The Ground Is Burning, By Samuel Black


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The Independent Culture

It sounds like a Renaissance replay of Stoppard's drama Travesties: Leonardo, Machiavelli and Cesare Borgia, all testily holed up in the besieged castle of Imola in 1502. But it happened. Paul Strathern wrote a book about the weird conjunction of these giant planets.

Black converts their encounters into high-spirited, zestfully crafted fiction. His novel switches between soliloquies: the artist, the politician, the warlord, along with the mercenary Vitellozzo and Dorotea, the mistress of Borgia who knits the strands of plot and personality.

With a few wobbles, Black gives each a credible voice while conveying the true stories of their blood-soaked, vision-driven epoch. His swaggering patchwork of creative and destructive egos snares the spirit of the age.