Available in ebook & paperback (22 October 2018)
About the Book
A hidden masterpiece. A secret buried for 500 years. And one woman determined to uncover the truth.When London tour guide Helen Oddfellow meets a historian on the trail of a lost manuscript, she’s intrigued by the mystery – and the man. But the pair are not the only ones desperate to find the missing final play by sixteenth century English playwright Christopher Marlowe. What starts as a literary puzzle quickly becomes a quest with deadly consequences.
When Helen realises the play hides an explosive religious secret, she begins to understand how much is at stake. Relying on her quick wits, she battles far-right thugs, eccentric aristocrats and an ancient religious foundation, each with their own motives for getting their hands on the manuscript. She discovers there is a price to pay for secret knowledge, but how high is too high?
Unlawful Things was shortlisted for the Virago/The Pool New Crime Writer Award. If you love a bit of historical sleuthing and a healthy dose of fast-paced action, you’ll enjoy this intriguing debut thriller from Anna Sayburn Lane. Discover Unlawful Things today!
What Inspired Unlawful Things?
The action in my novel, a contemporary thriller about the dangers of digging up historical secrets, unfolds along the road from London to Canterbury, once a well-trodden pilgrim path. And the inspiration for the novel came out of walking that route myself.
It wasn’t an organised walk, just something I wanted to try. I set off one Friday with my husband, planning to walk the 60 miles over three days. We started in Southwark at the site of the Tabard Inn, where Geoffrey Chaucer’s pilgrims gathered at the start of The Canterbury Tales. The first day took us through the streets of south London, where I’d lived and worked as a local newspaper reporter. Passing through Deptford, I noticed a pair of grisly-looking carved skulls on a gate into a churchyard. Intrigued, we went inside.
The churchyard was St Nicholas on Deptford Green, the burial place of Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlowe. Marlowe was a colourful character. He killed a man in a knife-fight in Shoreditch, was rumoured to be a spy and was supposedly killed in a brawl in Deptford. Some people suspect he faked his own death and was the true author of Shakespeare’s plays.
Chaucer, Marlowe – who else would we come across on our walk? We stopped for the night at Dartford, then the following day started to see evidence of Charles Dickens, as we moved deeper into Kent. Dickens had a house at Gad’s Hill, between Gravesend and Rochester, both of which featured in his novels, as did the neighbouring village of Cobham. The ancient Cobham Hall, I later discovered, had its own intriguing history, including a treason plot against James I.
When arrived in Canterbury at the end of day three, I’d collected enough ideas for several novels. I’d also learned that 60 miles is too far to walk comfortably in three days! But as we arrived at the appropriately-named Pilgrims Hotel, I noticed one more thing. We were opposite the town’s Marlowe Theatre. Christopher Marlowe, I discovered, was born in Canterbury, before a scholarship from the King’s School took him to Cambridge and then to the theatres of London’s Southwark.
What if, I thought sleepily as we turned in for the night, Marlowe had learned something in Canterbury as an inquisitive child? A secret, something important, perhaps from Canterbury Cathedral. Something he wrote about, that was dangerous… dangerous enough to get him killed?
That ‘what if?’ sparked the plot for Unlawful Things. It’s a game of literary hide-and-seek, which also draws on some of the hard-hitting crimes and disturbances I’d written about as a London journalist. The weaving together of fact and fiction, real locations with historical speculation, is my favourite sort of writing. I hope readers have as much fun reading it as I did writing it.
My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Anna for the the guest post.
About the Author
Anna Sayburn Lane is a novelist, short story writer and journalist, inspired by the history and contemporary life of London. Unlawful Things is her first novel. She has published award-winning short stories in a number of magazines, including Mslexia, Scribble and One Eye Grey. Her award-winning story Conservation was described by judge and Booker-longlisted author Alison MacLeod as “a powerful and profound contemporary piece in which one man’s story stands for an entire nation’s… it’s a punch to the heart, a story that will haunt and touch its readers deeply”.