This book is a compedium of different things, it is funny, it is a bit sad, it has a dark side and a fluffy light side, it is a love story and a ghost story, it is the past and the present. It is a bit saucy but as Julian Clary wrote it what can one expect,in fact I was supprised it wasn't a bit more outrageous. The house is the star where everything happens, it has a personality of its own. Julian Clary appears in the book as himself and he is very good at sending himself up. I really loved it and found it a book I didn't want to put down.
After the recent deluge of "grimlit" it is so refreshing to read a new book that channels the joy and humour of a Wodehouse, Coward and early wits while also enjoying its own pleasure as a rather naughty gay romance ~ do Mills & Boon have such a category? I rather think not.
Mr Clary is certainly getting into his stride with this new novel that runs parallel stories about a single, and very significant house that has initiations rites for any new tenants. The earlier tenant none other than Sir Noel Coward, though then an aspiring young playwright, still haunts the walls and gardens though Julian Clary ~ the nerve of the gent writing himself into his own novel ~ lives just down the road and makes several walk on cameos as the novel progresses.
The current occupant Richard Stent, thespian and lover is not only haunted by spirits past and present but is wickedly punished for his lascivious misdemeanours by his author taking revenge, or so it would appear, on his good looks and fortune.
The book has everything ~ romance, intrigue, mysterious death, more romance and should satisfy any reader with its wit, charm, romance, more romance and carefully hand-picked innuendo and double entendres that we have grown to know and love from this bastion of gay and camp culture.
Clary is almost single-handedly (pun intended) sustaining the brittle wit and skilful observation of the Master he so duly honours here. The only other contender is one Mr S. Fry may they both live and prosper
I've never read any of Julian Clary's other books, but I will after reading this one. I read it in three nights and didn't want to put it down. Clary can certainly write and the book is sad, emotional, happy, camp, smutty and funny. I like the style of the writing and the way the story pulls you in.
Ostensibly the book is about the current owner of Goldenhurst Manor, he's an actor called Richard Stent, who is gay and a fan of Noel Coward, (who used to own this property and lived there for 30 years). Stent buys the property off a rather coarse and seedy Julian Clary (who in reality IS the current owner of the manor and not living in a bungalow down in the village, as is told in this tale.) The house is the key player in the book as it spans centuries and is haunted by several ghosts (as seen and heard by Clary, in real life), who make their presence known with noises and strange happenings. All the 'goings o' in the book are related to the house, as though it is a living breathing entity and seems to pass judgement on any shenanigans, as well as its dislike for certain people who enter there-in.
The gay love affairs are contrasted between the time of Noel Coward, in the 1930's when homosexuality was outlawed, to the current situation with Richard Stent. As with life there are ups and downs and times of sadness and joy. Clary brings together all of the events beautifully and at once you feel something is going to happen and another moment you can laugh-out-loud; which I did on many occasions. I like all of the sub-plots with deranged employees, forbidden lust, nutty parents etc. I like the way Clary pokes fun at himself through Stent, by showing himself to be a 'has-been' and vulgar. Clary is neither of these things and this books shows him to be a witty and talented writer. His descriptions of events are very well written and I got a feel for the setting of the whole book and the characters, beautifully.
Well worth a look, as I learned a something interesting about Noel Coward, which was very entertaining and the nature of relationships whether gay or not. There is always a needy, yet fragile side to any long-term romance and this tale handles the emotion very well. The humour is frequent and well played out. I recommend this whole-heartedly.
I adored Julian Clary's last novel, the deliciously bitchy Devil in Disguise, so was very excited to get my hands on his new offering and wasn't in the least disappointed; this is, if anything, even better than his last.
Set simultaneously in the present day and the 1930s, Briefs Encountered parallels the real-life story of Noel Coward's doomed love affair with the love of his life, Jack Wilson - and a fictional tale, of successful actor Richard Stent and his lover, Fran. Fran's acting career is taking off in America as ageing Richard's is losing momentum back home in England. Is history about to repeat itself? Well yes... and no - and to say more would spoil the book completely.
The house itself - Goldenhurst, once Cowards home and now Clary's - is almost a character in its own right, it certainly seems to have a mind of its own and opinions on the behaviour of its inhabitants. Julian Clary writes himself in as the former owner, driven away -in a delicious parody of Coward's famous comedy, Blithe Spirit - when a drunken séance shakes a host of ghosts awake, ghosts who continue to haunt the new owner, including Noel Coward himself. It seems the ghosts know something Richard doesn't; are they trying to scare him off, or warn him?
As well as Clary himself, other celebs make guest-appearances, most notably Paul O Grady ( the author's close personal friend and neighbour). Most of the comedy is to be found in these passages, and the comedy is pure Julian Clary, all bitchy observation and camp-asides, all of it gloriously laugh-out-loud funny.
But, delicious as the comedy is, it's just the froth, resting lightly on the surface of a much darker tale, of betrayal, madness, jealousy and revenge that spans the decades.
Packed with humour, wit, warmth, pathos, dark tragedy and a pleasing twist at the end, this is a rattling good read; wonderful material for a TV miniseries or film. Julian Clary is proving himself to be a first class novelist, I can't wait to see what he writes next.
on 2 March 2012
The only thing I disliked about this book is the title. I know its a good pun but I thought the book deserved better, and although there is plenty of sauce in the story it is far more than a gay romp.
The story has many layers: Noel Coward and his lover Jack in the 20s/30s; Richard Stent, aging actor, and his lover Fran in the present, and looming over them all, the House and its ghosts, prepared to pitch in and influence the residents of whatever time for good or ill - though rather more often for ill.
I liked the way the chapters alternate between Coward and his companions, and Richard Stent and his, and the way the 'historical' Coward chapters are handled is impressive, as indeed are the present day ones. Several times I laughed aloud, but there is pathos too and this feels much more subtle than Julian Clary's previous work, good as that is; at times the story is very dark and the violence when it comes is graphic but not overdone. There is also tenderness, and love.
As well as Richard and Noel and their consorts, the other characters come alive: Jess and the dread Albie, Marcia, Mother Darlingest, Noel's father, Alice, Gary, the ghosts and, not least, Clary's portrayal of Julian Clary, which is waspish to say the least and very funny.
I really loved this book and the ending, which might have been mawkish, isn't. In fact it was perfect.
One tiny quibble: the editing allowed Coward's aunt to be called, in the space of very few pages, Viola, Vida and Vita. Not a major point but noticeable.
Please, Julian, let us have some more!
It is quite tempting to be dismissive of celebrity authors, especially comedians, as if they are not 'proper' writers. Maybe there are some who get poor books published purely on the strength of their name, with the story suffering at the expense of jokes, but that doesn't mean they are all bad - Eric Morecambe wrote a decent short novel, Ben Elton has had considerable success, and there is no reason why Julian Clary can't find a niche for himself.
I have read and enjoyed an earlier Clary book so I was expecting to like this and wasn't disappointed. While Clary is sticking very much to situations that are familiar to him (gay showbiz culture) there is nothing wrong with writing about what you know, and it does expand into elements of ghost story and thriller. All the time it is, or course, extremely arch.
You just know Clary had fun writing this, especially with introducing himself as an unsympathetic character. I loved the throwaway line where somebody puts him down by suggesting he was busy rehearsing for panto in Crawley - he was actually in panto here in Crawley recently.
The book follows two stories and jumps between them. One is the story of Noel Coward in his country house, the other is the story of an actor who enjoyed some success playing Noel Coward who buys Coward's old house from Julian Clary. Both stories are well told and the suspense is kept up by jumping to the other story at the merest hint of a cliffhanger.
Along the way there are some turns which are darker than the breezy cover would lead to to expect and it is probably that mixture of the predictable and unpredicable that made the book so much of a pleasure. Mr Clary has made a decent fist of writing and I look forward to the next one.
Julian Clary has written an excellent tale here - a real page turner.
The book is set in two time periods - the 1930s and the present.
In the thirties, Noel Coward bought a house in Kent where he and his lover Jack could escape and live their gay lifestyle freely. Bear in mind homosexuality was a crime in those days.
In the present, a film star named Richard Stent buys the house pretty much for the same reason.
The house is, however haunted.
Unusually, the author injects himself into the book as one of the characters. Stent buys the house from Julian Clary! The fictional Clary is not a hero by any means, but a rather pathetic creature.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found it hard to put down. Recommended.
I have always enjoyed Julian Clary on the TV - naughty but nice - but did not know that he was also an author. Camp comic and dog lover was about all I knew of him so I was not sure how he was going to pan out as an author.
This book is set very cleverly in 2 time spans, the 1930s and up to date. At the start there are 2 pages that list the characters both past and present. The Past centres around the late Noel Coward and his entourage and The Present centres around gay actor Richard Stent and his entourage which include author Julian as well. The common denominator in the centre is The House.
To tell you anymore than is already written in the synopsis of the book would be cruel as it would spoil your read. It is a BRILLIANT book - it has everything - romance, intrigue, humour, sadness, difficult times, the dark side and very very many surprises inter woven. It truly is a page turner - and I guarantee that you will not want to put this book down. For those of a delicate disposition be warned that there are 'some scenes of a sexual nature' as they say on TV. To be honest it is all part of the story line. It is really not offensive to the average person and let's not forget the naughty comic who has written the book, so what else would we expect.
It is so good that it deserves to be made into a film for either the big screen or tv. It is an impressive looking book that would also make a nice gift for your friend.
Loved it! Well done Julian.
on 12 March 2016
The first book I've read by Julian Clary - and I was very impressed. Plenty of light hearted moments combine with an increasingly dark plot as Clary looks at changing attitudes to homosexual relationships by telling parallel stories set in the 1930s and the present day. I thought I was going to get irritated with what initially seemed to be a string of superficial stereotyped characters, but instead I warmed to them increasingly through the book. The writing is a little simplistic and Clary's desire to shock is evident, but the humour is mostly well placed in particular when he directs it at himself.
A good number of years ago, I read Julian Clary's candid autobiography and was impressed. But this is the first of his novels that I have tackled.
And it is delightful.
It is light, entertaining, frothy but also with some neat wit and a few scares along the way. He almost perfectly captures the essence of Noel Coward from time to time - but without descending into mere pastiche.
It is neatly constructed and always engaging.
A characterful romp that you will enjoy reading - and what more can you ask?