The Lodger Shakespeare

At first glance, this book's premise hardly seems book-worthy. In 1612, Stephen Belott, feeling cheated out of his dowry, brought a suit against his father-in-law, Christopher Mountjoy. One of the witnesses called to testify was Mountjoy's former lodger, William Shakespeare. Whatever his sense of the potential theatricality of foiled marriages and in-law relations, the Bard isn't very revelatory and fails to wax poetic on the witness stand. He claims not to remember much about what happened. The event -- our only record of Shakespeare's spoken words ever being recorded -- was unearthed by an intrepid researcher in 1909. It's remained largely unremarked for a century. Nevertheless, it offers a window, however narrow, into Shakespeare's daily life and dealings. Charles Nichol, to his credit, illuminates that window. He's studiously exhumed what faint traces of early Jacobean times remain in the parish where Shakespeare briefly resided, fleshed out the context of the case, and elaborated the place in London society of Shakespeare's French landlords. What arrives through this meticulous upending is not so much a portrait, but a series of faint glimpses of the playwright at one moment of his otherwise mysterious life, as well as of the odd backdrop against which he chose for a time to prop it. At times, the very ordinariness of the life revealed is the book's exhilaration, while at others the pleasure is glimpsing a world whose mores and artifacts are almost wholly lost to us. Nichols manages to make both types of revelation suspenseful. -

April 23: " 'A job,' the woman repeated again, smiling, as if I hadn't heard her. 'Would you like one?' "

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysely Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

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Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.

The Promise of Hope

Killed last year in the infamous terror attack at Nairobi's Westgate mall, Kofi Awoonor was a national treasure in his native Ghana.  His career began in 1964 with Rediscovery, and this magnum opus serves as a tribute to his entire long journey charting his beloved nation's course through his accomplished poetry.

Winter Mythologies and Abbots

A pair of linked stories finds that, as translator Ann Jefferson relates, "[Pierre] Michon's great theme is the precarious balance between belief and imposture, and the way the greatest aspirations can be complicated by physical desire or the equally urgent desire for what he calls glory."