Author: M. G. Scarsbrook
Page count: 400
Genre: Historical Thriller
Price: eBook – $2.99 / Paperback – $11.99
M. G. Scarsbrook is a prize-winning screenwriter and author of the historical suspense novel THE MARLOWE CONSPIRACY. He recently adapted THE MARLOWE CONSPIRACY into a screenplay and won the nationwide Writers On The Storm Screenwriting Contest, placing first out of 1000 entries. This script has also ranked within the top 30 at the Nicholl Fellowships, the most prestigious screenwriting contest in the world. He currently lives in Southern California and is now at work on a new detective series.
Tell us about your book:
1593, Elizabethan England: In a turbulent time of wars, famine, and religious persecution, Christopher Marlowe struggles to balance his life as England’s most popular playwright with his duties as a government spy.
Suddenly, when he falls under suspicion of atheism, a capital crime, Marlowe fears his many powerful enemies have launched a conspiracy to have him executed…
With only a few days to clear his name, he quickly enlists the aid of a young William Shakespeare – one of the few friends he can still trust. Together, they race through Marlowe’s tangled life of crime, espionage, and noble connections to expose the conspiracy and save him from the hangman’s noose.
But will anything save a man as troubled as Marlowe?
How long did it take to write the book?
Actual writing of the book took me approximately 6 months, although I had a long planning period before that, and many months of research, too…
What inspired you to write the book?
The life and death of Christopher Marlowe! Originally, I was considering adapting one of his plays – ‘Doctor Faustus’ – into screenplay, and so I started reading biographies of Marlowe to familiarize myself with his work. That’s when I found out about his exciting life (he was a famous playwright, most probably a spy, and a bit of a criminal, too), as well as the murder-mystery surrounding his untimely death (he was stabbed in a tavern while in the presence of several espionage operatives).
Talk about the writing process. Did you have a writing routine? Did you do any research, and if so, what did that involve?
I really like to plan my novels in great detail before I put words on the page. I start by making a general outline for both the plot and characters, then I move onto weeks of research, which always helps to suggest ideas for scenes and new characters, shed new light on character motivation, and it generally yields a few surprises, too. Then I start planning in great detail, constantly shaping the plot and revising the characters, developing the entire novel scene by scene, chapter by chapter. By the time I’m ready to start writing, I feel as if I know everything about the story and characters – almost like I have already written the first draft! I find that this allows me to focus on the actual act of writing, choosing the right words, honing description, and making the dialogue sharp and revealing.
What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?
Some authors want their readers to have a particular reaction to their work. I don’t. I aim to make my writing as rich as possible, full of emotional, philosophical, and political themes, but ultimately I simply want to stimulate the reader to have a reaction to my novel – to feel or think something about what they have experienced. Indifference is the only thing I don’t want…
Where can we go to buy your book?
The eBook is on sale at Amazon, Apple’s iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, the Sony Reader Store, Kobo, and Smashwords. The paperback is available exclusively from Amazon.
Any other links or info you’d like to share?
Included inside the novel is an extensive Author’s Note detailing the fascinating historical facts behind THE MARLOWE CONSPIRACY. Also included is an excerpt from my latest novel POISON IN THE BLOOD: The Memoirs of Lucrezia Borgia, an historical mystery-thriller set in renaissance Rome during the scandalous reign of the Borgia family. To learn more, please visit my website at http://www.mgscarsbrook.com.
Excerpt from book:
The moon looked flat and pale and ready for a kill. Below, in the blue haziness of dusk, Calais had never been more dangerous for an English spy. Fort Risban trained its cannons across the mouth of the city harbor. Sentries with spears prowled up and down the ramparts. City guards fanned out through the streets, watched at street corners, and made random checks on anyone passing through the shadows.
Along one street, a pair of guards strolled past an old inn known as ‘Auberge du Passeur’. Above, at a second floor room, the shadow of a man moved past the window…
Inside that room, motes of dust flickered through the light of a single candle. At the far wall, before a small mirror hung askew, Christopher ‘Kit’ Marlowe stood and dressed himself quickly.
Kit was tall, with lithe arms and compact shoulders. Oval of face, he wore his long brown hair pulled back from his brow, and he grew a faint moustache over his lip and a thin beard on his chin. Dark, sun-strained eyes stared back at him from the looking glass. Between his slanted eyebrows lay a small crease worn into the skin through frowning. In his late twenties, he was a man fully in his prime. He was also a man of hidden tension: focused yet undisciplined; alert but frustrated; confident yet racked by anxiety.
Hastily, Kit grabbed a long black gown from the stool and slipped it over his simple doublet. Next he donned a red, triple-peaked hat that signified the profession of medical doctor. Lastly, and most carefully of all, he leaned over to the desk and lifted a thick fake beard and applied it to his face. The hair of the beard smelt musty. The glue felt warm and pinched a little as it dried hard on the skin. Now fully dressed, he stepped back in front of the mirror to inspect his disguise. Moonlight from the window cast a bone-white shade in the looking glass. He stared at his reflection – stared almost through it. The back of his neck tightened. He took a shallow breath. His eyes narrowed slightly. He shook his head and grimaced.
At a nearby desk, he laid his fingers on a document, rolled it tightly, and slid it inside a small pewter tube. He secured the tube inside a leather-sided medical bag full of instruments, pots, and vials.
Pigeon wings suddenly battered at the window.
Kit flinched and turned.
After a second, he calmed himself, drew open the window, and discovered a messenger pigeon clinging to the windowsill. A tiny note was attached to the bird’s left foot. Gently, he unclipped the note and read the following words:
‘Ship to England on schedule.
May God be with you.’
The pigeon flapped off into the dusk sky. Kit poked his head outside and surveyed the streets of Calais.
Below, a man drove a cart down the road. From the shadows, two guards jumped out in front, waved him down, and proceeded to search both him and the wooden crates aboard the cart-bed. Stress began to twist its way through Kit’s limbs. The French were unusually nervous tonight.
For centuries, Calais had been ruled by England, but thirty-five years ago the Duke of Guise had mounted a dramatic invasion and reclaimed the port for France. Calais was valuable since its proximity to England meant the harbor bustled daily with English galleons laden with cloth, tin, lead, and wool. At the docks, these were readily traded for steel rapiers, hand-woven rugs, sumptuous rolls of silk, and expensive bottles of claret. Calais was one of the most lucrative towns in France, and the French were anxious of losing it again – especially as Spain had amassed troops close by in the Netherlands. Now was not the time to be in Calais.
Kit’s eyes lifted. In the distance, the masts of galleons in the harbor peeked over the rooftops and chimney stacks. For the span of a heartbeat he remained still and noiseless and tranquil…
He shut the window and turned back into the room. With hardly another glance in the mirror, he burst into a whirl of activity, whisked over the floorboards, collected his belongings, closed the medical bag, heaved it up from the floor, and blew out the candle. Teeth clenched, heart swelling up into his throat, he left the relative safety of his room, tramped down a creaking staircase, found the inn keeper and returned the room key. He paused briefly, tilted his hat down, and approached the door to the street.