In the week that Unlawful Things is finally published, I made a little pilgrimage back to the church yard where it all began. St Nicholas Church in Deptford, tucked away in Deptford Green, is a tranquil corner these days.
But in May 1593, it witnessed the burial of the mercurial, astonishing playwright Christopher Marlowe, dead at the age of 29. As his friend, the printer Edward Blount, wrote to his patron, Thomas Walsingham, it was there that “we brought his breathless body to the earth.”
Marlowe’s death – he was stabbed after a dinner in a house in nearby Deptford Strand – was the starting point when I began to think about the plot that became Unlawful Things. The novel’s opening scene takes place in contemporary London, with another man stabbed in the church yard where Marlowe is buried. Although I used to live nearby, it had been many years since I visited.
It was a glorious, sunny day, the sun filtering through the plane trees and making the famous gate post skulls look almost cheerful. I was surprised and touched to see a little leather-bound notebook propped up on the plaque which commemorates Marlowe. Inside, people from all over the world had left messages for him, about how much his work meant to them. I couldn’t resist adding a few lines, signed by my novel’s protagonist, Helen Oddfellow. Take a look if you ever go there; you might like to see what she said.
Unlawful Things will be published today. I have a long list of “thank you’s” to everyone who has helped me get to this point. But I shouldn’t forget to thank Christopher Marlowe, whose eternal plays and poetry set me on this path.