Acclaimed novelist Dave Hardy (writing as DAVID HARDY) has written across genres from horror/fantasy to the western. He’s one of many authors who tells me his favourite of his books is his first, CRAZY GRETA.
The setting is 16th Century Europe, a continent wracked by religious wars, violent acts of intolerance such as the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre and portents of impending doom. Greta is a tavern keeper in Holland, pushing 40, hard-drinking, bad tempered and sharp-tongued, who just wants to be left alone. But then her world is threatened by forces from (literally) beyond the grave when the dead rise and set out on a campaign of terror, slaughtering everything in their path.
Cast down into Hell still alive, with unlikely allies such as CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE and the ARCHANGEL MICHAEL, armed with a sword and her trusty skillet, Greta does battle with hordes of walking skeletons, demons, imps, and ultimately Satan himself. No one but Greta would be crazy enough to try to conquer Hell!
A 16th Century painting of the Devil
The St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre in 1572 was a targeted group of assassinations and a wave of Catholic mob violence directed against the Huguenots (French Calvinist Protestants) during the French Wars of Religion. The massacre began on the night of 23rd August (the eve of the feast of Bartholomew the Apostle.) The slaughter spread from Paris across France, lasting several weeks. Estimates for the number of dead vary widely, from 5,000 to 30,000.
An artist’s impression of the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre
CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE - also known as KIT - (1564 – 1593) was an English playwright, poet and translator. Marlowe’s shadowy life – which includes controversial elements to his work, rumours about his associations with spying and heresy and a mysterious, violent death – makes him an irresistible subject for speculation and fictionalising. He’s a fascinating ‘what if’ historical figure. Marlowe was the foremost Elizabethan tragedian of his day. One can ask: ‘What if he’d lived past his early death at the age of 29? Would he have eclipsed another playwright born in the same year – WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE?’
Marlowe’s plays include DIDO, QUEEN OF CARTHAGE, TAMBURLAINE THE GREAT (Parts 1 and 2) THE JEW OF MALTA, EDWARD THE SECOND, THE MASSACRE AT PARIS (portraying the events of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre) and DOCTOR FAUSTUS, the first dramatised version of the FAUST legend of a scholar selling his soul to the devil. Marlowe's plays are known for the use of blank verse and their overreaching protagonists.
Although little is known about Marlowe speculative writers and commentators have described him as a spy, a brawler, a heretic, a magician, duellist, tobacco-user and libertine, ‘blasphemous, disorderly… treasonous… irreligious.’
In 1592 Marlowe was arrested in Holland for his alleged involvement in the counterfeiting of coins, presumably related to the activities of seditious Catholics.
In London a warrant was issued for Marlowe's arrest on 18 May 1593. No reason was given for it, though it was thought to be connected to allegations of blasphemy. A manuscript believed to have been written by Marlowe was said to contain "vile heretical conceipts". Ten days later, he was stabbed to death. Whether or not the stabbing was connected to his arrest remains unknown.
There are various accounts of Marlowe's death. In one account he was "stabbed to death by a bawdy serving-man, a rival of his in his lewd love." Others state that Marlowe was killed in a drunken fight.
Scholar Leslie Hotson claimed Marlowe and a man called Ingram Frazier argued over payment of a mysterious bill (now famously known as ‘The Reckoning') exchanging "divers malicious words" which ended in a knife fight. Marlowe snatched Frizer's dagger and wounded him in the head. In the ensuing struggle, Marlowe was stabbed above the right eye and killed instantly. A jury concluded that Frizer acted in self-defence, and he was pardoned.
Others have come up with a variety of murder theories including one that Sir Walter Raleigh arranged the murder, fearing that under torture Marlowe might incriminate him in a religious plot;
Sir Walter Raleigh
or that Queen Elizabeth the First herself ordered his assassination because of Marlowe’s subversive views and conduct.
Queen Elizabeth the first
Naturally there’s also an Elvis-like theory that Marlowe's death was faked and he went on to write for Shakespeare, including writing ‘Hamlet!’
Shakespeare was heavily influenced by Marlowe in his work, as can be seen in the re-using of Marlovian themes in ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ ‘The Merchant of Venice’ ‘Richard II’ and ‘Macbeth’ (Dido, Jew of Malta, Edward II and Doctor Faustus, respectively.)
Reviews of CRAZY GRETA:
‘Witty, tightly written, and bursting with action… great depth and texture.’
‘Brilliant, original and thrilling read! A break-neck thrill ride from start to finish.’
‘If you’re in the mood to be frightened I highly recommend… this book.’