Winner 2022 Historical Fiction 5-Star Award
The elder William Law had been a goldsmith, licensed to lend money in Scotland. Still, somehow when Will's mother spoke of it, she made it sound like his father distributed bounty from Heaven, and his aspirations demanded a higher place on the world stage for his sons. Though he had not lived to see it, their father had been certain that John, at least, would fulfill some great destiny.
In true biographical style, Ms. Silver-Lasky takes the life of this notorious swashbuckling gambler and womanizer of the late 17th-century and gives us a rare glimpse into his life in this remarkably written historical novel.
John Law uses all his skill in his repertoire of sex, money, and power to captivate a nation to fulfill his own schemes. Born into a lowland Scottish family, his father instilling into him the value of gold at a young age (being a goldsmith, himself), John left behind the family business and took up the life of a gambler and libertine – making fortunes at the tables and well-placed alliances beneath bed sheets which would ultimately bring him into contact with those who could bolster his ultimate schemes. This was a man of high ambition, who reached for the clouds, an Icarus who threw caution to the wind when trying to touch the sun, and whose climb and fall remain hallmarks to history and to the financial markets even in today's society.
After a duel-gone-wrong in London, Law is imprisoned in Newgate Prison with a sentence of death looming over his head, but somehow (according to actual history) he escapes and makes his way to Amsterdam... all the while searching for a way to bring his ultimate scheme to fruition. In the author's story, Law makes his way to Mississippi, far across the ocean, and the sights and smells of the New World, push his ambitions even further as he dreams of a new city and a new life. But all of his dreams required a tremendous amount of money, which leads him back to Europe and the gambling tables, particularly in France. Here he meets influential people, such as Madame Duclose and her gambling establishment, Katherine Knollys, a supposed mistress of the Duc d'Orleans and a former acquaintance/lover during his days in London, Marie Louise, the daughter of the Duc d'Orleans with a scandalous reputation and incredible influence within the royal family, as well as the Duke, himself.
“I was just thinking how strange it is, Johnny. We are like a pair of loaded dice, you and I. We always seem to roll up side by side.”
Law smiled. “That, my love, is because a dissipated life brings one into contact with the lowest brigands and the highest society. It has always furnished me with fertile ground and the opportunity of developing my theories.” He paused. “If not practicing them.”
It is within this decadent realm that John rises to his ultimate heights after influencing the Duke, who becomes the Regent of France, to support the establishment of a private bank, Le Banque Royal, and to employ his techniques of paper money, and to use investment schemes to finance his “Mississippi Company”. And just as Icarus, we see John Law rise higher and higher, becoming a Scotsman transformed into a French dandified gentleman with his sights set on the accumulation of more and more money, women, and power, leading to the the plummeting fall when the bubble bursts and the French people rise up against him. His entire world teetered on a precariously crumbling cliff, and just a whisper, an innuendo, jealousy, or spurned love turned his dreams into dust.
While based on the actual historical person, with descriptions of his rakish life, as well as Ms Silver-Lasky's expansion on the possibilities of the intrigues of royal life surrounding rumors about the Duc d'Orleans and his daughter, Marie Louise, the overall storyline is captivating.
This book recreates Law's life in a way to entertain in a very pleasing way, even with the more monotonous and dull banking explanations, which are necessary to understand so as to grasp Law's genius. The way the author melds the two together is remarkable and well worth a read. Banking and scandal... money and sex... power and decadence – all elements used throughout history to influence and entice. Quite entertaining and highly recommended.
Standing on that lonely shore, Law felt as though he had been drifting not only down-river but through a long dream that had started the day he killed Edward Wilson. He looked at the sunrise highlighting the shoreline in a golden curve and breathed deeply of the fresh river air. Suddenly, and for no reason, he had hope. Maybe now was his moment in time. “I said, sir,” he told Desalt. “Nothing is impossible.”
“John Law: Money to Burn – a Biographical Novel” by Pat Silver-Lasky receives five stars and the “Highly Recommended” award of excellence from The Historical Fiction Company
Reviewed By Grace Cavalieri, Poet Laureate of Maryland,
and host of the Library of Congress radio show: The Poet and the Poem
"Luscious is the word for this swashbuckling historical novel. John Law is a perfect combination of a fast-moving action-adventure upheld with solid historical facts. I'm an 18th-century enthusiast, an author, yet this information about economist John Law is astonishingly new. The book's author is a consummately skilled writer with character-driven situations that become plots. She's chosen a little-known figure who developed the first bank in France, going on to initiate paper money in exchange for gold nuggets, and further, to sell shares in the "Mississippi project" in the new world. That is the core of this novel, but that's hardly its flair. The energy on the page comes from a vivid sense of place and decor with exquisite detail. We can feel the rustle of taffeta, the shine of diamonds, and the swerve of velvet in scene after scene. . . . with the weight of history lifted to an unforeseen buoyance. It's impossible to stop reading because of the psychological action as well as physical movement. This book contributes to readers not only for sheer unending pleasure but an honest look at the rise and fall of currency in the first quarter of the 18th century. It's an unusual combination of authenticity and drama; and will appeal to students of history and the general population."
REVIEW by Dr. Richard Niles
One of the most fascinating, influential, and little-known individuals in history, the 18th century John Law's unbelievable story has at last been brought to life in a biographical novel which is nothing short of breath-catching drama. Born in 1671 into a Scottish family of Church clerics and goldsmiths (the only persons allowed to lend money in Scotland), this exceptionally handsome and clever young man grew up to display little of Church morals. But he knew how to make vast amounts of money and how to use that to make more.
Taking full advantage of the many intrigues in John Law's life, both sexual and monetary, author Pat Silver-Lasky vividly recreates the opulent world of the French Regency's absorbing, wicked ways. She writes with clarity and style, embellishing notoriously complex topics in a clear and gripping fashion. Pat has written books, plays, and many detective series for television, displaying her nose for research in her biographies for the BBC of Christopher Columbus, Henry Morton Stanley, Alfred Nobel and Ernest Hemingway.
Law tried to sell England and then half of Europe on creating the world's first National Bank. In France the Duke of Orleans watched Law win at the gaming tables and bought his banking ideas - and then his idea of paper money - a concept that changed the world's economy forever. His amazing talents command an important chapter in the development of Western capitalism – stabilizing the value of money, banking, markets, and financial institutions.
But that was just the start. Law's introduction of the "Mississippi scheme," a wild exercise in capital procurement and share offering, spawned the greatest bull market in history. Its drastic crash, brought on by his enemies, make this book fascinating reading for anyone playing the markets today. The original 'Wolf of Wall Street', John Law said of his own achievements "I changed the world more than Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Indies.” Pat Silver-Lasky has delivered a sensual book about a man obsessed by money and love, and vividly brought to life one of the most interesting and influential individuals in history - John Law.
REVIEW: by Lisa Hayden Miller, author
Duels, dark villains, and danger mix with love, corruption, and betrayal in this rich historical biography. While this book meets all academic standards in every university library, its virtues are even more remarkable. The author agitates the conflicts and power plays of the French Court at the turn of the 18th century – unveiling this electrifying account of a little known but vastly important man in the history of our modern world, John Law, a Scotsman with a head for figures and a heart for romance.