You want to get a taste? I will be publishing excerpts from the book here every week or so beginning October 27, 2016 with the prologue:
The city stank.
It always stank in summer when the scents of the clogged drains, rotten food and sweating bodies combined for a noxious fog that hovered over its hills. Even the Thames stank, its shores lined with flotsam from forgotten ships, animal carcasses and mounds of refuse washed on the rising tides and left for the foragers from the sky and the beggars from the cracked cobbled streets.
But he ignored the stench. Stood at his windows opened defiantly, inhaled deeply, begging for a breeze to cool his beaten brow. Even a simple draft to flutter the tattered drapes would be welcome. Anything to soothe his fevered head, to alleviate the sweat bullets lining his chest, rivulets streaming down his arms, his legs.
He brushed a piece of lank hair from his forehead, sat down to his pockmarked desk, took another sip of watered-down wine and pressed the quill to the piece of parchment. His hand shaking, he pushed the words from his mind, half-muttering to himself as the black ink stained the yellow paper.
“The sight is dismal;
And our affairs from England come too late:
The ears are senseless that should give us hearing,”
He took another deep breath, dipped the quill in the inkpot again. Started to write. Had to take a break. So hot. Leaned back his chair. A breeze? My soul for a breeze, he thought. Beneath his opened shirt, attached to a leather band, a sliver of translucent stone lay on his chest. It shifted colors in the half-light of the candle. Sometimes azure. Other times silver. A passing hue of cobalt. He clenched it. Inhaled again. Opened his eyes and grabbed the quill. Attacked the parchment.
“Let us haste to hear it,
And call the noblest to the audience.
For me, with sorrow I embrace my fortune.”
He leaned back again. Closed his eyes. Focused. Listened. Heard the sounds of the streets below. The usual calls of the pedestrians, the hawkers, the laughter of children, the occasional neigh of a horse or the bellow of a cow being led to slaughter. He heard clattering in the streets, the distinct sound of wagon wheels grinding on cobblestones, a sharp rapport.
He knew that they had come. Come for him. He was late. Again. But, there was so much perfection to do. So much to finish. So much yet to rewrite. But, his time was up. And he needed the money. The squeak of a carriage door, he could even hear the footfalls, knew it was him. The benefactor. Then the words shouted above the din of the crowd.
He ignored it. Clutched the stone in one fist. Gulped down the last of the drink with the other. And began writing again, the thoughts racing now, he had to force himself to slow down, lest the writing be unreadable. The shout again from the streets.
“William! Where is it? I need it now. I am coming up and Martin is coming with me. I know you’re there. They told me you were at home at The Fox and The Hound. I see your window is open. Unlock your door.”
He knew he could no longer wait. It was time. He wrote quickly. Dipped the quill in the inkwell for a final push and then finished the last few lines.
“The soldiers’ music and the rites of war
Speak loudly for him.
Take up the bodies: such a sight as this
Becomes the field, but here shows much amiss.
Go, bid the soldiers shoot.”
Heavy thud of big boots on the worn wooden stairs. A knock at the door. He scribbled a title on the first page. Blew on the ink. Rolled up the parchment, wrapped a ribbon around it. Took the chain from around his neck. Lifted the lid of a wooden box on his desk. Dropped it in. Cinched up his shirt. Lumbered to the door. Opened it.
“Is it ready?”
“Of course, I was just taking a nap.”
The man snatched the roll from his hands. Slid off the ribbon, opened it up. Read the first few lines.
“A nap….Mmmmmm,” a low groan, then, “Interesting opening. I like ghosts. Audiences love ghosts. A good start.”
“Here,” the playwright said. “Flip to Act III, yes, there a few lines down.”
The man did so, patiently, eyes intent.
Then reading. The lines of angst giving way to surprise, then relief. A smile.
“Late as usual old friend, but it looks good. By Jove, I do love these lines here in this act. My God. Very powerful. The very sense of the universe itself isn’t it? The only thing I don’t like so far is the title. Usually you’re very succinct on these, but it looks like this was an afterthought, ‘Hamlet.’ It could be a play about a small village and that wouldn’t draw the crowds would it?”
The playwright ran a hand through his hair. His mind still reeling.
“How about, ‘The Tragedy of Hamlet, The Prince of Denmark’? Yes, a bit more detail. Will that work?”
The man looked at him. Peered deep into his eyes. The playwright answered his own question.
“Yes. That’s it. ‘The Tragedy of Hamlet, The Prince of Denmark.’ By William Shakespeare.”
The man shook his head, let forth a small chuckle.
“It is a bit wordy, like I have a mouthful of stones, but it will work. And I am sure once people see it, they’ll remember it. I don’t see how you do it and keep doing it. You may be late, but you’re good son. You are good. Time may forget you, but I won’t.”
“Time forgets us all, my friend, but for some it takes longer than others.”