License to Quill

Written by Jacopo Della Quercia
Review by Monica E. Spence

1604: In this historical romp, William Shakespeare is not only a playwright but part of the Ordinance Office – a double O agent – which is operated for the benefit of His Majesty James I and VI and the safety of his kingdom by Thomas Walsingham (aka “W”), cousin to the late, great Sir Francis Walsingham, master spy. Walsingham’s assignment for Shakespeare: discover just what is planned by a Catholic zealot guy named “John Johnson” (aka Guido “Guy” Fawkes) and his cabal; go undercover, gain their trust. Just do not allow their plan – whatever it is – to succeed.

On the other side of Europe, Venice to be exact, a dead playwright wakes. Formerly known as Christopher Marlowe, playwright and spy, he has a dozen names, and breaks code as well as he pens a line of poetry. He is called home to England to assist Will to solve the Guy Fawkes problem. Shakespeare’s in deep with Fawkes’s crew, and Guy demands that Will pen a seditious play to be called “Macbeth” – and help blow up Parliament.

This is a wonderful, uproarious novel, with so much history that it makes your head spin with the cleverness of the dialog and plot. All the great names are here: Shakespeare’s Dark Lady, Francis Bacon, Pope Leo XI, Richard Burbage, Thomas Walsingham, Guy Fawkes and his incompetent crew, witches, Marlowe, Will, and a silver horse named Aston. This is a book no lover of Elizabethan/Jacobean history can afford to miss. Recommended most highly.