Author: Jeffery S. Williams
Publisher: iUniverse, Inc
ISBN: 978-0-595-52979-7

Click Here To Purchase Who's to Blame?: A Literary Comedy

Jeffery S. Williams' second book marks a change in genre for this Fresno, California author; his first book was titled Pirate Spirit: The Adventures of Anne Booney and focused on one of history’s most infamous female pirates.  In this second ambitious foray, Who’s To Blame Williams crafts a rollicking spoof and an absolutely hilarious take on two of Shakespeare’s most famous plays that many hold sacred, Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet which are divided into two distinct parts or books. This is certainly not the first of such spoofs and probably will not be the last as over the years there have been a flood of parodies written about Shakespeare’s works. Just look at the infinite number takes on Hamlet’s famous soliloquy, “To be or not to be.”  However, Who’s To Blame is an unexpected delight!

You can easily tell that Williams has done plenty of work as he exercises a great deal of latitude in constructing his own versions of Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet. However, he never loses sight of the principal characters of both plays as he captures the style and substance of Shakespeare. And in order to really shake up the plots, Williams has crafted the whacky characters of Sir SherChristispeare, Great Britain’s greatest sleuth in sixteenth-century England as his protagonist and his sidekick Pancho who is described as the “most loyal of sidekicks during Renaissance England.”                                                                                    

For readers who are not too familiar with The Bard, Book One patterns itself for the most part on the general theme of Hamlet with its setting and contextual elements wherein Sir SherChristispeare is informed by Prince Henry that the entire court of Denmark consisting of King Hamlet, Prince Hamlet, Queen Gertrude, King Claudius, Councilor Polonius, Brother Laertes, and a pregnant Sister Ophelia, have been brutally murdered and he fears that there is some kind of conspiracy going on.  Nightly, ghosts are haunting the castle and it has become so unbearable that King Fortinbras of Norway, who has now taken over in Denmark, requests that the priest “that he might beteem the winds of heaven to exorcise the ghosts from the castle. When that fails, Fortinbras returns to Norway.”  Consequently, the task at hand is for Sir SherChristispeare to immediately go to Denmark and ferret out the ghosts and goblins of these weird and inexplicable deaths. As Sir SherChristispeare states, he doesn’t believe that neither Prince Hamlet nor King Claudius is to blame and thus the challenge of uncovering the truth behind the mystery has ignited him to action.

Book Two likewise humorously mimics the original Romeo and Juliet and it likewise involves a murder wherein six members of the royal families of Verona were slain, notably Mercutio, Tybalt, Paris, Lady Montague, Romeo and Juliet. Again there seems to be a conspiracy, however, it is will be a difficult task to pinpoint just what happened as there does not seem to be any clues as to whom may have committed this hideous crime. 

One of the key ingredients of Who’s To Blame is Williams admirable skill with dialogue which is continually peppered with witticisms particularly during the rapid-fire bantering between Sir SherChristispeare and Pancho, case in point: “Remember, if brevity is the soul of wit, then redundancy is the excrement of the fool.” Another:  “I broke into soliloquy, though Pancho was with earshot, which technically made it a monologue-a dramatic ironical tone.” 

And how about William’s twist on Hamlet’s soliloquy To Be or Not to Be: 

For me or not for me: that is the query.

Whether’tis nobler in the loins to suffer 

The slings and arrows of frustrated sexual fortune

Or to take her in mine arms against a sea of moral laws

And, by opposing, end them with ecstasy. To couple, to tumble

No more-and by giving into temptation say we end…”                                               

It is here as well as many other sections of the parody where William’s true intelligence, refreshingly unique voice and acumen for humor are revealed to the reader. (It should be mentioned that Williams is a high school English teacher and I can well-imagine how he makes Shakespeare come alive in the classroom.)  In fact, there were times Williams even had me comparing Sir SherChristispeare to our modern day Detective Columbo of TV fame who thanks to his eye for detail and his meticulous as well as his committed approach manages to solve the crime. I wonder who Williams was pattering SherChristispeare after?

Williams is very inventive and innovative and coupled with his gifted imagination succeeds in avoiding a common pitfall of alienating lovers of Shakespeare as he effectively stitches farce, slapstick and even some romance into a ridiculous quilt of literary entertainment. I am sure you will chuckle and laugh until your belly hurts! If you enjoy offbeat fiction, Who’s To Blame is likely to win your heart and do come along for the ride. You won’t be sorry.

Click Here To Read Norm's Interview With Jeffery

Click Here To Purchase Who's to Blame?: A Literary Comedy