reviews


Reviews by Amos Lassen

William Shakespeare is generally considered to be the greatest English language author who ever lived. He died in 1616. Little more than a century later, however, suspicion was voiced that perhaps he did not write the works attributed to him. The first such voice belonged to the Rev. James Wilmot, who put his thoughts to paper in 1785, citing Francis Bacon as the probable author. Since that time, camps of scholarship have sprung up championing Edward de Vere (Earl of Oxford), Christopher Marlowe and even Queen Elizabeth I as the author of Shakespeare's works.

Four hundred years have failed to bring to light any hard evidence that these, or any other persons, actually wrote Shakespeare's poems and plays, but they have brought an astonishing body of evidence that Shakespeare did not write them.

Author Ted Bacino is firmly in the Marlowe camp, and his historical novel, The Shakespeare Conspiracy, is a biography of Christopher Marlowe, told as if Marlowe wrote the works of Shakespeare. Marlowe was a contemporary of Shakespeare, and well-known in Elizabethan literary circles, such as they may have been 400 years ago, as the author of The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus, Tamburlaine the Great, The Jew of Malta, The Tragedy of Edward II and other plays.

Marlowe was also believed to be a spy, and he had a well-known taste for boys. In fact, we have Marlowe to thank for the statement, "All they that love not tobacco and boys are fools." It was the spy thing, however, that resulted in the murder of Marlowe in 1593, in a bar brawl at the age of 29.

Unless …
Here is where Bacino's imagination comes into play. Bacino theorizes that the brawl was a carefully constructed ruse to make it appear that Marlowe was dead, and thus get his political enemies off his back, as it were. Marlowe, writer at heart, and a great one, could go into hiding, but he could not stop writing. So his rich and powerful lover hired a somewhat coarse commoner, William Shakespeare, to masquerade as a playwright so that Marlowe's works could continue to be brought forth and staged.

From there, complications develop, and Bacino sees them through to the end of Shakespeare's life as well as to the end of Marlowe's life, as Bacino envisions it to have played out. Constable Maunder, an investigator with the single-minded determination of Les Miserable's Inspector Javert, is convinced that Marlowe is alive and pursues him around Europe. The pursuit is facilitated by the locations in every new play — names dropped like breadcrumbs that give clues to the playwright's whereabouts: Verona, Padua, Venice, Milan, Sicily …

It's an entertaining theory, plausibly presented and all the gay stuff is trotted out proudly. The chapters are on the short and choppy side, and there are too many places where the proofreader fails to catch the typos that fell through the cracks of the spelling checker (the most egregious of which may be the horse's "bridal"). The plus side of that is that you can easily find a spot to bookmark when you need to set the book aside and resuming the collateral activities of living your own life.

* * * * * * * * * * *

All of us have our memories of studying Shakespeare but I am not sure that many have stopped to think who the man really was. There have been conspiracy theories about the man and the “Shakespeare Theory” is perhaps the greatest of all literary mysteries and one that will probably never be solved. Ted Bacino gives us a historical novel that looks at the “Shakespeare Conspiracy” from two different angles. One is that Shakespeare became regarded as England’s (if not the world’s) greatest playwright very quickly even though he rose from total obscurity while the other looks at Christopher Marlowe and his “murder”.

We travel back to 16th century England where Bacino bases his novel on historical facts. Our hero, William Shakespeare, is a man of varied sexual tastes, the father of several illegitimate children and obviously a very sensual man. Opposite to him we find Christopher Marlowe. In Elizabethan England gay life existed and no one was bothered as long as gay men stayed within their own boundaries. Marlowe was the lover of Sir Thomas Walsingham who was also his patron and who totally protected the man he loved. When Maunder, an inspector and detective enters the picture, he learns a great deal about Christopher Marlowe. It also seems that Marlowe and Shakespeare might be the same man. There are times that you must remind yourself that you are reading fiction because everything seems so real and in fact, there are more than fifty pages of historical fact at the end of the book.

We first meet Marlowe when he is 29 years old and considered to be the best poet and playwright that England had seen. Even as a gay man, he was welcomed everywhere but he was accused of treason when Inspector Maunder goes after him and Marlowe and Walsingham arrange a “murder” and for young Will Shakespeare to assume credit for having written Marlowe’s poems and plays. Whether or not this really happens makes no difference to me as I found the plot to be intriguing and I have only mentioned a minor part of it.

Bacino mixes comedy, tragedy, intrigue, adventure and mystery into this delightful well-written read that keeps you thinking. The characters are very real as are the descriptions and we become witness to a romantic time in history and a look at gay society that we do not usually get.

Marlowe is a passionate man with great intelligence while Shakespeare seems to be more of a clown–a young man who is searching for himself. These differences provide the heart of the novel. You might think that this is not the kind of book that will take you away but I guarantee it to be a wonderful reading experience. It is unfortunate that many have negative views of Shakespeare because of the way it was taught to them. Here is a chance to change that.




Review by Joe DeMarco in Mysterical E-Magazine

If you like conspiracy theories, you’ll like this book. If you enjoy Shakespeare and conspiracy theories, you’ll really enjoy this book. Though the details are best left of the reader to discover, this book contains some wonderful material that will enlighten as well as entertain. Think you know everything there is to know about the Bard or who might have written his material? This book will show you that you don’t. There’s plenty more to find out and Bacino does yeoman’s work in pulling together history and the details of the conspiracy. There’s a fast moving story, historical figures the reader will recognize, and a conspiracy theory that will give rise to questions.




Review by Erastes

This is a very well researched and meticulously thought out book. I was in awe at just how much work Bacino has put into this, with foreword, and massive appendices.

It’s obviously massively researched and he’s clearly looked up every single point that he’s writing about, from plague to theatres to politics. I have to give Bacino a standing ovation simply for the work he’s done here with a foreword and a huge appendix But..

The trouble is — it’s not really a novel. This book is really going only to appeal to historians, because those wanting an immersive novel are going to find the style jarring–as I did.




It’s more like a docu-drama. I haven’t read “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote but I would imagine that this is the style he used–an omniscient narrator taking the place of any of the characters’ points of view.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with pure omniscient narration–it’s a style I much admire but while it works for Thackeray and for Dickens and the like, it really doesn’t work here. In the same way as Thackeray does in Vanity Fair, Bacino takes the place of a rather confiding narrator who behaves rather like a history teacher interrupting a video his class is watching. You are never allowed to relax into the storyline because every paragraph or so “history teacher” butts in and starts telling us a load of back information such as religious or political aspects—from the birth of Protestantism to the destruction of the Armada, to spy rings and exact wordings of many laws.

So, you’d think that those with a love of history would lap this kind of thing up, but I tend to feel that the facts we are presented with are already so well known from myriad incarnations of the Tudors on stage, screen, and book, historians are already going to know most of this. I certainly did.

Considering that the appendix (which takes up a good 20% of the size of the book) goes through every single historical point in every chapter with “FACT:[...]” or “FICTION:[...]” We could easily have had a novel-style book rather than a semi-text book and if one was interested one could look in the appendix for the facts, but because we are told once in the book that this was so and then once again in the appendix it really felt like we are being preached at. The way the facts or fictions are presented are rather patronising, to be honest. If anyone has watched “Horrible Histories” will know that after every sketch, the narrator, a rat, comes on and says “It’s TRUE- the Romans really did wash their clothes in pee.” Or some such validation, and this book has the same tone. Trouble is Horrible Histories is actually for kids. So I did feel a little talked down to at times while reading this. As regards to the FACT or FICTION issue, he could easily have just kept it down to the things he invented, and taken it as read that we’d assume everything else was fact related.

Here’s an example:

From the book itself:

Sir Francis Walsingham was known for his booming, threatening voice that seemed even more frightening when he lowered it to a softer tone. He had headed the Royal Intelligence Service (a euphemism for the spy network in England) for almost twenty years. He was quickly becoming the architect of modern espionage. As a fitting reward for his “unswerving” service”, Queen Elizabeth had named him England’#8217;s first Secretary of State in 1573—a position not quite structured yet – giving Francis the opportunity to do pretty much as he wanted with the position. He had the reputation of being the archetype of Machiavellian political cunning with tentacles to fathom out the smallest detail in the country. He knew he was courted and needed by everyone.

He was also hated by everyone.

(He was the inspiration for the line that would someday be written into the play Measure for Measure: “it is certain that when he makes water his urine is congealed ice.”)

Now – from the appendix:

FACT: Queen Elizabeth did name Sir Francis Walsingham to be England’s first Secretary of State in 1573. Sir Francis was the head of the English spy network. Historians frequently name him as the architect of modern espionage.

FACT: Shakespearean quote: ““it is certain that when he makes water his urine is congealed ice” “Measure for Measure” Act III, scene 2

As I said, the appendix takes up 20% of the total of the book (according to my Kindle) and all it does is mostly repeat what’s already been said. There are no citations, either, which I sort of expected with this level of “this is actually true.” We are just expected to take the author’s word for it.

The reason an omnisceint narrator worked so well for Thackeray and Dickens and the like was that they were presenting the narration from a closer perspective than this. From their time, or a few years after the events they were writing about. And anyone doing an omniscient narrator today would also use this device, narrating the book as a person who knew the characters or was involved in the events portrayed. But Bacino’s narrator – who is more than likely Bacino himself – is narrating this from a perspective of 21st century man, so the terminology is jarring: Marlow has “mesmerizing ways” Marlowe is “cute.” Comparisons to money—such as Wriothley’s payment of £5,000 to sever his engagement are compared to million pounds it would be in “today’s” money, which again, instantly reminds us we are reading a history book, rather than living a story with the characters. Lord Wriothley is referred to as “the poster boy for the homosexual movement” which is from the narrator’s pov so it’s not quite so bad—but then that same lord actually says later: “Her [Queen Elizabeth I’s] new Commission makes it really just a police state, doesn’t it?” which is gah-wrongness on so many levels.

But I can’t discommend this book, because of the sheer volume of work that has gone into it. I complain daily about authors who can’t be arsed even to open Wikipedia for the most basic of facts that can be found in seconds, so I’d be a hypocrite indeed to moan about someone who has done this level of research.

It’s just that—just because you do the research you don’t have to tell the reader about every single aspect of it. (Are you listening Dan Brown?) I prefer to be shown, not told.

Without all the infodumping, the story is amusing and enjoyable, Shakespeare’s portrayal being particularly funny as a real thicko. I can’t say that the conspiracy theory convinced me, though.

There are a few historical oopsies too–one being people drinking tea(!) a good hundred years before this was possible. This surprised me seeing as how much research had gone into the rest of the book.

If you can take the history professor on every page, and you like this approach then you’ll enjoy this. It’s well-written, fantastically well researched (even though I don’t agree with some of the “FACTS”) and I hope that Bacino goes on to write more. The story hangs together well, the conspiracy is well done and probably adds to the canon of Who Wrote Shakespeare. It’s just that I prefer a novel, with history blended in rather than a documentary with the presenter stopping the action every few minutes to tell you stuff.




A Guest Review by Victor J. Banis

Summary Review: Accused of heresy, Christopher Marlowe, London’s most popular playwright, must go underground to escape prison and death. In order that his plays will continue to be produced, he and his protector, Sir Thomas Walsingham, arrange for William Shakespeare to put his name to them.

The Blurb:

Two questions have always plagued historians:
How could Christopher Marlowe, a known spy and England’s foremost playwright, be suspiciously murdered and quickly buried in an unmarked grave — just days before he was to be tried for treason?

How could William Shakespeare replace Marlowe as England’s greatest playwright virtually overnight — when Shakespeare had never written anything before and was merely an unknown actor? Historians have noted that Bard of Stratford was better known at that time “for holding horses for the gentry while they watched plays.”

The Shakespeare Conspiracy is a historical novel that intertwines the two mysteries and then puts the pieces together to offer the only possible resolution. The novel, a wild romp through gay 16th Century Elizabethan England, is a rapidly unfolding detective narrative filled with comedy, intrigue, murder and an illicit love story. And most importantly, all recorded events, persons, dates and documents are historically accurate.

It’s a tale of murder, mayhem and manhunts in the underbelly of London as the Black Plague scourges the country and the greatest conspiracy plot of all time is hatched.

The Review:

I confess, when I first sat down to read this, the somewhat ponderous title and the author’s insistence upfront on his historical accuracy led me to expect a dry and scholarly tome. It was quite a pleasant surprise, then, to discover that it is instead a thoroughly enjoyable read, a well managed blend of fiction and fact.

The author’s premise is that Shakespeare did not write the plays and sonnets history attributes to him, but rather that they were written by Christopher Marlowe, who was forced to live in seclusion and eventually flee the country to escape imprisonment and probably death for some blasphemous remarks.

I can’t say if this is so or not, and I am not enough of a scholar so far as the Elizabethan era or the works of either writer to venture an opinion, but for the most part what he says seems authentic, which is all one should ask of a work of fiction – where the semblance of truth is of far more importance than actual verity. Historical accuracy aside, the author serves up a witty and exciting tale of m/m romance between Christopher Marlowe and his patron, Sir Thomas Walsingham, though readers expecting juicy sex will be disappointed– this is indeed more romance than erotica and the romance is more talked about than demonstrated. That isn’t meant as criticism. In that regard, it’s up to a writer to go as far as he wishes in a book, but in point of fact I don’t think this one would have benefited by raising the heat level—probably the opposite.

It is Thomas’s cousin, The Royal Spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham, who takes it in his head to arrest Marlowe and bring him to trial for heresy and treason. At first Marlowe is safe simply hiding out at Scadbury Manor, Sir Thomas’s estate, but that is not enough to satisfy Francis, who wants Marlowe dead, and orders Thomas to arrange it. What Thomas arranges instead is to fake Marlowe’s death. Marlowe wants his plays produced, however, and a dupe is found in Shakespeare, who agrees to having them published and produced with his name on them instead of Marlowe’s.

Throughout the ensuing years—somewhat reminiscent of Les Misérables—Francis and his Constable, Henry Maunder, pursue Marlowe’s trail relentlessly, supplying considerable suspense and keeping the pages turning.

There are typos and misspellings galore—an all too common affliction in today’s publishing and I’ve learned to turn a blind eye. The author has one major fault, however, which I cannot not mention, and it is to be devoutly hoped that he rids himself of it before his next endeavor. ike the worst of the Victorian writers (“Little did he know, dear reader…”) he intrudes with his modern day voice where he has no business popping up.

The novel, as John Gardner puts it so aptly, is a dream which the author and the reader share. As the author, your fondest hope is that the reader will forget that he is merely reading a book and will slip into the world you have presented to him. When the author accomplishes this, he holds the reader spellbound. He simply cannot put down the book.

When the author, however, stops to speak to the reader in little asides, as he does here (parenthetically) the dream is lost: “The clothing, the pose and the look on the face in the portrait did little to help determine the sex of the subject. The word on the streets of London was that Henry spent more money on clothing than the queen herself. (Centuries later when this same painting would be discovered, it would be accepted – for almost 70 years – to be the rendering of one “Lady Norman,” a rather outlandish-looking woman. The portrait was complete with rouge, lipstick, a double earring and tresses of hair flowing over the left shoulder. But, the world would one day learn: it wasn’t Lady Norman. It was Sir Henry Wriothesley.)”

The problem is, if the reader is properly engrossed in the story, it is not 70 years in the future for him, it’s the 16th century, and what the world will one day learn isn’t pertinent. This intrusion breaks the spell, reminds him that he is after all only reading a book, not living in Elizabethan England. It is a cardinal sin, and nowhere more defeating to the author’s purpose than in historical fiction.

Fortunately, it happens only a few times, three if I recall, but that is thrice too many, and the kind of mistake an author would do well to excise from his craft.

Apart from that, however, the book is an excellent read. The prose is well done, the humor sly and sparkling, the characters mostly well drawn. Of the many characters, in fact, only Sir Francis lacks dimension. He would have made for a more interesting villain if he were not so all of a piece – if, say, he’d harbored a genuine affection for his cousin Thomas, or been in love with Marlowe himself. The story’s other villain, on the other hand–Constable Maunder—is exemplary, a man of many dimensions.

I confess after years of thinking Shakespeare a man of genius, I had to work at seeing him as a not-too-bright ladies man, but the author keeps him entirely believable as such. Marlowe is a bit more problematic. The plays of Shakespeare are notable more than anything else for their incredible grasp of human nature. This Marlowe comes across as a thoughtless, spoiled brat, lacking sensitivity to others and certainly with no discernable knowledge of human behavior. He’s believable as a character in a novel, but (at least to me) not as the author of the greatest body of literature in the English language. This does not, however, detract from the story as a story. And this may be a matter of a task perhaps impossible to achieve.

Whether or not the author convinces the reader of his premise (I’ll let others decide that for themselves), he nonetheless spins an entertaining tale. I recommend the book highly for those who like literate historical fiction. But a familiarity with the (purported) Shakespearean oeuvre would be helpful in getting some of the inside jokes.

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5




Ted Bacino’s Shakespeare Conspiracy is a detective mystery that examines the bizarre death of England’s renowned playwright, Christopher Marlowe, and William Shakespeare’s sudden rise to fame. Using historically accurate facts, Bacino builds a narrative that describes the world of “gay 16th century Elizabethan England.” Moreover, England had been overcome with the Black Plague, sending the country into chaos. The book is loaded with comedy, murder, and romance, all the while gravitating toward the resolution of the mystery.

Shakespeare Conspiracy clearly portrays William Shakespeare in a negative light, claiming that he was more known for his work in the stable than his acting or writing abilities. In other words, William Shakespeare was a nobody until the suspicious death/murder of Christopher Marlowe days before his trial. Furthermore, the evidence within the book and in supplemental section hints that Christopher Marlowe could in fact have penned the famous Shakespearean works we read today. Bacino makes a number of bold claims, and like any good historian and researcher, backs them up with impeccable support. For instance, the last fifty pages of the book is essentially a fact verification section, referencing the exact document.

Shakespeare Conspiracy outlines numerous homosexual relationships of the time; however, instead of berating those involved, the people of the time chose to downplay the behavior, calling it having “an affinity for each other.”

Throughout the book, a lively and humorous dialogue takes place between Inspector Maunder and Sir Thomas Walsingham, who tries to protect Christopher Marlow’s whereabouts and his impending prison stint. In addition, there is a witty exchange between Sir Francis and Sir Henry regarding the credibility of Shakespeare’s work. Sir Francis states, “There seems to be a multitude of questions concerning the obvious discrepancy between Mr. Shakespeare’s background and Mr. Shakespeare’s writings.” In addition to Shakespeare’s life being full of vulgarity, illegitimate children, and mistresses, he has hardly any education. It seems that there is minimal correlation between Shakespeare’s accomplishments and his academic career. Francis is undoubtedly onto something, and continues asking Sir Henry probing questions such as, “where does he get the material for all his plays,” and “His knowledge of court manners? And his familiarity with so much of Italy? He’s never been to court and never been out of the country.”

In modern times, Shakespeare’s popularity and impact on future literature is so great that even the casual reader will take time and dig into this entertaining mystery. What exactly went on behind the peculiar death of Christopher Marlowe? What would be the implications to modern day literature if it were proved that everything Shakespearean is actually the work of Christopher Marlowe? Why, it would turn the world of literature upside-down! Read this fascinating book—and decide for yourself.

--Todd Rutherford




THE SHAKESPEARE CONSPIRACY: A Novel About the Greatest Literary Deception of All Time
by Ted Bacino
(Authorhouse, July 2010, $18.75 softcover)

In sixteenth century England, budding poet/playwright Christopher Marlowe got on the bad side of existing royalty, through his writings attacking religion and the ruling classes. Before he could be apprehended and sent to prison, he reportedly suffered fatal injuries in a knife fight, and was buried in an unmarked grave.

About the same time, the (then unknown) sometimes actor named William Shakespeare started releasing a long series of surprisingly polished plays and other literary works, which gave him instant fame and fortune. Those who knew him were amazed that the simple womanizer, who didn't seem very literate, could possibly have created such beautiful works, and Shakespeare himself seemed to barely understand what he had written. It wasn't long before it also became evident that the writing style - and sometimes the exact verbiage - seemed very much like that of the deceased Mr. Marlowe.

Author Bacino takes the known facts concerning Marlowe and Shakespeare, and adds his own conjecture as to how all that came to be. He creates a riveting historical mystery novel of conspiracies, deceptions spies and murder, built around a longtime gay relationship between Marlowe and his well-connected benefactor, Sir Thomas Walsingham, as well as other colorful characters of the period. Though essentially a sad story, there is significant wit in the telling of it, as the duo worked together to overcome daunting obstacles to their love. The book also includes fifty pages of notes as to the origin of the incidents told, and separating the fact from fiction. Well written and worth a look. Five stars out of five.

- Bob Lind, Echo Magazine




5.0 out of 5 stars: Wry, page-turning delight, November 14, 2010

By Midwest Book Review (Oregon, WI USA)

This review is from: The Shakespeare Conspiracy - A Novel: The Story of the Greatest Literary Deception of All Time - Based Entirely on Historical Facts (Hardcover)


The Shakespeare Conspiracy is an engaging novel grounded in the historical speculation that Shakespeare himself did not write his legendary plays. Instead, the postulate that playwright and known spy Christopher Marlowe was the true author forms the core hypothesis of this engaging narrative. Following the worlds of William Shakespeare, and his notorious sexual escapades resulting in illegitimate children, as well as Christopher Marlowe, who found it acceptable to be homosexual as long as he kept the affiliation within his own class, The Shakespeare Conspiracy is offers wry, page-turning delight and uncountable rationales why only Christopher Marlowe could have been the true playwright behind the classics.




I found that Ted Bacino presents a very plausible and interesting case that Shakespeare was used in order to keep presenting Marlowe’s plays and other writings, long after his “mysterious death.” (Click here to read entire review.)

A very interesting read! I give it four stars!

Tina Foster, Foster Literary Agency.




The Shakespeare Conspiracy is a fun and exciting read that is not only a well written story, but also well researched to maintain historical accuracy. I highly recommend The Shakespeare Conspiracy as an engaging and entertaining read with many twists and turns and surprising revelations. (Click here to read entire review.)

Tracy Roberts -- Write Field Services, Liverpool, Nova Scotia, Canada




Bacino skillfully integrates fiction and fact, educating the reader as he entertains. The author has included an appendix outlining the historical facts and the fictional inclusions by chapter. The Shakespeare Conspiracy is much like the plays of the author in question: compelling, entertaining, and controversial. I highly recommend it.

(Click here to read entire review.)

Melissa Brown Levine -- Independent Professional Book Reviewers




A quick and fun read where Shakespeare, Marlowe, and the cast of characters almost fly off the page. It’s based on the historical facts we almost never see.

Roger Margason (Pen Name: Dorien Grey)-- Author, Elliott Smith Mystery Series, and the twelve novels in the Dick Hardesty Mystery Series




Exciting, funny and full of plot twists. A truly original view of the wild Elizabethan world of theater. A Fascinating look at the actual facts connected with this age-old conspiracy theory.

Phillip Sherman – Author, Uncommon Heroes




Shakespeare is endlessly fascinating and Ted Bacino’s slant on him is wonderfully refreshing.

Karen Moller – Author, In Her Own Fashion and Technicolor Dreamin’




Ted Bacino writes as if he were a witness to history. His colorful descriptions of those events make you wonder if he might have actually been there. Good reading for the inquiring mind.

Senator Larry E. Lutz (Ret.) – Indiana State Senate




By: A. Taylor (Loganville, GA)

This review is from: The Shakespeare Conspiracy: A Novel About the Greatest Literary Deception of All Time (Paperback) I personally know hardly anything about Shakespeare at all and I was not a fan of his plays, but now they were possibly not his puts a new light on the subject, and who would have ever guessed there was such a conspiracy? The story actively engages all the facts that Bacino dug up and put them into action. This makes it more catchy and interesting than just stating the facts and discussing them like a history report. The supplementary material after the story is greatly helpful in specifically stating what is fact and fiction, chapter by chapter, detail by detail. A very interesting read.




5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Masterpiece, Historical Fiction At Its Best!, April 10, 2011

By: BookBuzz (Rome, GA United States) - See all my reviews

This review is from: The Shakespeare Conspiracy - A Novel: The Story of the Greatest Literary Deception of All Time - Based Entirely on Historical Facts (Hardcover)

Brilliant Masterpiece, Historical Fiction At Its Best! Ted Bacino, has not only written an excellent read, he has also given the reader thoughts to ponder. Did Shakespeare really create all of those wonderful plays and stories, or was it perhaps Christopher Marlowe, a genius in writing, and was "the father of English tragedy and the creator of English blank verse and was therefore also the teacher and the guide of Shakespeare." So could Marlowe have actually been the author of Shakespeare's work? Bacino provides a historical account of the conspiracy. Was this the greatest literary deception of all time? Bacino gives compelling evidence.

Skillfully written, and based entirely on historical facts, "The Shakespeare Conspiracy" is a masterpiece unto itself. Entertaining, puzzling, and thought-provoking. Bacino's book will not disappoint. Bacino is receiving rave reviews for this book and a screenplay is being adapted. Good luck Mr. Bacino, I'm sure we will see more and hear more from you.




2.0 out of 5 stars Pass on this, March 31, 2011

By: Leslie E. Spokany - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)

This review is from: The Shakespeare Conspiracy: A Novel About the Greatest Literary Deception of All Time (Paperback)

My brother is a Shakespeare maven so I got it for him. He read a chapter and quit. Not very good says him.

Help other customers find the most helpful reviews




4.0 out of 5 stars an engaging read, March 28, 2011

By: Victor J. Banis "Victor J. Banis" (West Virginia) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)

This review is from: The Shakespeare Conspiracy: A Novel About the Greatest Literary Deception of All Time (Paperback)

I sometimes find myself in a quandary reviewing for Amazon, as here, because I felt this book falls somewhere between 4 and 5 stars (elsewhere I rated it 4.5) So, although I've rated it 4 stars, it's really a bit better than that. It is, however, a thoroughly enjoyable read, a well managed blend of fact and fiction.

I can't say if the author's premise - that Shakespeare's plays were written instead by Christopher Marlow - is so or not, but for the most part what he says seems authentic, which is all one should ask of a work of fiction - where the semblance of truth is of far more importance than actual verity. Historical accuracy aside, the author serves up a witty and exciting tale of m/m romance between Christopher Marlowe and his patron, Sir Thomas Walsingham, though readers expecting juicy sex will be disappointed-- this is indeed more romance than erotica and the romance is more talked about than demonstrated.

Thomas's cousin, The Royal Spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham,takes it in his head to arrest Marlowe and bring him to trial for heresy. At first Marlowe is safe simply hiding out at Scadbury Manor, Sir Thomas's estate, but that is not enough to satisfy Francis, who wants Marlowe dead, and orders Thomas to arrange it. What Thomas arranges instead is to fake Marlowe's death. Marlowe wants his plays produced, however, and a dupe is found in Shakespeare, who agrees to having them published and produced with his name on them instead of Marlowe's.

Throughout the ensuing years--somewhat reminiscent of Les Miserable--Francis and his Constable, Henry Maunder, pursue Marlowe's trail relentlessly, supplying considerable suspense and keeping the pages turning.

The author has one major fault, however, and it was this that prompted my rating. Like the worst of the Victorian writers ("Little did he know, dear reader...") he tends to insert asides where he talks to the reader, telling him about events and details subsequent to the story.

These intrusions break the spell, and remind the reader that he is after all only reading a book, not living in Elizabethan England. It is a cardinal sin, and nowhere more defeating to the author's purpose than in historical fiction.

Apart from that, however, the book is an excellent read. The prose is well done, the humor sly and sparkling, the characters mostly well drawn, though Sir Francis was non-dimensional.

Whether or not the author convinces the reader of his premise (I'll let others decide that for themselves), he nonetheless spins an entertaining tale. I recommend the book highly for those who like literate historical fiction. But a familiarity with the (purported) Shakespearean oeuvre would be helpful in getting some of the inside jokes.




5.0 out of 5 stars Even the casual reader will take time and dig into this entertaining mystery!, February 17, 2011

The Publishing Guru "Todd Rutherford" (Bixby, Oklahoma) - See all my reviews

This review is from: The Shakespeare Conspiracy: A Novel About the Greatest Literary Deception of All Time (Paperback)

Ted Bacino's Shakespeare Conspiracy is a detective mystery that examines the bizarre death of England's renowned playwright, Christopher Marlowe, and William Shakespeare's sudden rise to fame. Using historically accurate facts, Bacino builds a narrative that describes the world of "gay 16th century Elizabethan England." Moreover, England had been overcome with the Black Plague, sending the country into chaos. The book is loaded with comedy, murder, and romance, all the while gravitating toward the resolution of the mystery.

Shakespeare Conspiracy clearly portrays William Shakespeare in a negative light, claiming that he was more known for his work in the stable than his acting or writing abilities. In other words, William Shakespeare was a nobody until the suspicious death/murder of Christopher Marlowe days before his trial. Furthermore, the evidence within the book and in supplemental section hints that Christopher Marlowe could in fact have penned the famous Shakespearean works we read today. Bacino makes a number of bold claims, and like any good historian and researcher, backs them up with impeccable support. For instance, the last fifty pages of the book is essentially a fact verification section, referencing the exact document.

Shakespeare Conspiracy outlines numerous homosexual relationships of the time; however, instead of berating those involved, the people of the time chose to downplay the behavior, calling it having "an affinity for each other."

Throughout the book, a lively and humorous dialogue takes place between Inspector Maunder and Sir Thomas Walsingham, who tries to protect Christopher Marlow's whereabouts and his impending prison stint. In addition, there is a witty exchange between Sir Francis and Sir Henry regarding the credibility of Shakespeare's work. Sir Francis states, "There seems to be a multitude of questions concerning the obvious discrepancy between Mr. Shakespeare's background and Mr. Shakespeare's writings." In addition to Shakespeare's life being full of vulgarity, illegitimate children, and mistresses, he has hardly any education. It seems that there is minimal correlation between Shakespeare's accomplishments and his academic career. Francis is undoubtedly onto something, and continues asking Sir Henry probing questions such as, "where does he get the material for all his plays," and "His knowledge of court manners? And his familiarity with so much of Italy? He's never been to court and never been out of the country."

In modern times, Shakespeare's popularity and impact on future literature is so great that even the casual reader will take time and dig into this entertaining mystery. What exactly went on behind the peculiar death of Christopher Marlowe? What would be the implications to modern day literature if it were proved that everything Shakespearean is actually the work of Christopher Marlowe? Why, it would turn the world of literature upside-down! Read this fascinating book--and decide for yourself.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:

5.0 out of 5 stars The Shakespeare Conspiracy by Ted Bacino, February 9, 2011

By: Elisa (Italy) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)

This review is from: The Shakespeare Conspiracy: A Novel About the Greatest Literary Deception of All Time (Paperback)

There are different reasons why I liked this historical fiction by Ted Bacino, but probably the main one is that it was easy to read while at the same time well researched. Plus it was so well based on actual facts, and not only theory, that indeed I wondered myself if it was not true.

Another reason why I liked it was that, in a way, it was not sad, even if it was historically accurate; sincerely, when I read the blurb, and in any case knowing the history, I thought it was not possible for this story to be "light" or happy, at least not for all the people involved: Christopher "Kit" Marlowe was a wonderful poet and writer who died to young and in a stupid way; William Shakespeare was probably the most famous playwriter of his time, but sincerely, on a personal level, he was not as interesting as Kit was. So what really could have attracted me in a story about how William became famous, maybe "stealing" Kit's work, the work of a dead man?... I will not say! You have to trust me, and my word, and read by yourself, but I'm sure even the most romantic reader will be not disappointed.

Another point that I want to highlight is that, even if the book was for sure well researched, it's not pedantic; while the story evolves, the writing style is easy and flowing, and there is no pedantic highlighting of how good the author was in mixing reality and fiction. The at the end of the book, and only at the end, he retraces all the historical details he used in the story to let you know what was fact and what was fiction; in this way, if you want you can read them, if not, you are not bothered during the reading.

The story moves from England to Italy, and in Italy, from Venice, to Padua, to Verona and then Milan and Sicily. Not only is the English setting well planned/plotted, but also the foreign one, and I can tell I live in Padua and I studied in Venice! If I really want to search for the needle in the haystack, there is no Via Avagoria in Padua, and there never was, and it's quite impossible that someone "ran out into the street and began shouting "Carabinieri...Polizia...Carabinieri..."", since the Carabinieri military corpse was founded by Vittorio Emanuele I on July 13, 1814. But sincerely, that is really a minimal thing in an otherwise perfectly detailed historical fiction, and something that probably only an Italian reader will notice.

So yes, I strongly recommend this book to all the historical fiction lovers, plus also to that romantic reader who wants to try something different.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:

5.0 out of 5 stars Captivatingly-original 16th Century "whodunit" worth reading!, January 18, 2011

By: Bob Lind "camelwest" (Phoenix, AZ United States) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)

This review is from: The Shakespeare Conspiracy: A Novel About the Greatest Literary Deception of All Time (Paperback)

In sixteenth century England, budding poet/playwright Christopher Marlowe got on the bad side of existing royalty, through his writings attacking religion and the ruling classes. Before he could be apprehended and sent to prison, he reportedly suffered fatal injuries in a knife fight, and was buried in an unmarked grave.

About the same time, the (then unknown) sometimes actor named William Shakespeare started releasing a long series of surprisingly polished plays and other literary works, which gave him instant fame and fortune. Those who knew him were amazed that the simple womanizer, who didn't seem very literate, could possibly have created such beautiful works, and Shakespeare himself seemed to barely understand what he had written. It wasn't long before it also became evident that the writing style - and sometimes the exact verbiage - seemed very much like that of the deceased Mr. Marlowe.

Author Bacino takes the known facts concerning Marlowe and Shakespeare, and adds his own conjecture as to how all that came to be. He creates a riveting historical mystery novel of conspiracies, deceptions spies and murder, built around a longtime gay relationship between Marlowe and his well-connected benefactor, Sir Thomas Walsingham, as well as other colorful characters of the period. Though essentially a sad story, there is significant wit in the telling of it, as the duo worked together to overcome daunting obstacles to their love. The book also includes fifty pages of notes as to the origin of the incidents told, and separating the fact from fiction. Well written and worth a look. Five stars out of five.

- Bob Lind, Echo Magazine

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5.0 out of 5 stars Wry, page-turning delight, November 14, 2010

By: Midwest Book Review (Oregon, WI USA) - See all my reviews

This review is from: The Shakespeare Conspiracy - A Novel: The Story of the Greatest Literary Deception of All Time - Based Entirely on Historical Facts (Hardcover)

The Shakespeare Conspiracy is an engaging novel grounded in the historical speculation that Shakespeare himself did not write his legendary plays. Instead, the postulate that playwright and known spy Christopher Marlowe was the true author forms the core hypothesis of this engaging narrative. Following the worlds of William Shakespeare, and his notorious sexual escapades resulting in illegitimate children, as well as Christopher Marlowe, who found it acceptable to be homosexual as long as he kept the affiliation within his own class, The Shakespeare Conspiracy is offers wry, page-turning delight and uncountable rationales why only Christopher Marlowe could have been the true playwright behind the classics.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:

5.0 out of 5 stars The Shakespeare Conspiracy, September 1, 2010

By: Tracy Roberts "Write Field Services" (Nova Scotia, Canada) - See all my reviews

This review is from: The Shakespeare Conspiracy: A Novel About the Greatest Literary Deception of All Time (Paperback)

In his novel, `The Shakespeare Conspiracy' author Ted Bacino tells a historical fiction story based on the age old literary historian debate about William Shakespeare not being the actual writer of the famous Shakespearean plays.

Bacino presents the case of the greatest literary deception in history in the form of a fictional story blended with actual historical data. The story opens in London England in the year 1593. Christopher Marlowe is a 29 year old gay poet and playwright with a vibrant and mischievous spirit. He is known throughout England, including high society, as one of the hottest new writers. During this time period, the plaque is ravaging the country and the Church of England is a major influence in government and social policy. Citizens accused of spying or promoting atheism were arrested, tortured, imprisoned, and often executed. Christopher Marlowe's former lover, Captain Kyd, is caught with writings that say that "Christ was justly persecuted by the Jews because of his foolishness and that Moses was just a magician." He is imprisoned and tortured in an effort to give up the name of the person who wrote such blasphemy. He does not give up Christopher Marlowe; however, an officer by the name of Constable Maunder becomes obsessed with proving Marlowe's guilt. Marlowe is accused of being a spy and charged with heresy. To escape his fate, Marlowe and his new lover Thomas Walsingham, concoct a plan to fake Marlowe's murder and arrange for a young thespian by the name of William Shakespeare to take credit for writing Marlowe's plays.

Marlowe flees England and travels to Italy where he travels to 7 cities in 7 years in an effort to avoid capture by Constable Maunder's agents. During his travels, he trades letters and provides plays to his faithful courier Poeley. Poeley takes the plays to Thomas who arranges to have them transcribed by William Shakespeare. Within the story, historical facts are integrated to unravel a mystery with one logical solution - William Shakespeare could not have been the writer of all of the plays. The plot is filled with adventure and intrigue. Bacino pays careful attention to accurate dialogue and the customs of the period. Readers will enjoy the vibrant, colorful, and comical cast of characters. Readers will get a glimpse of an era filled with political strife, religious domination, and the elite customs and practices of the upper class citizens, including the spirited gay society.

I enjoyed the conspiracy presented in literary form as it helps make the argument more compelling. Actual evidence is cited in the story that includes comparisons of sonnets, similarities between Marlowe's writings and Shakespeare's writings, and relevant historical letters. To support the argument, Bacino provides about 50 pages of supplemental historical notes and historical data. `The Shakespeare Conspiracy' is a fun and exciting read that is not only a well written story, but also well researched to maintain historical accuracy. I highly recommend `The Shakespeare Conspiracy' as an engaging and entertaining read with many twists and turns and surprising revelations.

Tracy Roberts, Write Field Services

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:

5.0 out of 5 stars Marlowe vs. Shakespeare, August 30, 2010

By: Melissa Brown Levine "Independent Book Reviewer" - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)

This review is from: The Shakespeare Conspiracy: A Novel About the Greatest Literary Deception of All Time (Paperback)

Author Ted Bacino weighs in on the argument that William Shakespeare was not in fact the author of the beloved plays and sonnets attributed to the actor from Stratford, with his historical novel, The Shakespeare Conspiracy. Bacino combines historical fact, poetic license, well timed humor and conspicuous sexuality to flesh out the story of how William Shakespeare became known as one of the world's greatest playwrights. Bacino crosses the stories of playwright and spy Christopher Marlowe and Shakespeare at a time when both men's lives are undergoing major transitions.

When atheist material is found in the home of Christopher Marlowe's former lover, Thomas Kyd, Marlowe is called to Court on charges of heresy. When Marlowe's benefactor and current lover, Sir Thomas Walsingham, seeks help from his cousin, the Secretary of State, and is asked to commit a horrendous act against his beloved, a plot is devised to save the poet and later, to allow the talented Christopher to continue to write and have his plays produced.

Bacino portrays Marlowe as a passionate, intelligent, mischievous and talented young man with a deep love for Sir Thomas, which is reciprocated in both action and word. Young Shakespeare is not presented in such a positive light. Bacino's Shakespeare is not much above a buffoon. His lack of education, culture, and sophistication are repeatedly highlighted with Shakespeare often being the subject of the humor that slivers throughout this tale.

This book has action, drama, colorful characters, sensuality, a love affair, and conflict that remains present throughout the story. Bacino skillfully integrates fiction and fact, educating the reader as he entertains. The author has included an appendix outlining the historical facts and the fictional inclusions by chapter. This is a testament to Bacino's professionalism and also makes it easier for interested readers to conduct their own research on Shakespeare and Marlowe.

The Shakespeare Conspiracy is much like the plays of the author in question: compelling, entertaining, and controversial. I highly recommend it.

Melissa Brown Levine

IP Book Reviewers

Copyright © 2010 Ted Bacino