YOUNG WILL: The Confessions of William Shakespeare

Bruce Cook, Author . St. Martin's/Truman Talley $24.95 (407p) ISBN 978-0-312-33573-1

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.

Reviewed on: 09/20/2004
Release date: 10/01/2004
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Paperback - 407 pages - 978-0-312-33574-8
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