Bacino presents a revisionist novel set in Elizabethan England.
Who wrote the plays now attributed to Shakespeare? Was it the actor from Stratford who ascended rapidly from unknown player to admired playwright? Or was someone else behind the Bard’s words? Bacino suspects the latter and builds his case in this novel, which is, as he reminds readers on the cover, in the preface and with the appendix, “based entirely on historical facts.” Christopher Marlowe, the most famous dramatist of his day, was killed in a bar brawl at the age of 29. But Bacino posits that his supposed death was an elaborate hoax, and Shakespeare, who is disparaged as “Horsy Will, the pony boy” (definitely not an historical accuracy) for his occupation tending to the steeds of noblemen attending the theater, was hired as a front so that Marlowe might continue to produce plays after his staged demise. Here, Shakespeare emerges as a dim, uninterested rube; Marlowe, on the other hand, is a dandy, churning out masterpieces from behind the protective walls of his lover Sir Thomas Walsingham’s castle. But when suspicions arise and similarities between Shakespeare’s plays and Marlowe’s work emerge, Marlowe must flee England; questions about his role in the Bard’s plays, however, dog him for the rest of the novel and beyond. This book tries to reanimate a centuries-old debate but struggles under the weight of its purported historicity. If Bacino had lightened his touch, this could be a fun, though purely speculative, romp. Instead, the author presents more than 50 pages of endnotes detailing the alleged facts upon which the novel is based—occasionally interspersed with admissions of fictive elements, such as Shakespeare’s pejorative nickname. These facts are not noted within the text nor are their sources cited; lacking proper documentation, they aren’t especially strong evidence for Bacino’s theory. Wanting to be taken on an adventure, the reader is instead left worried about the credentials of the tour guide.
A spirited adventure that takes itself too seriously.