YOUNG WILL: The Confessions of William Shakespeare
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.