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Doctor Syn

Doctor Syn by Russell Thorndike
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It is fitting that Dr. Syn, a bloody tale of smugglers, pirates and desperate masquerade, should have been inspired by an actual murder, albeit one that took place many thousands of miles away from the bleak, forbidding shores of the Romney Marsh. As Sybil Thorndike tells it in the Forward to her brother Russell's book: In the fall of 1913 she and her brother were touring Shakespeare through the United States (for those who are not among the theatrical cognoscenti, the Thorndikes were famous theatrical siblings, and for her contribution to the British theater Sybil would one day receive an OBE, becoming Dame Sybil).

The pair were spending the night in a Spartanburg, Georgia hotel, when a murder was committed "on the front steps" right under the pair's window. The incident inspired Russell with the idea for a play he might star in, and the siblings sat up all night, while Sybil made "countless pots of tea," listening "open-mouthed" (as well she might) as he spun the plot, "unfolding horror upon horror."

Since Russell Thorndike was more familiar with the geography, history and manners of his country, he set his story there. For the background, Romney Marsh a confusing tangle of weeds, quicksand and water famed in earlier centuries as a haven for pirates and smugglers, thick with legends of ghosts and goblins came easily to mind. Though he first envisioned Dr. Syn as a play, when he found it difficult to secure financial backing for the story as a theatrical venture, a literary friend proffered the happy suggestion.

Renaissance E Books; December 2001
210 pages; ISBN 9781588730077
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Title: Doctor Syn
Author: Russell Thorndike
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