Books

Canongate U.S.
Canongate U.S.
Canongate U.S.

Tamburlaine Must Die

by Louise Welsh

“Welsh’s novel is as quick and dark as a child’s nightmare. . . . Fictionalizes Marlowe’s last days with novelistic wit and interpretive imagination. . . . Every line of Tamburlaine Must Die is informed by a thorough grasp of not only the day-to-day of Marlowe’s life but also a sympathetic willingness to imagine the in-between. . . . Welsh gives Marlowe a voice, and it sounds like Marlowe. . . . Welsh’s Marlowe lives and dies by storytelling: Her novelist’s impulse to trade fact for fiction and the known for the felt is a perfect fit with the aggrandizing, enigmatic and story-haunted playwright.” –Daniel Swift, The Nation

  • Imprint Canongate U.S.
  • Page Count 160
  • Publication Date February 15, 2005
  • ISBN-13 978-1-8419-5625-1
  • Dimensions 5.13" x 7"
  • US List Price $18.95
  • Imprint Canongate U.S.
  • Publication Date December 01, 2007
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-9769-6
  • US List Price $12.00

About The Book

A thrilling Elizabethan murder mystery starring Christopher Marlowe, a man with seventy-two hours to live, by the author of the sleeper hit The Cutting Room

Louise Welsh’s riveting, provocative debut novel of psychological suspense, The Cutting Room, was a tremendous international success, translated into sixteen languages, and The Guardian selected it as one of the five best debut novels of 2002. The New York Times Book Review called it, simply, a “knockout debut.” Her much anticipated follow-up is now upon us.

It’s 1593 and London is a city on edge. Under threat from plague and war, it’s a desperate place where strangers are unwelcome and severed heads grin from spikes on Tower Bridge.

Playwright, poet, spy, and man of prodigious appetites, Christopher Marlowe is working on his latest literary effort and enjoying the English countryside at his patron’s estate when his idyll is cut short. A messenger from the queen and the nefarious Privy Council summons his immediate return to London. And in the following three days Marlowe confronts dangerous government factions, double agents, necromancy, betrayal, and revenge in his search for the murderous Tamburlaine, a killer who has escaped from between the pages of Marlowe’s most violent play. Tamburlaine is scandalizing London, mocking its leaders and institutions, and fomenting unrest. Marlowe, desperate and perplexed by who could be using his own character as a mouthpiece to destroy him, must confront his creation, or die.

Tamburlaine Must Die is the gripping, seventy-two hour adventure story of a man who dared to defy both God and his queen–and discovers that there are worse fates than damnation.

Tags Historical

Praise

‘slim, taut . . . Welsh doesn’t waste a word . . . A hard, sharp little rapier of a thriller/mystery that packs a punishing schedule of sex, violence, wheeling and double-dealing into its brief length. The tension is unabated throughout.” –Publishers Weekly

“Welsh’s vivid portrait of the beautiful, passionate, ever-witty Marlowe is the centerpiece. . . . A phantasmagoric Elizabethan thriller.” –Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times

“Welsh’s novel is as quick and dark as a child’s nightmare. . . . Fictionalizes Marlowe’s last days with novelistic wit and interpretive imagination. . . . Every line of Tamburlaine Must Die is informed by a thorough grasp of not only the day-to-day of Marlowe’s life but also a sympathetic willingness to imagine the in-between. . . . Welsh gives Marlowe a voice, and it sounds like Marlowe. . . . Welsh’s Marlowe lives and dies by storytelling: Her novelist’s impulse to trade fact for fiction and the known for the felt is a perfect fit with the aggrandizing, enigmatic and story-haunted playwright.” –Daniel Swift, The Nation

“This is an excellent mystery . . .

by the author of the justly praised The Cutting Room. It’s also a lovely example of the bookmaker’s art: from James Hucheson’s jacket design (featuring Jeff Cottenden’s arresting photograph) to the book’s pleasingly compact feel. It’s the kind of book to show–and give–to people who miss the old Algonquin volumes.” –Dick Adler, Chicago Tribune

“[An] exciting adventure . . . In Welsh’s hands [Marlowe] emerges as a likable rogue who only wishes his past would leave him alone. . . . The story itself is tense and satisfying, and the setting rooted in a sense of historical authenticity (but never relying too much on place). . . . The end result is a very quick but very enjoyable romp.” –Michael G. Cornelius, Bloomsbury Review

“The Bard would have loved this period romp.” –Martin Zimmerman, San Diego Union-Tribune

“Those who like a good mystery (and a little history) will enjoy the language–which is spare, direct and hard-hitting–as well as the historical cameos (like the mysterious occultist John Dee). If Raymond Chandler had written an Elizabethan thriller, it might have looked like this. . . . She manages to . . . evoke the period, the players, and the action of Marlowe’s life. Therein lies the power of good historical fiction.” –Richard Ring, Providence Journal

“Welsh is back with a svelte, sometimes confusing novel based on one of history’s most-debated unsolved crimes. . . . It’s tightly written, well plotted and, best of all, fun.” –Ron Bernas, Detroit Free Press

“The novel does have something, which might mainly be attributed to Welsh’s ability in sustaining the tension between Marlowe’s desperation to escape the noose, and an acute intelligence hobbled by his unstoppable recklessness. One reads on to the end.” –Reamy Jansen, Speakeasy

“Louise Welsh brings Christopher Marlowe and 1593 London to gritty, smelly and startling life. In this paranoid time, a murderer has taken the name of one of Marlowe’s most famous creations, and to save his own neck from the Queen and her agents Marlowe must track him down in only a few days. This thriller kept me up late–I had to read it in one evening. Great stuff.” –Anna Cloninger, The Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA, Book Sense quote

“In 1593 London, a murderer has taken the name of one of Christopher Marlowe’s most famous creations, and to save his own neck Marlowe must track him down in only a few days. Great stuff!” –Anna Cloninger, The Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA, Book Sense quote





Awards

A Book Sense Selection

Excerpt

LONDON
29TH MAY 1593

I have four candles and one evening in which to write this account. Tomorrow I will lodge these papers with my last true friend. If I survive the day, they will light our pipes. But should I not return, he has instructions to secrete this chronicle where it will lie undiscovered for a long span, in the hope that when these pages are found, the age will be different and my words may be judged by honest eyes.
Reader, I cannot imagine what future you inhabit. Perhaps the world is a changed place, where men are honest and war, want and jealousies all vanquished. If so, you will wonder at the actions of the players in this poor play of passion. But if you are men like us you may understand, and if you are men like us you will learn nothing, though I gift you the only lesson worth learning, that there is no better prize than life.

Whatever the future be, if you are reading this, you read the words of a man who knew how to live and who died an unnatural and unjust death. And what follows is the true record of the circumstances leading to my assassination.
My name is Christopher Marlowe, also known as Marle, Morley, Marly, known as Kit, known as Xtopher, son of a Canterbury cobbler. They say shoemakers’ sons go barefoot. It wasn’t so bad for us, but my father had a fondness for style that stretched beyond his means and damaged family fortunes. I inherited his tastes, but desired none of his debt, so I have always been in need of money and have risked much where other men might have scrupled.
I was a clever child. My keenness was brought to the attention of a local Knight who sponsored my early education. Years later he would judge me on a murder charge, never meeting my eye though I knew he recognised me well.
When I was seventeen I persuaded an old Archbishop that my one desire was to enter the Church. He granted me a scholarship to Cambridge University where I was recruited into a strange shadow world, where I was assured I could help my country while helping myself. So it proved and when it seemed my degree might not be granted, due to various absences and rumours which placed me where I shouldn’t be, the Queen’s own Privy Council gave guarantees I had been on Her business and must not suffer for doing Her good service.
Eventually I moved to London as I always knew I would, and set the world of theatre afire. Men left Massacre of Paris with their sword-hands twitching. And when my Faustus was performed, some said Lucifer himself attended, curious to see how he was rendered. Yes, it is no vanity to say my plays were a triumph, and Christopher Marlowe so famous they had heard of me in Hell. And so I made shift betwixt two night-time realms and thought my life charmed.
I am of an adventurous nature. I have often invited danger and have even goaded men to violence for the sake of excitement. I like best what lies beyond my reach, and admit to using friendship, State and Church to my own ends. I acknowledge breaking God’s laws and man’s with few regrets. But if I die tomorrow, I will go to my grave a wronged man. Were this fate of my own doing, I would greet it not gladly, but with a nod to virtue’s victory. As it is, if I meet death tomorrow I promise to face him cursing man and God. * My story begins on the 19th of May, 1593. All of that month I had been installed at Scadbury, the country house of my patron, Thomas Walsingham. For reasons I will soon explain, it was after noon before I woke, but when I drew back my shutters the day seemed new minted. It was as if I had lighted in another land. A world riven with sunlight. I stood by the window enjoying the lack of London’s stink as much as the freshness of the countryside, then repaired to my desk where I worked like the finest of scholars, until the sun edged half the sky and a shadow crept across my words. I let the ink of my last poetry sink into the page and when all danger of smudging was past, locked the manuscript safe in my trunk, slipping one of my own hairs into the clasp, an old precaution, done more from habit than necessity.
It had become my custom to walk in the forest in the early evening. As I write, I search my remembrance, wondering if the weeks cloistered in the country, avoiding the Plague which once more threatened the City, had made me restless. I was used after all to the bustle of theatrical life, London’s stews, the half-world of ambidextors and agents. But it seems when I look back on this walk at the end of a perfect day, that it was the most untroubled hour of my life. I didn’t know that every step I took was echoed by the beat of a messenger’s horse speeding along the London road towards Scadbury. My fate galloping to meet me.
I had much to muse on that late afternoon. The events of the previous night should have been prime in my mind. But I thought of nothing as I walked through the forest. That is, I thought of nothing in particular. Pleasant images threaded through my daydreams: the verses I was engaged on; what might be served for supper; the thighs of a woman I had lain with last winter; the dedication I would compose for Walsingham; how perfect clusters of purple violets looked snug against the forest floor; whether a doublet of the same shade might suit me well. All mingled with contentment at the good fortune of my state. The assurance of my patron’s affection, the vigour of my blood, the good reception I felt sure would greet my poetry when I returned at last to London. I see now there was a complacence in my satisfaction and, were I prone to superstition, might suspect I invoked misfortune by displeasing God with my conceit. But such thoughts are nonsense. When making mischief, man needs no help from God or the Devil.
The sun slipped lower beyond the canopy of leaves. The forest’s green light deepened, tree shadows lengthened, intersecting my path like criss-crossing staves. I registered dusk’s approach and walked through bars of light and dark wondering if I might employ them as a metaphor.

Nature hath no distinction twixt sun and shadow, good and evil.

I saw no one, but the forest was secretly as busy as any London street. Night and daytime creatures crossed, invisible in the gloaming. Birds whistled territorial tunes and small beasts, newly awakened for the night kill, rustled beneath fallen leaves, fleeing my approach. Crickets scratched out their wash-board song and the wind whipped the treetops into a roar. But any crowd has its silent watchers and once I glimpsed the feminine form of a deer, trembling at the edge of my vision.
“That’s right,” I said out loud, “never let your guard down.” Then laughed, because I had let my own guard down, walking unaccompanied through these woods on the verge of night. I remember I paused to light my pipe, trusting the smoke to repel the swarms of midges that hovered around my head, then strode on confident I could reach the house before dark.
So passed my last untroubled moments. I didn’t see the man ride uninvited into the courtyard, hear the familiar clatter of hooves against cobbles, nor witness the manic roll in the eye or the sweat on the flank of the horse driven too fast. But I returned in time to register the customary pomposity of the Queen’s Messenger, who greeted me with sarcastic civility and an order from the Privy Council for Christopher Marlowe, playwright, to return to London immediately.