Sean Tallow has only two overriding desires in life. One is to step into the shoes of his glamorous friend Daniel Pagett, and the other is to establish the truth about the School of Night, a shadowy group of Elizabethans who clustered around Sir Walter Ralegh.
Tallow pursues the School of Night and its entanglement in the question of whether the man from Stratford-on-Avon could really have written the plays ascribed to William Shakespeare. If he didn't, then who did? The harder he studies, the less light is thrown on this troublesome question, and the more his interest in the School of Night becomes a grim fixation.
Just when it seems Tallow is ready to give up the quest, day becomes night and everything he once believed is turned on its head as he enters a fearful world where there are no longer any rules except survival. Like the original members of the School of Night, he finds himself treading on the wrong side of the law.
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Alan Wall was born in Yorkshire and educated at Oxford. He is the author of several novels including Bless the Thief.
Part scholarly mystery, part thriller, this novel grips the reader from the opening moment when its narrator, BBC editor Sean Tallow, steals two Elizabethan-era tomes from a university library. In the Hariot Notebooks, as they are called, he hopes to find reference to the enigmatic School of Night, a group of Elizabethans possibly including George Chapman, the writer who obliquely hinted at its existence, and the charismatic adventurer, Sir Walter Raleigh. Tallow is convinced Hariot will furnish proof not only of the existence of the school but will also reveal which of the group's members was the real author of the plays commonly believed to have been written by William Shakespeare. As Sean examines the manuscript, he must also come to terms with the death of his childhood friend, Daniel Pagett (always referred to as "dear dead Dan"), who Sean hero-worshiped for many years. Dan did not make it into Oxford with Sean, but went on to amass a fortune and marry Sean's high school sweetheart. After 20 years of study, Tallow is ready to award the authorship to Christopher Marlowe (a favorite of Shakespeare conspiracy theorists), deciding that Marlowe's death in a fight at a bar was actually staged, and that he escaped to Italy, where he wrote the famous plays. In a stunning and unexpected climax, Dan's fate is revealed to be linked to Sean's investigations. Readers familiar with the underworld of debate swirling around Shakespeare's oeuvre won't be surprised by the theories bandied about here, but they should enjoy the tale nonetheless. Agent, Gill Coleridge.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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