Forget "To be or not to be." It's "Is he or isn't he" that's sure to drive scholars wild. Who is the author behind Shakespeare's works? That debate has so far introduced over 80 different candidates to be the true genius behind the Shakespeare name, including Sir Francis Bacon, 17th Earl of Oxford Edward de Vere, and Christopher Marlowe. The alternative authorship questions stretches even to the United States supreme court, where Justice John Paul Stevens has come out in support of de Vere.
Now Tennessee writer Aaron F. Tatum has taken on the query in his recently published Shakespeare's Secrets. The novel follows former musician and now music critic Ian Scarborough on a globetrotting affair as he researches relics and manuscripts that can point him to the true author of Shakespeare's works. Through action set pieces and heavy exposition sequences, Tatum, through Scarborough, attempts to make the case that de Vere is responsible for the famous plays and sonnets.
For those interested in diving deeper into the Shakespeare authorship question, Shakespeare's Secrets provides an easier route to the argument through its narrative approach. To keep the pace moving, the inclusion of Sherlock Holmes-esque mysteries and historical elements temper some of the more long-winded sections. At the end of the day, Shakespeare's Secrets is an endorsement of Edward de Vere. If you find that theory to be anathema, well, at least you've still got a solid thriller on your hands.
Tatum's fascination with the subject is nothing new; he is the former president of the Shakespeare Oxford Society of North America and a member of the United Kingdom's de Vere Society. Longtime Memphis residents may recognize previous work of his from Memphis magazine, Germantown News, and other assorted Tennessee weeklies.