Edinburgh Book Festival 2012 – The Marlowe Papers


John O'Connell at Edinburgh Book Festival 2012Edinburgh Book Festival 2012 highlights.


Sometimes, taking a risk on the less well known authors pays off.  In what promises to be one of the Edinburgh Book Festival 2012 highlights, Ros Barber (The Marlowe Papers) and John O’ Connell (The Baskerville Legacy) talk about recreating the inner lives of famous authors.

Ros Barber’s novel in verse gives voice to Christopher Marlowe, allowing him to tell his version of the events that led to his ‘death’. John O’Connell’s The Baskerville Legacy tells of the encounter between Arthur Conan Doyle and Bertram Fletcher Robinson, which led to a writing collaboration that would become The Hound of the Baskervilles. Join the authors to learn how it felt to occupy another author’s mind.

Chaired by Kirsty Lang, presenter of Front Row on BBC Radio 4

Venue: Writers’ Retreat

Price: £7.00/ £5.00

Details and Booking:  http://www.edbookfest.co.uk/the-festival/whats-on/ros-barber-john-o-connell

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Bodies In The Bookshop, Cambridge


Bodies in the Bookshop 2012
Saturday 14th July from 10am
The Cambridge Union Society, 9A Bridge Street Cambridge CB2 1UB (link to: http://www.cus.org/about/where-find-us)

Ros is on at 1.30, see below:

Join us in the Cambridge Union for our biggest crime fiction event of the year!  This year Bodies in the Bookshop is relocating to the Cambridge Union (link to: http://www.cus.org/) where we have a fantastic line-up of crime authors who will be taking part in a series of themed talks and panel discussions.

The Union Bar and Cafe will also be open all day for food, drink and socialising.

10am  Crime Through Time I 
Jane Finnis, Ruth Downie and Patrick Easter take us on a journey through time and space as they talk on historical crime fiction from Ancient Rome to Nineteenth Century England.

11am  Experts in Murder 
Nicola Upson, Catriona McPherson and Laura Wilson give us a glimpse of a pre-war world of murder and mystery which their canny heroes and sharp heroines set about solving, while Sally Spedding adds a more sinister edge to the historical theme.

12 noon  Poison in the Parish 
Settle in with Ann Purser, Veronica Heley, Rebecca Tope and Jayne Marie Barker who will be discussing mysteries with a distinctly English and traditional character.

1pm  Break for Lunch 
Lunch will be available at the Union Cafe
1.30pm Crime Through Time II 
Follow Ros Barber and Rory Clements to the criminal depths of Tudor England while Chris Nickson and Robin Blake transport us the 18th century and Peter Moore sheds light on the true crimes which took place in a rural Georgian village.

2.30pm Scene of the Crime 
Jim Kelly, Alison Bruce and Elly Griffiths discuss their novels set in Cambridge and the surrounding area, bringing crime a little too close for comfort.

3.30pm  International Intrigue 
Roger Morris, Edward Wilson and Adrian Magson take us from prerevolutionary Russia to 1960s France via the Cold War.  Detectives, spies and mysteries abound.

4.30pm Comic Cuts 
Len Tyler and Suzette Hill in discussion on the funny side of crime.
5.30pm Death in a Cold Climate 
Leading crime fiction expert Barry Forshaw and Quentin Bates, author of a crime fiction series set in Iceland, explore the growing popularity of Nordic Noir and Scandinavian settings.  Listen out for ideas on what to read after Stieg Larsson

Tickets: Adults £10, Concessions £7

Call  01223 463200 or come to Heffers to buy your ticket.
For more information email events.tst@heffers.co.uk or visit the Bodies in the Bookshop facebook page or our blog at bodiesinthebookshop.wordpress.com

Book as Fetish Object


 Over the weekend, the cover proof for The Marlowe Papers arrived. I swear it’s the most beautiful object I’ve ever held in my hands. The photograph doesn’t do it justice – the apple, and Fay Weldon’s quote, is in brown foil, the grub and stalk in gold. The spine is beige rather than yellow. The simplicity of the design, the ‘drawn’ lettering on the spine, the hand-crafted feel, the delicious surprise (which I have resisted revealing) on the back cover … I love everything about it. It is wonderful to think that such a beautiful looking object is going to be the container for my words. I feel valued. Which is something I know many authors, and especially many poets, do not particularly feel these days.  And for such a delicious, opulent literary object to be created in an age where people discuss the imminent Death of The Book… it feels truly special.

Perhaps it’s an antidote. I like my Kindle and have nothing at all against e-books (unlike an author friend of mine who says the ‘e’ in ‘e-book’ stands for ‘evil’). Nevertheless I love books as objects, almost to the point of fetishism. I know I would want to own this one, even if it wasn’t mine.

How thrilling, after such a long time researching and writing something I wasn’t always convinced would see the light of day, let alone snare the interest of a major publisher, that the words are so appreciated that my publisher has created something truly exceptional to hold them.  So thank you, Carole, Alice and the design team at Sceptre, thank you Jon Contino, for creating this thing of extraordinary beauty.  It almost made me cry.

Success Story


Here we are at the end of another year.  But not any old year.  For me, 2011 was exceptional. In March, I landed the major book deal I had dreamt about since I was 9 year years old.  In May, I was awarded the doctorate I had worked solidly towards for four years and wanted since my early twenties.    Three weeks ago I was announced joint winner of the Calvin and Rose G Hoffmann Prize for a distinguished work on Christopher Marlowe.  And to round the year off nicely, I received the bound proof of The Marlowe Papers just before Christmas.    Full of typesetter’s errors it may be, but it is still utterly beautiful. 2012 looks very promising indeed.

Anyone who has known me (or of me) for a while will appreciate that something very different is happening.  Up to this point I was the author of three collections of poetry, selling only a few hundred copies each;  a University of  Sussex tutor in creative writing for 12 years for the now (sadly defunct) CCE and, despite some prizes and readings now and again, very much a minor figure on the British literary scene.   But in 2012  my verse novel  is being launched by Sceptre (the literary arm of Hodder and Stoughton) in the UK and St Martin’s Press (part of Macmillan) in the US.   On the back of Sceptre’s proof copy it says, ‘Discover the literary debut of the year’.   So what happened?

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The Marlowe Papers Sneak Peek @ Forest Row Festival


Saturday 1st October
Forest Row Festival
Venue: Garden Room, Community Centre
Time: 6-7pm
Cost: £3/£2.50

At this event, Ros will be giving a sneak preview of ‘The Marlowe Papers’, a fictional autobiography of the 16th century playwright Christopher Marlowe, due to be published by Sceptre in 2012. As the Forest Row Festival states, “This promises to be a particularly special literary highlight and not to be missed.”

Go to the Forest Row Festival website for details of how to get to the venue.

Out with the New, In with the Old


A couple of weeks ago I returned from London with The Marlowe Papers typescript as originally submitted to Sceptre, fresh with the pencil marks of my editor, Carole Welch, and ever since then, I’ve been working on my edits.  Carole likes to do things the traditional way, so I’ve been working in pencil also, which is somewhat unusual for me.  (I’ve been tracking changes in a new Word document nevertheless.)

As I originally conceived it, The Marlowe Papers was supposed to have been a stash of papers written by Marlowe in Elizabethan cipher which I ‘translated’ into contemporary English.  I didn’t want the language to be mock-Tudor, but nor did I want it to be anachronistic.  Nothing, I hoped, would leap out as being too modern.   Of course, I couldn’t stay in the poetic flow while looking up every word, and the work of telling the story effectively in blank verse was work enough, so very often I’d plain forget to consult the OED (online access to which was one of the happiest benefits of my being a student at the time).  But after my own editing passes and those of five writer friends willing to offer opinions in return for an early glimpse of the book I’d been banging on about for four years, I didn’t think there’d be many linguistic wristwatch-equivalents left.

How wrong I was!

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No Money In Poetry?


If I went a little quiet for a while there, forgive me.  My agent was submitting The Marlowe Papers and I didn’t feel it was anything I should be chatting about.   As you may or may not know, we emerged with a very handsome deal from Sceptre.  I’ll be in exalted company.  Sceptre publish lots of very fine writers you’ll have heard of.

The Marlowe Papers is a little different from the other novels on their list, however, because it’s a novel in verse. Not free verse either, but blank verse: 72,000 words (at the moment, anyway) of iambic pentameter i.e.

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.

As if this wasn’t crazy-fool enough (as ideas go) I was also pretending to be the acknowledged greatest writer of all time.  The idea behind The Marlowe Papers is that Christopher Marlowe didn’t die at Deptford in 1593, but rather faked his death and wrote the works of Shakespeare (yes, that old chestnut)… and that The Marlowe Papers is his verse memoir. The ultimate Marlowe fiction in prose had already been written (A Dead Man In Deptford by Anthony Burgess) so I thought I’d better take different tack.  Several times in the writing of it I wondered what on earth I was doing (and why I had committed to do such an insanely difficult thing) but the truth is, I like a challenge.

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