Noël Coward: dramatist, composer, actor, director, lyricist, and at one time the highest-earning author in the western world. He virtually invented the concept of the sophisticated Englishman for the 20th Century. Queen Elizabeth knighted him in 1969, and since his death in 1973, there has not been a time when his plays are not staged (Private Lives), films shown (Brief Encounter) and songs sung (Mad Dogs and Englishmen). An astounding talent, not even his very public homosexuality and his flamboyant lifestyle could diminish his popularity and acclaim. Firefly is Coward’s beloved retreat on a secluded hillside in Jamaica. There, between brandies and cigarettes, the entertainer wiles away his days - a dispiriting pattern of unwanted meals, reluctant walks, graceless swims in the pool – in the company of his man servant, Patrice, and reluctant former lover, Graham Payn. They talk of a London long gone or imagined: Noel’s is peopled with glamorous friends – Redgrave, Taylor, Olivier, O’Toole – Patrice’s a naive vision of elegance and opportunity. Set over a few weeks in the early seventies, Firefly sorts through Coward’s dreams and memories, his successes and regrets against a sultry Caribbean backdrop of blue mountains and endless vistas. By turns revealing, wicked, witty, and unsparing, this sparkling novel is a moving portrait of age and friendship, and a poignant recollection of a life fully lived.
Janette Jenkins is the author of the novels Columbus Day, Another Elvis Love Child, Angel of Brooklyn and Little Bones. Her short stories have appeared in newspapers and anthologies, and have been broadcast on BBC Radio 4. In 2003 she was awarded an Alumni Fellowship by the University of Bolton. She lives in Durham, England.