• Ros Barber’s The Marlowe Papers, a novel written entirely in verse, has won the annual Desmond Elliott Prize for debut fiction.

      The book explores the intrigue around the death of Christopher Marlowe and the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays.

      Joanne Harris, the chair of judges, described the novel as a “unique historical conspiracy story”.

      The £10,000 prize is named after the distinguished publisher and literary agent Desmond Elliott who died in 2003.

    • “The Marlowe Papers is technically accomplished and hugely impressive in both style and scope, enhanced by being written in verse, it is certainly an ambitious undertaking for a new novelist – I cannot wait to read Barber’s next book.”
    • US-born Barber was inspired to write her debut novel while watching a Channel 4 documentary in which Shakespeare scholar Jonathan Bate dismissed the theory that playwright Marlowe was the true author of the works of Shakespeare as the stuff of fiction.
    • She is the author of three volumes of poetry and she was recently appointed associate of the Shakespearian Authorship Trust – a charity which aims “to seek, and if possible establish, the truth concerning the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays and poems”.

      The authorship debate was in the spotlight in 2011 when Roland Emmerich’s film, Anonymous, portrayed Shakespeare (played by Rafe Spall) as an inarticulate buffoon.

      Rhys Ifans played Edward de Vere – the 17th Earl of Oxford – who was credited as the true genius behind the words of the Bard.

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