Welcome H. Lewis-Foster to my Monday Meets (even if it’s actually Tuesday) <G>
Strokes on a Canvas
It’s great to be here at Brynn’s blog to tell you a little bit about my new novella Strokes on a Canvas. It’s set in 1920s London, a fabulous time and place for literature, fashion and art. I love to visit London whenever I can, and one of my favourite places in the city is the National Portrait Gallery, where there’s a wonderful section devoted to the great and good—and sometimes not so good—of the twenties. There’s a wide variety of artistic styles, and the stories that accompany the portraits are just as diverse.
Amongst the politicians and aristocrats are writers and artists, who were part of a privileged few at that time who could be relatively open about being gay. Life wasn’t easy for these men, who still lived in the shadow of Oscar Wilde’s imprisonment, but they could at least be true to themselves within their own circle of friends.
In Strokes on a Canvas, bank clerk Evan finds himself amongst this more liberal, bohemian class when he meets artist Milo. He doesn’t know what to make of Milo’s ideas and friends at first, and he’s shocked when Milo takes him to a sophisticated, secret gay club. Milo and Evan are from very different backgrounds, and their relationship isn’t always straightforward, but I hope you’ll enjoy their journey in such a fascinating decade.
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 H. Lewis-Foster
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’. She 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.