Shakespeare’s Rebel (2013) by talented Canadian author C.C. Humphreys is a terribly gripping historical thriller set in London 1599, a city on the brink of revolution. John Hawley, the protagonist of the story, is the best swordsman in England. He is also a player, or actor, an alcoholic with a great affinity for Ireland’s “finest aqua vitae” and is still deeply in love with Tess, the estranged woman he loves and the mother of their son.There is more to John Hawley, a veteran of several major battle campaigns, than the reader might appear in the opening chapter. He is desperate to win back Tess, be the kind of father his son can respect and choreograph the fight scenes for the splendid new theatre, the Globe. John also wants to remain free to help his oldest friend Will Shakespeare complete the play that threatens to destroy him: The Tragedy of Hamlet.
The only problem is the Earl of Essex, Queen Elizabeth’s last, and perhaps, greatest love. The earl, a champion jouster and dashing general, is a man John ardently wishes to avoid. He knows the other side of the earl, an impetuous melancholic, and he has had to risk his life for him in battle several times before. All John wants is to remain free to realize his dreams But he soon finds himself enmeshed in the intrigues of court and forced to play a deadly game of power, politics, conspiracy and rebellion.
Review by Peter Critchley of the Vernon Branch