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An essay on the writing of this novel is posted on http://speakitsname.com/2009/12/06/the-players/

Concentrating most of its entertaining span on the "apprenticeship" years of William Shakespeare, this novel is based both on fact and on the author's imagination. A few short chapters introduce William as a Stratford lad, then as an unhappily married young man. Soon he has arrived in London and begins to live the kaleidoscopic but poverty-stricken life of a struggling actor and playwright. Among his friends are the writers Christopher Marlowe and Ben Johnson. The city of London emerges as a character itself, a warren of brothels, bear-baiting arenas, gambling dens, churches, houses, shops, and stalls. Poetry, work, and friendship rule William's life in hectic measure until love makes a fool of him. First comes his love for Emilia, an Italian girl employed as a musician in the household of an aging lord. Next, William suffers a baffling love for his patron, the young Earl of Southhampton, to whom many of his sonnets are written. A love triangle between these three characters brings William to a hard-won maturity as both a writer and man.

"This illuminating historical novel from an expert at reconstructing the Elizabethan era is sure to find many readers among Shakespeare's latest generations of fans." - Library Journal

"Captures the readers imagination [in] the way Cowell envisions the bare bones facts of Shakespeare’s existence...The Players dreams up a glorious man called William Shakespeare...the Shakespeare in whom we want to believe - the thinker, the questioner, the sensitive soul and of the sixteenth century city in which he finds himself.” —The Chicago Tribune

THE PLAYERS was a pick of the month by the Amazon.com literary fiction editor