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Tamburlaine Must Die by Louise Welsh

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Tamburlaine Must Die by Louise Welsh

Post by Melisende » Thu September 4th, 2008, 12:12 pm

"Death makes the world a brighter place. I've seen the shape danger gives to things, an edge so sharp that if you like your head atop your shoulders and your entrails tucked safe in your belly, it's best not to stop and admire the view."

Thus the world of Elizbethan London is portrayed.

"Tamburlaine Must Die" is a narrative of the last 10 days of the poet and writer, Christopher Marlowe, as told by Marlow himself.

It is a very brief story of the events leading up to the author's mysterious death in a house in the seedier part of town.

London at this time was awash with conspiracies, heresies, and the plague; one day you are the talk of the town, the next day finds your head on a pole atop London Bridge. To save yourself one is often required to sacrifice another.

Into this murky world lives Christopher Marlowe - poet, writer, spy. Around every corner, enemies lurk unseen, waiting to thrust a dagger into the soft flesh of their victims.

There are heresies being printed and posted on doors throughout London - all signed by the mysterious "Tamburlaine" - a character in one of Marlowe's play; and thus suspicion is planted firmly on Marlowe's door.

And so the story ends with Marlowe heading off to meet his fate ...

"I finish this account and prepare for battle in the sureness that life is the only prize worth having and the knowledge that there are worse fates than damnation."

Marlowe's death was certainly shrouded in mystery - why did he die and what was he doing in that place; or was his death faked, and did he actually live and take on the persona of that other well known author and playwright - William Shakespeare???
"For my part, I adhere to the maxim of antiquity: The throne is a glorious sepulchre."

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Post by Perdita » Thu September 4th, 2008, 6:26 pm

I loved this book, it was so evocative of 16th Century London and all the dirt, danger and paranoia. Christopher Marlowe's famous wit is brought across really well and he is easy to sypathise with. The dialogue is beautifully written and the story zips along with no dull passages at all. Obviously we know that CM dies in the end so as the story progresses you get this delicious sense of impending doom!
Highly recommended :)

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Post by Carla » Tue August 17th, 2010, 4:48 pm

A pity this was so short! I'd have liked to see more of Marlowe and his seedy, colourful world. My review:

Edition reviewed: Canongate, Edinburgh, 2005, ISBN 1 84195 604 X

Tamburlaine Must Die is set in London during the period 19-29 May 1593. Its central character is Christopher Marlowe, and other historical figures include Sir Walter Raleigh, Thomas Walsingham (cousin to Sir Francis Walsingham, head of the Elizabethan intelligence service) and the astrologer and alchemist Dr John Dee.

Who can fail to be entranced by the sheer romanticism of Christopher Marlowe’s life? Poet, playwright, rumoured spy, rumoured homosexual, he lived fast and died young in mysterious circumstances in the seedy underworld of Elizabethan London. Marlowe was Shakespeare’s contemporary and literary equal - some would say superior - author of Tamburlaine and Doctor Faustus. He died from a stab wound to the head in a house in Deptford on the evening of 30 May 1593. The official records state that his death resulted from a fight over the bill, though conspiracy theorists ever since have insisted there must have been more to it than that. Tamburlaine Must Die is among their number.

It is 1593 and pestilence is ravaging London. Handbills blaming the pestilence on Dutch immigrants and inciting riot and massacre have appeared, posted by person or persons unknown and signed with the name of Marlowe’s most famous theatrical creation, Tamburlaine. A friend’s betrayal throws suspicion on Marlowe, who is summoned before the Privy Council and accused of treason and heresy. Marlowe has to find and kill the unknown Tamburlaine to clear his name and save his life, but there are deep undercurrents in high politics and more lives and reputations than Marlowe’s are at stake.

Tamburlaine Must Die is elegantly written in a style that echoes some of the rhythms of Elizabethan drama. Inventive turns of phrase and original imagery abound, such as, “....my mind, as busy as a late-night gaming board....” and “...like a father bestowing pearls on a daughter of whose virginity he is certain.” A series of vivid vignettes bring Elizabethan London to life in all its squalid energy, from the crowded street scenes to the booksellers in St Paul’s churchyard.

My chief complaint is that there wasn’t a lot more of this book. I estimate the length at around 25,000 words, a cross between a novella and a beefed-up short story. The plot promised much but in the end it seemed quite slight, even for a novella. I guessed the identity of Tamburlaine about two-thirds of the way through, and when I got to the end I thought, “Oh. Is that it?” Readers hoping for a crime novel or a spy thriller are liable to come away disappointed. I’d have liked to see this expanded into a full-length novel, with a more complex plot and a larger cast of characters, for an extended stay in Marlowe’s colourful world.

A stylish novella about a most fascinating subject.
PATHS OF EXILE - love, war, honour and betrayal in Anglo-Saxon Northumbria
Editor's Choice, Historical Novels Review, August 2009
Now available as e-book on Amazon Kindleand in Kindle, Epub (Nook, Sony Reader), Palm and other formats on Smashwords
Website: http://www.carlanayland.org
Blog: http://carlanayland.blogspot.com

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Post by annis » Thu August 19th, 2010, 7:39 am

Sounds interesting. Kit Marlowe has always been a romantic enigma with a dark aura. Maybe the author will be inspired to rework it at some stage into a longer novel.

I've just been reading about Christopher Marlowe in P F Chisholm's latest Sir Robert Carey mystery, A Murder of Crows. Marlowe is rather beleaguered in this story. An inability to work out where his loyalties lie leaves him on the run, and hiding out at the Carey residence. Finney also captures Elizabethan London in wonderful detail.

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