed and Interpol chase them from Paris to the south of France, Italy, the Mediterranean and finally to the Canary Islands, is his love strong enough to keep her or must he let her go?!Love, action, mystery – this story has it all. Thank you Gardner for your wonderful writing, may you Rest in Peace. Thank you Madeleine McKay for your work and dedication in bringing your husband’s unpublished works to fruition so that the rest of may enjoy his work.



Janette Rapa

5.0 out of 5 stars: Hypnotized and mesmerized

September 9, 2016

Format: Paperback|Verified Purchase

Have you ever been so completely absorbed by a book that you feel you are an integral character just by observation and the turning of each page?…Not able to put the thing down for fear the magic will end but at the same time knowing it is finite?…And then the moment comes….the last page and the closing of the book…and the harsh realization that it was only a very good story by a very talented writer.



Malcolm Whyte

5.0 out of 5 stars You won’t be disappointed malcolm

February 5, 2016

Format: Paperback

This is as real stunner by an writer who knows the craft and whereof he speaks with it! You won’t be disappointed



5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars

December 1, 2015

Format: Paperback

This is my favorite of Gardner’s novels. It is a heartbreakingly beautiful love story.


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