Book 26: Bruce Cook,Young Will: The Confessions of William Shakespeare: A Novel
May I just say, two subtitles, rarely a good sign. This has the distinction of being the worst book I've tried to read in the last 18 months or so. Bad enough, in fact, to be funny. Bad enough that the last book I "read" this bad was Judith Cook's The Slicing Edge Of Death, a novel about Kit Marlowe that fully deserves its title. (I read bad Elizabethan-theatre small press novels so you don't have to. Don't send money; it's all part of the service.)
Oh, dear lord, this is bad. I mean, I have nothing against Shakespeare slash, or Marlowe slash, or even Shakespeare/Marlowe slash... but this is a sex scene I am tempted to send in to the Guardian's bad sex scene contest, if they take outside submittals.
The characterizations are both contradictory and vague, the prose pernicious, the plot--as near as I can work out--devoted to finding ways to make each and every one of the characters wax as evil and malicious as possible, and the narrative, such as it is, broken up by paragraphs upon paragraphs of "I suffered for my art and now so must you."
As near as I can tell, the novel is an attempt to cram as many salacious stories into 407 pages as possible. There is adultery, buggery, devil-summoning (oh, wait, sounds like my book. oops.), callous drownings, manipulations, betrayals, pedophilia, and, to top it all off, Shakespeare stabs Marlowe to death and steals his plays. After swiping Titus Andronicus from poor Thomas Kyd. (I am not making this up. Not a word of it.)
Oh, and it's narrated by dead!Shakepeare. Or nearly-dead!, anyway. Looking back on his life, and no doubt anxious to cast himself in his best light. I wonder what he got up to that he isn't sharing with the class...
Even an appearance by Tom Watson can't cheer me up.
If you really need the Sex Lives of Elizabethan Poets In Detail, may I recommend Anthony Burgess instead? Now, he can write a pretty good sex scene....