Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Slip in Naming

"But the Playhouse in Edinburgh has paid a generous stipend for the whole company to perform the Scottish play."

"Nevertheless, I vowed never to return to the Highlands again for fear I shall catch my death," said Shakespeare.

"Of cold?" Ingres looked down at the map in his hands. "But Edinburgh isn't even in the highlands. It's not as if we're going to the God-forsaken wastes of--" he peered more closely at the map "__Inverness."

"It's nothing to do with the cold," said Shakespeare. "I once dallied with a crofter's daughter. There'll be half a dozen little Marlowes roaming about that might recognise me."

Friday, October 30, 2009

Round One

Round One, a nightclub for the perpetual under 25s (and the associated stupidity that goes along with it) was established on Low Street in 1994 on the premises of the Laverstone Guild of Boxers and Packers on the mistaken assumption that it was once an underground boxing ring. It never was, of course, since the building used to be a manufacturing plant producing cloth in the nineteenth century and bullets in the early twentieth. In 1952, when the British contracted their arms manufacturing to Germany, it was taken over by a spring manufacturer which it remained until 1987.

Undaunted by this easily researched history, Bumpkin's Brewery refurbished it with paraphernalia of the Gentleman's sport of professional brain damage and began pumping the liquid form of brain damage to teenage youths. It is a measure of the progressiveness, however, that they reintroduced the Roman custom of the vomitorium, and won an award in 2003 for the cleanest surroundings.

Such a Roman custom, however, has never actually been verified, the concept having stemmed from the word 'vomitorium' (plural: vomitoria) -- a passage below or behind a tier of seats in an amphitheatre, through which crowds can "spew out" at the end of a performance

Thursday, October 29, 2009


"Grave news, m'lord." The courier held out a scroll with the seal of the city of London. "I'm to wait for a reply."

"Really?" Marlowe -- he still thought of himself as Marlowe even after twenty years of being the celebrated William Shakespeare – took the proffered scroll. "What could possibly interest me in London?"

His face went white as he scanned the contents. "What is it?" asked Roachford. "Bad news?"

"The Globe burned to the ground." Marlow sank back into his seat. "That stupid fool, Grayson! I told him not to use a real cannon during Henry VIII."

"Any casualties?"

"Yes, man! The Globe!"

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Previous Engagement

"Doing anything for Samhain?" said Harold. "Your busiest time, isn't it?"

"Demons?" Jasfoup shook his head. "Nah. Lucifer's big night, perhaps, but we generally keep ourselves occupied. if you're lucky you can find a coven that hasn't met him before and doesn't know the difference. "

"Oh? All right for some, I suppose. Gillian wants me to stay in."

"Yes, I'm not surprised."

Harold frowned. "Oh? Is there something I should know about?"

"On Samhain? Hallowe'en?"


"Doesn't the date 'October 31st' ring any bells?"

Harold reached for a biscuit. "Should it?"

"Yes, Harold. It's your daughter Lucy's first birthday."

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Discarded Lives

He was, Jennifer decided, one of the creepiest men she'd ever come across. It was only a goodnight-have-a-nice-weekend, for God's sake and yet he was treating it as if it was the last chance to touch someone before the death penalty. It wasn't as if she even knew him all that well. Tim, was it?

She pushed him away gently, her tight-lipped smile showing him a boundary had been crossed. "I'll see you on Monday," she said, throwing her handbag over her shoulder and walking briskly out.

Tom watched the office door swing shut on silent, pneumatic closures and looked at his hands. The hug had been long enough to gather the requisite DNA sample. His fingers began to elongate, the skin growing pale as they took on the hue of Jennifer's skin. Moments later Tom was no more and a new Jennifer in a loose-fitting man's suit turned to a computer terminal.

Personnel records would tell her where the other Jennifer lived.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The End of A Perfect Circle

Harold cried as he watched The Rapture at the end of time, where the worlds 135 most pious men rose to Heaven, leaving the women behind. Moments later, Heaven crumbled, falling through the firmament to shatter on the earth below. Great cracks appeared in the crust, allowing the denizens of Hell to escape and lament the passing of all songs.

Only a few scant minutes later the universe tore and folded, the light flowing into the darkness and leaving nothing but the wailing of creation.

"Take me back to the start," he said, dabbing at his cheeks with a piece of white lace. "After all that destruction I need to see the beginnings of the world."

Asmodius frowned. "That's a little difficult," he said. "The beginning of the universe is a restricted area for those of a Judeo-Christian background. I could show you the edited highlights."

Harold tucked away his handkerchief, his interest piqued. "What are they?"

"The Six Days of Creation," said the angel. "Quite spectacular, in my opinion, with the possible exception of the division of light from dark which looks a bit like gravy separating."

"Excellent. What parts are missing then, if all six days are viewable?"

"The billions of years between each one." Asmodius shrugged. "You can't have it all ways. You should have gone to the Atheists club and asked for the Big Bang tour."

"Would I have got the full version then?"

"No, but you could have watched it all from a strip club."

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Marlowe swung his arms about and all but danced across the stage. Not that he could dance other the formal, stilted dances required by court rituals and I doubt he'd ever seen a ballet but the man seemed energised by his brush with death. he stood at the edge of the boards, limned in the limelight. "I am Christopher Marlowe," he declaimed.

"Actually, you're not." said his mysterious editor and assistant. "You're Eddie Shakespeare, remember?"

He made a face reminiscent of a small boy denied a sugared almond. "Aww! Must I? I thought we'd agreed I could be William instead?"

Friday, October 23, 2009

Marigold Border

Ada Waterman was proud of her little garden in the triangle between The Terrace and Marsh Lane. Along with the three fruit trees, raspberry canes and strawberries she had a little patch of annuals bordering the lawn. The market generally provided her with sufficient flowers and she was pleased as punch when her son Harold was old enough to express and interest in gardening. She sent him to the market for the plants.

"I want lobelia and alyssum," she said, "snap-dragons and marigolds. Something with a bit of colour."

He meant well, she could see that. She had to smile when she saw the results of his Saturday labours. Amongst the blues and whites of the newly-planted flowers were yellow rubber gloves, giving her garden the appearance of a plague of zombie housewives rising.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Road Safety

Inspector White looked at the latest mugging report with a frown. There had been a spate of them over the last few weeks in the vicinity of Low Street but the latest wasn't part of the pattern. He pressed his intercom. "Peters? Would you come in here, please?"

Sergeant Peters appeared a moment later, looking far too chirpy for seven thirty in the morning, his cheeks hamster-stuffed with the remains of a canteen bacon butty and a mug of builder's tea. "Morning, sir!"

White laid out several photographs of recent mugging victims. "Tell me about these, Peters."

"You already know the details, sir." He put down his mug and pointed to the first. "Eleanor Bradford, 52, mugged on Brick Kiln Lane. Contusions to the head and arms and lost £102.70." He moved to the second photograph. "Victor Wainwright, 71, mugged on George Street for £40. Contusions to the face and head and a broken left arm." The third photograph prompted: "Mary Ruthbridge, 67. Mugged in her back garden as she was pegging out the washing for the princely sum of £34 and change."

White nodded, remembering the details, the faces of the victims as they lay in the hospital ward. 'No, Inspector. I didn't see him. Not a glimpse.' He tapped the last photograph. "And this one?"

"That was last night, sir. Gary Dashfield, 31. Lateral blunt force trauma to both hands but the attacker was disturbed."

"Why do you say that?"

Peters shrugged. "There was nothing taken."

"I have a different theory." White collected the photographs up. "Investigate Dashfield for the muggings. I think we have a vigilante on our hands."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Architectural Feature

The dumbwaiter at Laverstone Manos had been disused since 1954 when Frederick inherited the manor. It wasn't so much that he couldn't afford the upkeep on the house – though that was certainly true – but that with just himself living there (Ada having gone off to live in a council flat over the Bakery in Low Street) there didn't seem much point. It was as easy to carry his cup of cocoa upstairs as it was to walk up and then haul it up the shaft. Either way it was cold by the time he got into bed.

He solved the dilemma by moving his bed into the kitchen wing and closing much of the rest of the house up. It was less fraught like that too. The older he got the more distressing he found the huge number of ghosts that shared the building with him.

The dumb waiter lay rusting and forgotten, wallpapered over until Harold, with an unusual burst of enthusiasm, remembered playing with it as a child and insisted upon opening it up again. "You can send me tea in bed," he said. "It will be a Feature>"

Jasfoup shook his head. "You've been watching House Renovation shows again, haven't you?"

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


The local kids were cautious near Old Mrs. Boston's house. "She's off her rocker," said Johnny Cramer. "They say she broke a boy's arm once for being cheeky to her."

"Well I heard the police found skelingtons in her back garden," said Petey Braitwaite. "Only they couldn't send her to prison because she's mental."

"I heard she was a teacher once." Philip Cross hunkered down, pulling the other two down with him out of sight of the blank stare of the windows. "I heard she set fire to the school and burned all the kids to death."

The three of them looked at the house and shuddered. Philip felt the reassuring smooth weight of a stone in his hand.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Miscarriage of Justice

"Who did you say this was?" Nicholas Skeres grunted, heaved and shuffled backwards another three steps.

"Does it matter?" Robert Poley, carrying the feet, had an easier time of it. "It looks like him, that's what matters."

"Only if you squint your eyes." Ingram Frizer held the door open, his lockpicks still clutched in a sweaty hand. "Mrs. Bull will be out until tomorrow morning at the earliest. Plenty of time to make it look like a drunken brawl got out of hand."

"Let's hope so." Skeres got as far as the fireplace and let the body slump. "Did you have to do him through the eye, though? I've seen my fair share of dead men – aya, and rotting corpses, too – but this one gives me the willies. He looks to be seeing right into me' soul, so he does."

"He must have damned good eyesight then," Poley grinned and thumped his friend on the arm. "You bargained away your soul for an ale at that place in Dunkley."

Skeres laughed. "How could I not? The wench was as comely as a barrel full of whiskey."

"Aye, if it's been packed with salt." Frizer slid his blade into the corpse's eye. "Right," he said, standing up and overturning a table. "Skeres, you throw a few chairs about while Poley runs for the Watch." He stood over the anonymous corpse. "Poor Marlowe had one too many an' picked a fight with me."

Skeres nodded. "There're plenty who'll be pleased by that."

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Age of Anxiety

"But they're closing the theatres. What are we to do with our livelihood gone?" Marlow paced the floor, a jug of wine trailing loosely from two fingers."

"It's only the Puritans." Jasfoup sat, languishing on a chair sipping at a bowl of leaf stew.

Marlow turned up his nose. "I don't know how you can stomach it."

Jasfoup looked at his bowl. "It's just mulberry leaves in boiled water," he said. "It's quite pleasant really."

"No, the thought of those damned God bothers closing the theatres."

"Ah." Jasfoup shrugged. "We just get out of London for a little while. Set up a theatre in the provinces. Warwick, say. The Queen intends to spend the summer there."

"And you said she'll sponsor a play?"

"Indeed. How about 'Loves Labours Lost'?"

Image:Love's Labour's Lost [DVD] [2000]

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Taming Tricks

"What are you giggling at?" Jasfoup glared across the room at the half-drunk playwright who was in the process of crossing out several lines of the new play "The Taming of the Shrew".

"I've just had a much better idea for the scene where Petruchio first meets Katherina and decides to marry her for her dowry despite her protestations," said Marlowe.

"Oh?" Jasfoup drummed his fingers on the table. "Do tell, though I doubt you'll best the outline I've suggested."

Marlowe giggled again and scrawled in another line. "Instead of appealing to her good judgement and love of her sister," he said, "Petruchio hits her with a shovel."

"Very noble," said Jasfoup. "And are there custard pies at the wedding feast?"

Image: The Taming Of The Shrew [DVD] [1967]

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Buckets of Blood

"This is complete rot, you know," said Jasfoup, redlining several pages of clean script. "It's a complete fallacy that contracts with demons have a loophole in them. Allah might be the only perfect being but I guarendamntee you that the lawyers of hell are thorough."

"Bu the wriggling out of the contract has been the accepted form since the tales of A thousand and one nights," said Marlowe. "What other ending can there be?"

"You have old Faust dragged kicking and screaming into Hell," said the demon. "Think of it! Instead of being a work of the cleverness of man it becomes a morality tale, and with the Puritans trying to close theatres as dens of iniquity, it'll do a lot of good to reinforce the opinion of the theatre as a means of promoting good ethics."

"I suppose." Marlowe looked downcast. "But can we have a lot of blood?"

"Of course."

Marlowe grinned. "Then I'll arrange buckets of it to be thrown over the audience."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Assassination by Popularity

Marlowe all but choked on his wine. "You're pulling my one-eyed Jack," he said. "I've spied for Walsingham for years. I'm one of his most useful operatives."

"Were." Jasfoup smiled. "You were one of his most useful operatives. Unfortunately, your little bit of trouble in Holland made you an embarrassment to Her Majesty. Your counterfeit coins led the Catholics to suspect a plot against them. It was all the Queen could do to avoid France and Spain declaring war on the spot. "

"That wasn't my fault." Marlowe took another swig of the wine. "It was that idiot Frizer, always second guessing my moves. If he'd followed orders and left the tin where it was I'd never have been caught."

"Be that as it may, " said Jasfoup, "I have it on good authority your name appears on an execution list. Not openly, of course. Her Majesty cannot be seen to condone the death of her favourite playwright. No, it will come as a surprise – a knife in a dark alley or a fire at the theatre."

Marlowe shook his head. "You have to help me get out of this," he said. "There must be someone I can appeal to? Somewhere to hide?"

"Fortunately, I have a plan," said Jasfoup. "Remember those plays I commissioned from?"

"The tragedies?" Marlowe grimaced. "Of course I remember. Dreary things they were. What about them?"

"How would you like to take the name Eddie Shakespeare?"

Marlowe sniffed. "I've always seen myself as a William..."

Monday, October 12, 2009


"I don't believe it." Marlowe grinned and poured himself another glass of water. "You don't even look like a demon."

"And you're an expert on them, are you?"

"Well, no, but everyone knows demons are red and have pitchforks and funny moustaches."

Jasfoup sighed and sat down. "That's just a religious stereotype intended to frighten to populace into keeping the faith," he said. "It has no real basis in the modern world. Most of us take human form instead."

"Prove it," said Marlowe. "Prove to me you're a demon from the lowest pits of Hell."

"Not the lowest," said Jasfoup. "Level six. Anyway, name a wish and I'll grant it."

"Okay. Turn this water into wine."

"Easy." Jasfoup swivelled in his chair. "Innkeeper? A flagon of wine, if you please." He turned back to the playwright. "Do you have sixpence, by any chance?"

Image: Bedazzled [DVD] [1967]

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Proposition

Jasfoup held the dying man. "You can't die," he said. "You have so much work left to do and besides, you're not due for another thirty years."

Will coughed and opened red-rimmed eyes "Good countrymen, let me depart alone,
and, for my sake, stay here with Antony."

"Who?" Jasfoup frowned. "Wait! That was a line from Julius Caesar, wasn't it? You haven't written that yet."

"Have I not?" Will leaned sideways and coughed a little blood onto the bare wooden floor. "Did you not show me the manuscript or did I perchance dream it?"

"You must have dreamed your life away, my friend, for thou doth depart this life too soon."

There was a shimmering as anther demon appeared. Delgariel looked at the scene. "How very touching," he said. "Come on, hurry it up. 1593 is no year to be lollygagging. I've got work to do."

"Quite," said Jasfoup, but I have a proposition to offer you. What would it take to alter your docket to read Marlowe instead of Shakespeare?"

Saturday, October 10, 2009

With Wings

"I want a theatre like that," said Marlowe, gazing at the model. "Though if I were the architect, I would design it with wings."

"They've not yet appointed a designer," said Vittore Jasfoup. "As I said, this is just a mock of what it could be like."

"Why are you showing us this?" asked Grayson. "You're wasting our time with all this dilly dallying about playhouses that may or may not get built in the future. We have a performance to rehearse."

"Indeed you do." Vittore smiled. "I shall watch from the wings, if you don't mind. You might say I have a vested interest in this play."

"You say you're an editor?" said Marlowe. "By any chance do you act as well? We find ourselves short of an actor to play Mephistopheles."

"I could give it a try," said the odd man. "But I'm not sure I can mimic his voice. It's terribly squeaky, you know."

Image: Sir Henry Irving as Mephistopheles

Friday, October 09, 2009

All the Globe's a Stage

Marlow stared down at the model. "This isn't a replica of the Royal," he said. "This is a theatre in the Round." He shook his head. "What a challenge it would be to perform on a circular stage!"

"It's the Globe," said Jasfoup, pushing a tiny wooden Faustus across the stage. "It's a pity it won't be built for another ten years."

"How did you find out about this?" asked Grayson. "The Queen's not announced any new theatres with the current wave of Puritan outcry against them."

Jasfoup coughed. "I have my sources," he said.

"Aye, I'll bet you do at that." Nicholas Skeres rested a hand on his sword. "Catholic sources, no doubt."

"Catholic? No." Jasfoup winked. "Quite the opposite, old chap. Quite the opposite."

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Blatant Plug


A little stonecast Devious, made by Becky

Too Early

"Look out!"

Edward Alleyn leaped to one side as a twenty pounder crashed onto the wooden stage, closely followed by a painted backdrop that fell as gracefully as the Virgin Queen's expression when she watched one of Shakespeare's sex romps.

"Who in the devil's name did that?" Marlowe climbed out of the prompter's box and stalked into the wings, cornering a tall and seemingly wealthy man in an elegant cape and hose.

"Sorry," said the newcomer. "It's this sword, you see. I haven't worn one in public for donkeys."

"Donkeys? Who are you?" said Grayson. "And what are you doing in my theatre?"

"Ah!" The man handed him a tiny piece of stiff parchment, upon which he'd written tiny, tiny letters. "Vittore Jasfoup, at your service."

"And what do you do, Mr. Jasfoup?"

"I'm a script editor." He gave a low, sweeping bow. "Is there any tea, or am I a several centuries too early for it?"

Image: Cate Blanchett as Queen Elizabeth The 1st

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

That Damned Play

"That's not right," Phillip called from the prompter's box. "I didn't write Faustus offering a cup of tea to the demon before it drags him off to hell."

"You did according to the latest fair copy,"* Edward stepped to stage left and picked up his crib sheet. "'Ho, demon, thy pits stink of Halifax. Would thou'st care for the Greying Earl or Eels of Darje?' Are these not your words, then?"

"I don't remember writing them." Marlowe frowned. "What did I too last night?"

"You went upstairs with that cloaked gentleman after hours," Mark Grayson, theatre manager, bit player and stage hand, called from backstage, grinning. "He sent down for rum and a new quill."

"How curious." Marlow took the clean sheet and crossed out the offending line. "It's a good job I didn't change anything important."

*a clean sheet of manuscript, written out legibly from the scrawled, crossed out and edited foul sheet

Image: Edward Alleyn

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Conspiracy Theory

There were times, Jasfoup thought, when he really wanted to peel back the mist of time and find out what really happened to historical figures. For example, despite being of first name terms with Billy Shakespeare, the old bard had conscientiously failed to reveal why his style of writing changed so radically in 1593, the year Marlowe was murdered in a bar-room brawl in Deptford by three people who were all spies of Walsingham, the Queen's privy councillor.

Harold clicked his fingers in front of the demon. "Jasfoup old bean! You were miles away. Penny for your thoughts?"

Jasfoup shook his head to clear the fog, dislodging the imp that had just answered Harold's accidental summons. "Not sure they're worth that little," he said. "After our chat about the play Faustus I was wondering why Marlowe died."

"Over a bar bill wasn't it?" said Harold.

"A bar bill contested by three people known to be spies for the Queen," said Jasfoup. "Curious, don't you think?"

Image: The Mammoth Book of Cover-ups (Mammoth Book of)

Monday, October 05, 2009

Conspiracy, A to Z

A is for Alpha

Christopher paused, frowning. What made him write that? He consulted the new chapbook he'd been sent from Nuremberg, the Historia von D. Johann Fausten and found the phrase tucked inside a block of text of page eleven. He must not have noticed when reading, leaving it lodged in his brain until it flowed through his pen back into the world.

How curious.

He tried again, pulling a fresh piece of parchment onto his blotter and recharging his quill. She who is must guard against he who comes, for there will be much death in the House of Zion. Again he flipped though the chapbook and found the words on page seventeen, forming the initial word of each line.

"Tom!" he called. "Come and look at this."

Thomas Kyd trooped in from the kitchen carrying a tankard of water and a fistful of cheese cut from the landlady's block. Marlowe frowned at the petty theft. Mrs. Tinsdale would be livid about the missing portion and once again it would be up to him to calm her.

"Curious," said Tom. "A code, almost. What does it mean?"

"'She who is' must be Her Majesty," said Christopher, excited, "though who 'He who comes' might be is anybody's guess. the 'House of Zion' must mean the Church."

"You must take this to Walsingham." Tom's breath stank of slightly mouldy cheddar. "He would be likely to reward you for such information."

"Aye." Marlowe grinned. "I'll save the Queen or die trying."

being an excerpte from the tale of Jasfoup the Demone and hise involvemente in thee affaire of Marlowe and Shakespeare

Big Blue Demon

Hurrah! The last stop of the Blog tour for 'An Ungodly Child' is at Aims' Big Blue Barn West

Go and say hello!

Friday, October 02, 2009

The Royale Theatre

The Royale Theatre on Backgate has stood since 1910, and has only been closed during the blitz 1943-45 and for a brief stint during the 1960s when it was converted into a movie theatre and subsequently closed. It was bought, renovated and re-opened in 1974 by the Friends of The Royale, when the opening performance of The Tempest starred Sir Peter Mulgrove as Prospero.

It has an intimate 120 degree stage and seating for up to 200 patrons.

There are rumours of the existence of a number of ghosts in the theatre, notable the voice of an elderly lady who asks repeatedly if there is anybody there and a man in Restoration costume who leaves the scent of violets after him.

Sadly, there are no ghosts able to operate the sadly dilapidate pipe organ which will soon have to be replaced. Donations to the Friends, please.

Image: The director's craft: A handbook for the theatre

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Lock Stock and Barrel

Harold took the ironwork out of the vinegar and screwed a jeweller's loupe int his right eye to check for blemishes.

"Exquisite, isn't it?" John the imp tapped ash from his perpetual cigarette and grinned. "It took me almost three months to perfect making the lock. Authentic fifteenth century metalworking techniques and accelerated aging.

"There's some pitting on--"

"—the trigger-guard, yes." John smiled. "Well, there would be after five hundred years, non?"

Harold nodded, picking up the barrel and sighting through it. "No rifling?" he said, turning to see John's nose outlined at the end of the tube.

"Not invented until 1498." John picked up the stock. Oddly, this was the hardest to forge," he said. "Getting hold of wood from the period is no easy task. I did buy a barrow load in 1462 but the whole lot had rotted before I dug them up again."

"So where did the wood come from?"

"Ah." John coughed and stubbed his cigarette out. "Did you know the Mayor had a house full of antiques?"

"Ha! Not any more." Harold grinned. "There was a robbery last week." He frowned. "Oh."

"Quite." John patted him on the arm. "Don't go down the cellar for a bit, eh?"

Image: Lock, Stock & Barrel: Making an English Shotgun and Shooting with Consistency