It’s lovely to be here to celebrate the release of my new novella Strokes on a Canvas. I’ve written a number of historical romances, from the Regency era to the swinging sixties, but this is my first set in the 1920s. Full of exciting new trends in fashion, literature and art, the decade has inspired some great stories on the page and on screen, so I thought I’d share a few of my favourite 1920s adaptations.
I always enjoy reading this novel by Evelyn Waugh, but like so many people, I completely fell in love with the TV version starring Anthony Andrews and Jeremy Irons. Those two beautiful young men punting down the river among the dreaming spires of Oxford, or drifting in a gondola on a Venetian canal, were one of the most romantic things I’d ever seen. It may be completely innocent compared to more recent fare, but as love stories go, it’s hard to beat
Bright Young Things
Based on another Evelyn Waugh novel, Vile Bodies, this fabulous film was directed by the equally fabulous Stephen Fry. While it shows the outrageous decadence of the young and wealthy in the 1920s, and the relative freedom for gay men of that class, there is also a very touching sadness behind the glitz and glamour. Well worth a watch if you missed it first time round.
Jeeves and Wooster
This affectionate retelling of PG Wodehouse’s stories is one of my favourite TV series ever. Stephen Fry stars this time, as the imperturbable valet Jeeves, while Hugh Laurie is his endearingly clueless boss, Bertie Wooster. It goes into fantastic detail in creating the 1920s both in England and the States, and while most of it is set in a world of privilege and is extremely funny, it doesn’t shirk away from some of the darker sides of the decade.
I know it’s not exactly an adaption, but Downton Abbey was undoubtedly a phenomenon. It may have flown through the decades at breakneck speed, but it certainly gave us a taste of what life might have been like in the 1920s—the music, the clothes, the social etiquette—for the wealthy and those that worked for them. And it gave us the charming, if scheming Thomas, who sadly never did find the man of his dreams. But as there are rumours of a Downton Abbey movie, you never know…
Strokes on a Canvas is now available at Amazon.
London, 1924. Bank clerk Evan Calver is enjoying a quiet pint and notices a man smiling at him across the bar. While the Rose and Crown isn’t that kind of pub, Evan thinks his luck might be in, and he narrowly escapes humiliation when he realises the man is smiling at a friend. Eavesdropping on their conversation, Evan discovers the man is named Milo Halstead and served as an army captain during the war.
The next day Evan goes to the British Museum, where he bumps into Milo again. This time Milo introduces himself, explaining he’s an art teacher and would like to paint Evan’s portrait for a competition. Evan can’t believe an upper-class artist would want to paint the son of a miner, but he agrees to sit for Milo. Their acquaintance blossoms into friendship, and Evan hopes it might become more, but when a dense smog descends over the city, their future is as unclear as the London sky.
On the opposite side of the cabinet, a man was gazing intently at Evan’s favourite amphora. Evan doubted he was having the same thoughts as himself as he scrutinized the naked athletes, but he seemed transfixed by its sporting design. The dark-haired man was wearing a brown pinstripe suit, the kind seen in newspaper photographs of famous actors and royalty, and which Evan could never hope to afford. The stranger looked born to wear his stylish attire, his confident posture showing the suit’s fine cut to full advantage. Then he raised his eyes, and Evan saw the man was not a total stranger. His hair was smooth with brilliantine, and he wasn’t wearing his gold-rimmed glasses, but he was unmistakably Captain Milo Halstead.
Evan was about to make a hasty exit, when he realised the former soldier was smiling at him through the glass. He may have looked smarter than he had last night, but his smile was still as warm and kind as one of Miss Nightingale’s nurses. Evan didn’t imagine the captain remembered him, but he smiled back, thinking it would be impolite not to, then turned to walk away. To his surprise, Evan’s action was mirrored on the other side of the cabinet as Captain Halstead moved in the same direction. He was still looking at Evan, still smiling, and as they both reached the end of the cabinet, Evan wondered what would happen next. Would words be exchanged? And what would those words be? If Milo remembered him from last night and wasn’t the genial man he seemed, they might hint at blackmail or violence.
Evan was tempted to put his head down and make a run for it, but he didn’t want to attract the attention of the museum guards. He took a breath and steadily stepped forward, only to find Milo standing in his way.
“Excuse me. Could I get past?”
“Of course, but…” Milo’s smile was uncertain now, but he didn’t move from Evan’s path. “It was you I saw in the Rose and Crown last night, wasn’t it?”
Evan lowered his eyes and weighed up his options. He could admit he was at the pub and ask to know what business of Milo’s it was. Or he could deny being anywhere near the place, or even knowing of its existence. The latter seemed the most sensible choice, avoiding all confrontation, but when Evan looked up and saw Milo’s blue eyes sparkling cheerfully back at him, he was overwhelmed by a longing to spend a few seconds more in his company.
With no idea of Milo’s intentions, Evan answered, “That’s right. I saw you there too.”
About the author
H. Lewis-Foster lives in the north of England and has always worked with books in one form or another. As a keen reader of gay fiction, she decided to try writing herself and is now the proud author of several short stories and a debut novel ‘Burning Ashes’.
H. creates characters that are talented, funny and quite often gorgeous, but who all have their faults and vulnerable sides, and she hopes you’ll enjoy reading their stories as much as she loves writing them. H. has also ventured into playwriting and was thrilled to see her first play performed at the Southend Playwriting Festival.