Ocelot Press Book of the Month: The Unkindest Cut of All
Welcome to the brand-new Ocelot Press Book of the Month!
Each month, we will focus on one particular Ocelot Press publication. This month it is Sue Barnard’s romantic intrigue The Unkindest Cut of All, the action of which takes place over one week in March, during an amateur dramatic society’s production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.
Here’s the blurb:
BEWARE THE IDES OF MARCH…
Brian Wilmer is God’s gift to amateur dramatics – and he knows it. So when the Castlemarsh Players take the ambitious decision to stage Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, there is only one man who can play the title role – even though Brian’s posturing “prima donna” attitude has, over the years, won him few friends and many foes.
Rehearsals progress apace, and the production draws ever closer. But when another member of the cast has to drop out due to illness, local journalist Sarah Carmichael (a stalwart of the Players’ backstage crew) suddenly finds herself called upon to step into the breach at the eleventh hour.
Not surprisingly, Sarah finds that Brian is in his egotistical element playing the mighty Caesar. The fact that the final performance of the play takes place on the infamous Ides of March – the day when, according to tradition, Caesar was fatally stabbed – only adds to the excitement.
But tragedy is waiting in the wings. And when it strikes, it falls to Sarah – with the help of Brian’s personable and fascinating nephew Martin Burns – to uncover the incredible truth of what really happened…
The Unkindest Cut of All is available from Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats. To celebrate it being the Ocelot Press Book of the Month, the Kindle edition is currently available at the special offer price of just 77p (or the equivalent in your local currency). To find out more, click here.
This extract from The Unkindest Cut of All describes the scene on the final night of the run, which takes place on the infamous Ides of March…
“Hence, home, you idle creatures! Get you home! Is this a holiday?”
As Richard delivered his opening line, Sarah felt a twinge of sadness. This was the last time that he – or indeed any of the Players – would say these words on these boards. As she came off the stage at the end of the scene, she could see Alan carefully ticking off the stage directions in his copy of the script. It was his ritual for the night of the final performance. It gave him, he’d once told her, a great sense of achievement – a sign that he’d reached the end of the run with the satisfaction of a job well done. He could tick off all the tasks knowing that he wouldn’t have to worry about them again. But then, that was so true of the theatre; it was full of superstition and ritual.
Even Sarah herself wasn’t immune to this. Even when she was only wearing her all-black Assistant Stage Manager attire, she always had to put on the clothes in precisely the same order each time: trousers first, then t-shirt, then socks and shoes (right before left in each case), and finally a long-sleeved top if the weather was chilly. And her lucky mascot – a reproduction Egyptian scarab which had accompanied her throughout her first appearance in Death on the Nile – always spent the entire run in her handbag.
Martin was still sitting where she’d last seen him, watching the performance unfold on the CCTV monitor. He appeared, for the moment at least, to have abandoned his attempt at the crossword.
“How’s it going?” he whispered, as she went past.
“OK so far,” she whispered back. “See you later!” She hastily put on her cloak over her tunic and hurried back on to the stage for her first appearance as the Soothsayer.
Brian strode imperiously forward and delivered Caesar’s instructions to Mark Antony, before giving Sarah her cue: “Set on, and leave no ceremony out.”
Sarah took a deep breath and stepped forward from her place in the crowd. She had only one word at this point, but for some reason it seemed to stick in her throat. She found herself needing to improvise with wild gestures before her voice finally co-operated.
Brian turned round, but made a great show of peering snootily at the crowd and pretending not to see her. “Ha! Who calls?” he sneered.
The crowd continued to mutter as the conspirator Casca turned towards them, shouting, “Bid every noise be still. Peace yet again!”
Brian spoke again. “Who is it in the press that calls on me? I hear a tongue, shriller than all the music, cry ‘Caesar!’ Speak. Caesar is turned to hear.”
Sarah stepped forward and delivered her most famous line: “Beware the Ides of March.”
She found she could not suppress a shudder as she spoke. Maybe Cassie’s foreboding was infectious. Get a grip, she told herself. Thankfully, though, the shudder was hidden by her cloak. The other performers appeared not to have noticed it as they carried on with the dialogue, which John had adjusted slightly to take account of the fact that in this performance, the Soothsayer was female.
“What woman’s that?” Brian sneered again, peering haughtily round and again pretending not to see her.
“A soothsayer bids you beware the Ides of March,” answered Peter, as Marcus Brutus.
“Set her before me; let me see her face,” Brian ordered, to which Ted, as Cassius, replied:
“Lady, come from the throng; look upon Caesar.”
Sarah stepped forward, head bowed as she approached Brian.
He declared: “What say’s thou to me now? Speak once again.”
Sarah slowly lifted her face until her eyes met Brian’s. She caught a glimpse of a strange light in them – something she had never seen before. What was it? Pride? Determination? Or fear?
She addressed him again, with the same words: “Beware the Ides of March.”
This is scary, she found herself thinking. I’m glad it will all soon be over.
And here’s a special treat for anyone who orders the e-book during this month.
Post a screenshot of your Amazon order in the Ocelot Press Readers Group on Facebook, and you will be entered into a draw to win a signed copy of the paperback edition.
The draw will stay open until the end of March 2021.
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