BLACK AND DEEP DESIRES: WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, VAMPIRE HUNTER by Graham Holderness, Top Hat Books, s/b, £10.99, www.tophat-books.com
Reviewed by Matthew Johns
I expected a comedy romp through the world of William Shakespeare with added vampires, but was pleasantly surprised to find a thoughtful, well-written historical novel that kept me engaged throughout.
In 1604, the Gunpowder Plotters are planning their revolution against the protestant rule of King James. Shakespeare joins the plotters through his friend Robin Catesby, but when they find themselves unable to tunnel further beneath the Houses of Parliament, Guido (Guy) Fawkes is despatched abroad to find experienced miners who can complete the tunnel.
Fawkes finds himself in Transylvania at the castle of a certain Count, and purchases a number of men guaranteed to work and ask no questions. These are loaded into coffins with a silver crossed affixed to their lids and shipped to England with strict instructions not to open the coffins in transit.
Back in England, the tunnelling progresses well even if Fawkes does begin wearing a mask and avoiding daylight. Somehow, Shakespeare’s part in the plot is discovered, and he is imprisoned in the Tower of London and forced to help seek the cause of a new plague that is spreading across London. Victims of the plague have their bodies drained of blood, and develop a nasty habit of rising from the dead…
Holderness’ writing is excellent – he manages to incorporate Shakespeare’s work into the book, as well as historical accounts of the Plotters, and to introduce vampires without it falling apart and feeling farcical.