Funnyman’s novel features his house, ghosts, Noel Coward and himself as a ‘mincing, lispy, D-rated celebrity’

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Good research is usually vital to produce a cracking book – but comic Julian Clary has gone to amazing lengths for his new spooky detective novel.

He snapped up Noel Coward’s former haunted home near Ashford, and then used it to set the scene in his third book, Briefs Encountered.

Coward was of course behind the 1945 film of a similar name, starring Trevor Howard.

Clary bought the playwright’s manor house six years ago and soon decided it would be a fitting venue for a Coward-esque romp as it dates back to the 15th century. He lived there between 1926-56.

Clary’s book is a glamorous thriller-romance set in and around his own home. And there are ghosts, spirits even. Some of them are a little blithe, too.

Choosing the house was an obvious choice after friend and now neighbour Paul O’Grady mentioned it was up for sale. It needed work, but Clary said he had enjoyed the challenge.

And them came the idea of basing the new book there, considering the links with ghosts, Coward, and even features himself as a “nasty mincing” homosexual.

A lifelong fan of Coward, Clary said it was easy to come up with the bizarre and convoluted tale of gay lovers across the generations.

He told KoS: “It is primarily about the house I live in. This was Noel Coward’s house and there are two storylines. One is a fictional account of a true story of Noel’s time here with his lover Jack Wilson.

“And there is a modern day story about the relationship of an actor called Richard Stent, also set in the same house.

“The two stories alternate and then through ghostly means they come together, if all that makes sense.”

He does have some privacy issues with doing the book based on his own home, and he said: “I don’t really want people to come knocking on the door. In one draft I had changed the name of the house but the publisher didn’t like that. I changed the name of the village.”

He included himself in the book, and asked what his character is like, he said: “Oh, he’s horrible.

“He is a mincing, lispy, D-rated celebrity that I am.”

Clary said using another celebrity would have opened a legal can of worms and complications. “I won’t be libelling myself. It is just a comic device,” he said.

As for the inspiration for coming up with the book - Clary said after he moved in, it emerged there were four ghosts there. That, added to the Coward and his wild partying reputation, and he realised the house had some tales to tell.

He said: “I read the letters and diaries of Noel Coward and realised he bought the house at the time he met Jack Wilson and I realised he had bought it so he could conduct his love affair, which was illegal at the time.

“The house is very isolated, he was very rich, and his wild parties here were legendary. He was born in Teddington and I was raised there. I studied him during my education and did a production of Private Lives when I was 21.”

He added: “The book is doing really well, and I would like to think people will be buying it on its merits.

“I know it’s galling for bone fide authors but I can’t do anything about that. I have got to make a living.”

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