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June Book Club Choice

The Queen's Head by Edward Marston

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Steeped in the bawdy, boisterous and colourful world of Elizabethan theatre, this is the first book in the hugely acclaimed Nicholas Bracewell series. Set against the background of the Spanish Armada, a time of terror and triumph, the turmoil is reflected in its theatres and under the galleries of inns like London’s “The Queen’s Head” where Lord Westfield’s Men perform. When one of the actors is murdered by a mysterious stranger during a brawl, Nicholas Bracewell (the company’s bookholder) is faced with two seemingly impossible tasks: to find a replacement in time for a performance at the court, and to catch the killer. And soon, as robberies, accidents, and more misfortunes strike the posse of performers Bracewell begins to suspect a conspiracy...

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Suggested Discussion Points:

Author Q&A

Q. What inspired you in particular about Elizabethan theatre that made you want to set a series around it?
Gary Taylor, London

A. I worked in the professional theatre for many years. One of my jobs was to adapt Elizabethan and Jacobean plays for performance in different venues. It struck me that the adventures of an Elizabethan theatre company would be a good basis for a series.

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Q. What is it like to blend historical truths (i.e. about the Spanish Armada) with a fictional narrative – do you enjoy researching the history of this period and weaving it into the plot, or does it make the process of writing more difficult?
S. Carroll, Cardiff

A. Historical fiction needs a factual base to make it credible. Research is always interesting because it turns up ideas that you can adapt into a fictional form. I read History at Oxford and taught it for a while before becoming a writer. Research is therefore second nature to me.

Q. Which character in The Queen’s Head, was your favourite one to create and write about?
Sandra Wyatt

A. Nicholas Bracewell is the main character and my favourite but it was important to give him a back-story before I started to write. I sent him on the circumnavigation of the world with Drake because it would have enabled him to acquire skills that he could later use in his various adventures.

Q. I see you have written many short stories as well as novels – is it easy to switch between the two and it the writing process hugely different?
Nicholas Gould, London

A. You have to work at developing different skills as a writer. Some ideas work better in short story form than as novels and vice versa. Having done it for so many years, I find it easy to switch between the two modes.

Q. This book, and others in the series, moves with such a fast pace; how do you achieve this suspense when you write?
L. Parish, Gloucestershire

A. This comes from experience. The more you write, the more adept you become at maintaining suspense.

Q. As a very prolific writer of historical fiction, do you also veer towards historical fiction when reading for pleasure or what are your favourite reads?
Peter Talbot, London

A. No, I prefer to read contemporary fiction. My favourite British author is Reginald Hill but I'm also very fond of American authors like Elmore Leonard. As for history, I love reading biographies of famous people. You always learn new details that flesh out your knowledge of a particular period.


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