Young Will: The Confessions of William Shakespeare

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A fresh and vivid re-imagining of Shakespeare's early years in Stratford and in London

It's 1616 and William Shakespeare is back in his native Stratford-Upon-Avon. His extraordinary career as a playwright and poet in London seems like another world. A strange encounter with a witch-like madwoman in his local churchyard fills Will with dread, and sends him reeling back in memory to those darker days in London along the filthy, fevered banks of the Thames-a time when politics, ...

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Overview

A fresh and vivid re-imagining of Shakespeare's early years in Stratford and in London

It's 1616 and William Shakespeare is back in his native Stratford-Upon-Avon. His extraordinary career as a playwright and poet in London seems like another world. A strange encounter with a witch-like madwoman in his local churchyard fills Will with dread, and sends him reeling back in memory to those darker days in London along the filthy, fevered banks of the Thames-a time when politics, plagiarism, sexual passions, and betrayed friendship conspired to the point of murder.

Author Bruce Cook perfectly captures Shakespeare's coming of age in a fresh and vivid way. The actors, teachers, lovers, and fellow writers spring to life in Shakespeare's confessions-especially a talented, twisted, compelling, and dangerous man called Kit Marlowe, who would change Will's life forever.

Shakespeare speaks, from first page to last, and tells everything. Literally everything...

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Cook (who wrote mysteries as Bruce Alexander and died in 2003) imagines a bawdy Bard in his final novel. Couched as a memoir, this book serves up the 52-year-old Shakespeare's delicious confessions of the sins of his youth. Cook follows young Will from Stratford, where he makes mischief with his friend Ned, to Lancashire, where he dallies with a former teacher, to London, where he falls in love with Christopher Marlowe (who seduces him in an Elizabethan-era gay bar) and ekes out a living selling love sonnets to the Earl of Southampton. By tale's end, Will has confessed to being a bisexual libertine, a murderer, an adulterous husband, an absentee father, a criminal usurer, a conscienceless coward, a thief, a perjurer, a plagiarist and an opportunistic hack. Considering the genius of the real-life Shakespeare, his fictional embodiment doesn't always impress: his narration can be cagey and characterization somewhat flat. But on the whole Cook manages, with no small amount of liberties, to craft an entertaining tale. Agent, Phalen Hurewitz. (Oct.) Forecast: Fictional accounts of the Bard's life are a genre unto themselves, but Cook's unique voice, his recent death and the popularity of his Sir John Fielding and Chico Cervantes mysteries may set this one apart from the rest. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Where did Shakespeare spend 1582 to 1592? That decade makes up the lost years of his life, between his marriage to Anne Hathaway and his emergence as a writer. Presented as a series of confessions, this novel by the recently deceased Cook, who also wrote historical mysteries as Bruce Alexander (Blind Justice), purports to tell the truth about Shakespeare's rise to fame, his acting career, and his love affairs with both men and women. The writing itself is almost florid in an attempt to capture the flavor of the age. Though risky, this works; Elizabethan England and especially the London theater scene leap off the page. Some of the great questions about the Bard are answered, such as the identities of the "dark lady" and the young man for whom he wrote the sonnets. A few lines of poetry appear, probably not enough for aficionados but just enough to tantalize those who haven't read Shakespeare since high school. Recommended for most popular historical fiction collections. [For other fictional accounts of Shakespeare's life, see Grace Tiffany's Will and My Father Had a Daughter. Ed.] Wendy Bethel, Southwest P.L., Columbus, OH Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Cook (The Sidewalk Hilton, 1994, etc.; a.k.a. Bruce Alexander) lends his mystery skills to this self-portrait of a callow, bisexual, slightly homicidal young Shakespeare as an eager ingenue who manages to better himself without caring overmuch about those who fall by the wayside. Things start with Will chatting away in his old age (52), prosperous and bored in Stratford, troubled only by an old village biddy. Speaking in an uninflected, unintrospective voice devoid of the brilliance and fury of the Bard, Old Will traces Young Will's departure from sleepy Stratford after a dalliance with a male schoolteacher and an accidental-on-purpose pushing of his best friend into a raging river during an argument. Untroubled by conscience, though he is a closet Catholic, Will does hack work for a traveling troupe, hits London as a player with a knack for words and for finding patrons, falls in love with Christopher Marlowe, even moves in with him (and also steals characters from him-best here is the portrait of Will and Kit as young sodomites who, when they aren't buggering or boozing, write and bluster in the same room). Will experiences the great events of his time-court intrigues, the Spanish Armada, persecution of Catholics, plague, the competition and growth of theater companies, even the murder of Marlowe (Will himself wields the dagger in this version)-all in a sort of absent-minded monotone that successfully humanizes the mysterious and elusive figure yet makes it impossible to associate him with the glories of Elizabethan English. That may actually have been Cook's plan-to show Will as a vessel or conduit of his experiences-but the device leaves a dull and disappointing aftertaste. Lesscompelling on Shakespeare himself than on his age; but in its evocation of the laissez-faire sexual and economic mores of Elizabethan society, Cook's tale has the ring of psychological truth.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312335748
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 12/27/2005
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 5.44 (w) x 8.14 (h) x 1.08 (d)

Meet the Author

Bruce Cook wrote, under the name Bruce Alexander, ten superlative mysteries about the blind magistrate Sir John Fielding. He also wrote four contemporary mysteries about Los Angeles Detective Chico Cervantes. Cook was an editor and reviewer for such publications as Newsweek, USA Today, and the Los Angeles Daily News. Born and raised in Chicago, he lived with his wife, violinist Judith Aller, in Los Angeles, California.

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