A bouncy exploration of the career of Christopher Marlowe, whom the author views as a brilliant, restless, Faustian searcher of worlds past imagining. Since them is little hard fact about Marlowe's life, the author is allowed certain liberties--which he takes. Here Marlowe, as friend and lover of Thomas Walsingham, cousin of Elizabeth's G-man, Sir Francis, is drawn into anti-Catholic espionage in France, an assignment which he accepts in the interests of new sights and ideas. His murder occurs in the wake of a religious and political scandal which threatens the establishment--including Walsingham. Throughout, as Kit holds forth deep in the cups at taverns and scribbles away, he strains at self-discovery--but in an irritatingly modern manner (""I want to be whatever it is I am, not somebody's idea of me""). Infatuated by words and fresh ideas he clambers from play to play. There is considerable twitchy black humor: ""I see Robert Cecil [a hunchback] has come as Richard III,"" drawls Kit at a masquerade. There is one meeting with W. Shakespeare during which the Bard (regrettably) says, ""Give me a pot of ink and a pen. . . and time [for] dreams that come alive to walk and strut upon the stage. . . ."" A bit slipshod and dandyish, if at least all of a piece, but it melts in the mind like syllabub-except for Marlowe's magnificent lines.