The Last Paradise
Glorious in scope, The Last Paradise follows the downtrodden and oppressed people of Galveston, Texas, through trials of injustice and bigotry in post-Civil War America. Novelist Michael Kasenow artfully weaves a tapestry of vivid and historic detail in this inspiring story of strength and survival.
During the beginning of the twentieth century, the alley people in Galveston band together against racism, prejudice, and poverty hidden within the hypocrisy of civic and corporate corruption. Men and women such as Fanny, Maxwell, Newt, Bishop, Elma, the prostitutes and nuns of St. Mary’s, and the puckish poor who hang out at Bleach’s Tavern journey through self-discovery in their attempt to find their places in the changing landscape of a modernizing world.
The men and women of the alley refuse to capitulate to the rich and privileged, drawing instead upon their inner strength and character instilled by their upbringing in frontier America, with its brand of retributive justice that allows them to overcome what is imposed—to be the free men and women demanded by their courageous spirits, even in the midst of turmoil.
Rich with stunning depictions of turn-of-the century Galveston and the devastation wrought by the Great Hurricane of 1900, The Last Paradise illuminates resilience and fortitude of the great city itself, brought about by the same strengths held by its common citizens. Humorous, evocative, and sobering, this breathtaking novel is an adventure that encompasses the human soul.
“'The wind and sea kept him company and nothing more. No voices, silhouettes; no gaslights or steam engines; only the hypnotic breath of nature, the rhythm of forever.'
“If you’re lucky, every now and then, you find a book that has it all: great story, haunting atmosphere, unforgettable characters, and writing that frequently stops you in your tracks with the impact of its truth, or beauty, or profoundness. This is such a book. It begins with a ribald grandeur that puts you in mind of Pete Dexter’s Deadwood. Before it’s finished, however, the rough-hewn humor has been surpassed by a humanist eloquence more akin to the best of Steinbeck.”
— Joe Kilgore, US Review of Books
“Great historical fiction about Galveston, Texas! Michael Kasenow resourcefully tracks the plight of the oppressed and exploited “alley people” of Galveston, Texas in the post Civil War era. The Last Paradise is a stirring story of the strength and endurance of these unwavering men and women fighting to keep their dignity through the trials of injustice and bigotry in the age of Jim Crow. A master at character development… Kasenow writes with such realism… Includes both rollicking and subtle humor and a thread of romance throughout the story… The Last Paradise, an editors choice book, is destined to establish Michael Kasenow as a serious historical fiction author. Wonderful characters!”
— Richard R. Blake, Reader Views
“Lest you get the idea that this is a depressing novel about a wretched underclass, let me assure you nothing could be farther from the truth. Kasenow’s cast of characters is one of the most endearing motley crews I’ve had the pleasure of joining since John Steinbeck’s Tortilla Flats! Evocative writing… I highly recommend The Last Paradise. A must Read! Poignant! Breath Taking!”
— Kelly Davis, Bookideas
“Michael Kasenow’s wonderful new book, The Last Paradise creates an evocative portrait of turn of the 20th century Galveston. Painted against a vivid and historically accurate canvas, Kasenow’s drama has the social punch of a Sinclair Lewis novel, the action of a Jack London adventure, and a lively sense of humor reminiscent of the works of Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain). A Great Read!”
— Rod Clark, BookReview
“Kasenow has certainly done his homework in recreating the flavor of Galveston at the turn of the last century as he blends vivid and harsh descriptions with social, political and economic commentary that is caught up in a hideous and haunting tangle of racism. His knack in revealing off-the-wall characters in small gestures and poignant dialogue adds to their authenticity as we witness them being caught up in a range of situations, some not exactly lawful, that come together into a tightly knitted story. He even manages to throw in a bit of romance and sly humor providing the reader with a change of pace and a kind of relaxed center from the various mad events spinning around in the novel. You want to keep reading… Brilliant Writing! Captivating!”
— Norman Goldman, Bookpleasures
“Mr. Kasenow’s brilliant writing in this particular novel affords the reader a dynamic look into the post-Civil War era, and reminds us of where this country once was regarding slavery, bigotry and other similar injustices, and how far our country has come. Vivid descriptions of this incredibly poor city and its inhabitants are expertly laced throughout the book. The Last Paradise is a wonderfully woven story that unfolds it’s raw and gritty message right in the beginning and does not waiver until the thrilling end. Five Stars!”
— Lynette Lasko, Feathered Quill
“Immediately, the reader becomes part of the community. From the start of the book, these people feel real with depth of character, and above all a sense of humor that gets them through very difficult situations. The Last Paradise is one of the year’s must reads!”
— Tami Brady, TCM Reviews
“The Last Paradise is a grand, sweeping panoramic novel of post-Civil War Galveston, Texas, in 1900. It is a poetic novel of warmth and humor, of philosophic musings and deep insights into the human psyche. I was reminded of the writing of John Steinbeck, in that both often dealt with themes involving the struggle of the working class. This is Kasenow’s debut novel, yet it is imbued with a rich flair and characterization rare for any novel… If you like sweeping historical novels that draw you into the tale and make you empathize with the characters, if you like books that will grab a hold of you, and thrill you with lots of action and descriptive, poetic language, The Last Paradise is one of the year’s must reads. It should be on every best selling books list, and it is a very impressive debut from an extremely gifted author. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more novels by Michael Kasenow in the future. Breathtaking! Inspiring!”
— Douglas R. Cobb, Best Sellers World
“Debut novelist Michael Kasenow offers insights to greed, brutality, and the saving grace of healing, but it is through the frailty and strength of the human spirit that he reveals triumph over despair. All along, he depicts the beautiful, corrupt city filled with an array of complex citizens. Hopefully, this breathtaking, inspiring first novel is not the last from this author. Five Stars at Amazon! Haunting! Filled with humor, tragedy and colorful characters!”
— Barbara Deming, The US Review of Books
“Five Stars! Utterly Fascinating Read!”
— Sam Satter, Curled Up With A Good Book
“Exquisitely written! Masterful!”
— Midwest Book Review
“Post-Civil War Galveston is the setting for this exquisitely written, character-rich debut novel by Michael Kasenow. The author masterfully paints a vivid picture of the “alley people” of the reconstruction-era Texas city, a colorful lot of rakes, con-men, prostitutes, drunks, adventurers, and honest workers of all races that lived on the back streets of the place that its wealthy inhabitants called “Paradise.” … The author’s historical research and deep understanding of human nature and class stratification have allowed him to paint a vivid portrait of a grand city, as flawed as its inhabitants and as vulnerable to the ravages of nature. His skillful plot development, ability to handle the counterpoint of multiple storylines, easy-flowing dialogue, and spot-on pacing all make for a lively novel that is entertaining, thought-provoking, and moving. Kasenow’s book is deeply satisfying in its scope and range, and above all, in its celebration of the beauty and resilience of the human spirit. Five Stars! A fantastic book for lovers of historical fiction!”
— Kristine Morris, Foreword Magazine
“One of the strongest parts of the book was the portrayal of the 1900 hurricane that killed thousands in Galveston. It is used to bring several plotlines together and to give resolution to the book. This book is recommended for lovers of historical fiction. Flamboyant Characters Come To Life!”
— Sandie Kirkland, Rebecca’s Reads
“Vivid descriptions make the reader feel as if they are there. An excellent portrayal of a time when the Klan ran rampant over the south and most people turned a blind eye.”
— Shirley Roe, All Books Review
I’m interested in American history from about 1880 to about 1940. That’s when the country matured and went through growing pains. The Jim Crow Era, that lasted from 1877 to 1964, is an intriguing time, considering its insidious nature. And Galveston is one of those exotic cities, like New Orleans and Paris. Songs have been written about it. As a geologist, I’ve taught about the tragedy of the Great 1900 Galveston Hurricane for some time now. That’s where I first became interested in the story—in the college classroom. The more I learned, the more I was intrigued. Eight thousand people died in that storm—the greatest natural disaster in U.S. history. However, almost every book I read talked about the tragedy in terms of the middle and upper classes, yet, it was the poor that suffered the most. They always do. So I started to learn about the poor, where they lived, how they handled their existence in the Third Richest City in the U.S.—as it was called at that time. Then it dawned on me that 1900 was knee deep in the age of Jim Crow—in the south—suddenly the storm became secondary—a metaphor—I focused in on the existence of the poor whites and blacks and how they survived during that oppression. The story is about these people, their hopes and dreams—their faith in a better future. Galveston was, in 1900, the third richest city in the nation with a promising future. “The Wall Street of the Southwest,” as the city fathers claimed. It is the perfect metaphor for the country and its current crisis. Today, at the beginning of the 21st Century, with the economy falling apart, there’s little difference—just the technology. Most of us are trying to find our way in the changing landscape, especially with the economy collapsing. The storm we have to cut through is an economic storm, but it is still powerful, destructive, ruining families, killing people in different ways. There’s still bigotry, racism, sexism. The novel speaks to Americans today—in some ways it is about today—just set in 1900.