Sceptre to examine secret life of Christopher Marlowe

Sceptre is to publish a début novel-in-verse which promises to put an end to one of the greatest literary mysteries, that of whether playwright Christopher Marlowe wrote Shakespeare's plays.

Publishing director Carole Welch bought world rights to The Marlowe Papers by Ros Barber from historical fiction specialist Rupert Heath. The book looks at the controversial life and death of Elizabethan poet, spy and heretic Marlowe, and answers the question of whether he died in a tavern brawl in 1593, or whether he lived on and wrote the plays attributed to Shakespeare.

Welch described it as "one of the most unusual and exciting débuts to have crossed my desk in years," and said the work was "as vibrant, gripping and clever as a work by Marlowe himself. It's an astonishing ­achievement."

Barber has written three poetry collections, with her latest, Material, published by Anvil in 2008. Her short fiction has been published by Bloomsbury and Serpent's Tail.