In 1624 London, a brave printer is executed, a portly poet is kidnapped, a Stratford-upon-Avon grave is emptied, King James is put into a panic, many swashes are buckled, and things are never as they seem, all because brave Nicholas and clever Valentina are about to discover and reveal the true identity of "William Shake-speare." This is a timely tale that touches on the powerful love of fathers, the perils of the plague, the joys of turnips, and the mysterious life and tragic death of the Bard of Avon. It is a (mostly) true story filled with suspense and humor.
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Ron Destro is a Kennedy Center award-winning writer, actor, director and teacher. His novel, The Starre, the Moone, the Sunne, was shortlisted in the Flash 500 Novel Opening Competition. It is an Elizabethan murder mystery whose solving reveals the true identity of William Shakespeare. He is also the editor of The Shakespeare Masterclasses, an invaluable compilation of rare classes and interviews with the world’s most renowned classical actors on the art of acting Shakespeare.
Destro founded and runs the Oxford Shakespeare Company based in New York and London, which presents professional masterclasses and trains actors to perform Shakespeare plays in their historic settings, such as Birnam Wood, Elsinore, Venice, Flint Castle, Azincourt and Bosworth Field. He received the Kennedy Center New American Play Award for his play Hiroshima, for which Yoko Ono wrote the original score. His other plays have been produced in the US, UK and China.
Destro earned degrees from the University of Southern California, Brooklyn College, and trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art Marymount Program. His mentors include John Houseman, Cicely Berry, F Murray Abraham, Lucille Ball and John Barton. He has taught acting, directing and playwriting at many universities, and has lectured on the Shakespeare authorship question at various venues, such as Harvard University, Chautauqua Institution and the Edinburgh Skeptics Society.
A proud father, Ron brags that he taught Christopher Reeve to smoke, was told by Groucho Marx to give somebody the finger, and nearly ran Michael York off a mountaintop in a toboggan.
King James was having a good laugh. He was a thick little Scotsman with a thick little tongue, which made his laugh all the funnier. Every man 'round him laughed. There was his lord treasurer, Robert Cecil. That strange little hump-back with the blackish eyes. 'Tis no wonder the sovereign called him his beagle. Bunch'd-back toad was what most named him, behind his bunch'd-back, of course. Cecil was a man devious both in nurture and in nature, with a sidewise curve about him that made a fellow wary.
A long and winding thread weaves through this enlightening and engaging story of the true identity of the Bard of Avon. In 1624, the reader is introduced to the story opening with an execution, a kidnapping, and an unfolding story unlike any that has been told about William Shake-speare. King James is in a tizzy as a group of doubters about the identity of the writer of the plays and sonnets attributed to the man from Stratford-upon-Avon, is about to be revealed. And why is he in a tizzy? Because the revelation might jeopardize his right to the throne! Thus the reasons for the execution and the kidnapping, plus the onset of some of his spies to do his dirty work, some of the same fellow spies initiated during the caustic 'reign' of Walsingham and his spy circle, such as Skeres, Knyvet, and Poley.
Toby was the very spit and image of his brother Robin, who milord called Robin Goodfellow, due to the pranks he so loved to devise, like tippling over a sleeping Cornwall cow in the fields at midnight or filling his brother's boots with the cow's excrement just afore churchtime. Now, I say these boys were the very spit because they were born on the same day, in the same hour, and atop the same sack of straw, though Master Robin was a good ten minutes on this earth whilst he awaited young Toby's arrival. A gooseberry cleft in two was not more twin than these.
Nicholas and Valentina, two young people in this group, have a vested interest in discovering the man's true identity, and the reader travels along the path with them as they make astorunding discoveries, such as an empty grave in Trinity Church the day the monument for Will Shaksper of Stratford is changed to appear more 'writerly' to coincide with King James' wish to hide the truth.
Nicholas' own interest and secret is truly a golden nugget buried beneath layers upon layers of lies that comes to light in a way that will astound the reader.
In the book blurb, it recounts that this is a story of the powerful love of fathers for sons, and it is in truth, this very thing. The reader is captivated by the story of Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, and the love for his son, as well as his involvement in the writing of the plays and sonnets, and his relationship with Queen Elizabeth, his own ambitions and desires, and the 'gag order' placed upon him to never reveal any of these truths.
Each moment on that stage revealed its own secrets. The men strut and bellow, speaking as if imitating others, but each man knows he is, if truth be told, telling tales from deep within his own soul. For that is why a man becomes a player, I suppose. True, the writer spills many of his own secrets there, but players, too. Want to know the true heart of a player? Then watch him on the stage and not off of it. For that is where he may truly be hisself. Lord Edward thought on this as he stood at the back, seeing his men play kings and cardinals and grieving mothers, yet all the while speaking of their own hearts' achings.
The author, Ron Destro's ability to wield a pen and unfurl this story is truly masterful. Not only does the writing style, the development of the characters and the narrative, lend itself to a literary work of art, he also melds it with brilliant and witty words bespeaking the Bard himself. It is an understatement to compare his writing to the Bard, as the amount of research and passion Mr Destro has for this subject is clearly evident throughout the storyline. The Earl of Oxford would be proud to see his story told in such a way, and the author is to be very highly commended for this remarkable feat.
On top of the fact that Mr Destro wrote this elaborate and gifted novel, the reviewer also had the privilege of listening to the magical voice of Sir Derek Jacobi in the audio version of this book, also submitted to the HFC contest and reviews, and it is highly recommended that any reader might listen and read this story at the same time. It is perfection to the highest degree, a combination of 'words, words, words', and 'the voice of all the gods makes Heaven drowsy with the harmony.' Very, very highly recommended.
'Tis the unfortunate flaw of all writers, as there's something in each scribbler's stubborn soul that tells him, no matter the danger, his every syllable is worth a pound of gold. 'Tis a pity these writers know not a pound of gold from a pound of flesh.
“The Starre, the Moone, the Sunne” by Ron Destro (and narrated by Sir Derek Jacobi) receives five stars and the “Highly Recommended” award of excellence from The Historical Fiction Company
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