"An astonishing account of an explosive piece of neglected history. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is woven through a tense prison drama. Epic." —Sir Kenneth Branagh
The war of 1812 is over, but for the inmates at Dartmoor Prison, peace—like home—is still a long way away.
On New Year’s Eve 1814, the American sailors of the Eagle finally arrive at Dartmoor prison, bedraggled, exhausted, but burning with hope. They’ve only had one thing to sustain them during the harrowing voyage—a snatched whisper overheard along the way. The war is finally over.
Joe Hill thought he’d left the war outside these walls but it’s quickly clear that there’s a different type of fight to be had within. The seven prison blocks surrounding him have been segregated; six white and one black.
Inspired by true events, this novel recounts the remarkable story of the first ever all-black Shakespeare production, staged by segregated American prisoners of war. It is a story of hope and freedom, of loss and suffering. It is a story about how sometimes, in our darkest hour, it can be the most unlikely of things that see us through.
"Instructive as well as entertaining. Mayo’s book dazzles."
– New York Times Book Review
"Truth regularly outdoes fiction in this unpredictable book. Rollicking fun, written with rude energy and humor."
– Wall Street Journal
"The passions unleashed in this riveting account places black against white, Americans against Britons, and the stirring soul of a forbidden love caught in between. It’s a rapid page-turner with dark humor, intellectual heft, and a gallery of deeply human characters that shake our spirits."
– Sir Kenneth Branagh
"Wonderful—a story I never heard before, told with style, pace, character, texture, and tension. Bliss."
– Lee Child, #1 New York Times bestselling author
"Like Thomas Keneally’s The Playmaker, this novel, based on historical record, stirringly dramatizes how theater, stories, and art can be used as a vehicle of uplift in the midst of the most trying, dehumanizing circumstances. Mayo has created a searing portrait of humanity at its most brutal and tender."
– Publishers Weekly
"Mayo has shone a dramatic spotlight on a hotbed of racial tension and a unique pursuit of creativity that will leave readers rapt from the story’s beginning to its conclusion."
"Bristling with energy, written with passion, Mad Blood Stirring is a joy to read."
– John Boyne, New York Times bestselling author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas