Just in time for his 114th birthday, read Janette Jenkins' short new book Firefly [Kindle] looking back at Coward's life from his final days in Jamaica. The Independent called it a "beautiful novel... an elegiac portrait...This moving novel pays tribute to a great talent as the curtain comes down..." The Washington Post said it's "quietly witty and remarkable."
At fourteen in 1913 Noël Coward began an affair with Philip Streatfeild, a thirty-four year old society painter whom he met only because his mother was Streatfeild's charwoman. Two years later, Streatfeild was dying of tuberculosis and urged Mrs. Astley Cooper to nurture the "delicate" Coward, which she did. He began appearing in plays, was discharged from WWI service for ill health, and had his first writing success at twenty-five with The Vortex, scandalously popular in London and New York for its wit and veiled hints of drugs and gay life. While the times changed, Coward did not; he kept that veil cemented in place for the next five decades.
Although many of his sophisticated, camp comedies play peekaboo with the closet, especially the threesome in Design for Living (1932) and less popular later works like Song at Twilight (1966), the urbane Coward never actually came out. A friend of King George, Coward traveled widely to perform for WWII troops and secretly worked as a spy, hiding behind his high life persona. The press attacked him for his excesses during wartime. The king suggested a knighthood, but Churchill disliked his "flamboyance" and blocked it. After the war, Coward fell in love with the actor Graham Payn and they stayed together nearly thirty years. In 1956 they became tax exiles, landing first in Bermuda then in Jamaica where they were neighbors to the constantly bickering Mr. & Mrs. Ian Fleming. Coward enjoyed a revival in the 1960s and finally was knighted in 1970. He died in Jamaica in 1973, still with Payn. You can read his biography or go right to his diaries, letters, plays, or the The Noël Coward Reader.
Born in Zambia, raised in Whitby, Ontario, Farzana Doctor has written two novels exploring queer and straight Indian-Canadians living in Toronto. Her debut, Stealing Nasreen, about a married couple both of whom become secretly interested in a lesbian psychologist, was nominated for a Masala! Mehndi! Masti! People's Choice Award. Her second novel, Six Metres of Pavement [Kindle], won a Lammy, a Rainbow Award, was named by Now magazine a top ten book of 2011, was short-listed for the Toronto Book Award, and recently was longlisted in the top forty of Canada Reads 2014. (At least two of the remaining five Canada Reads contenders have queer content: Kathleen Winter's wonderful Annabel and Esi Edugyan's Giller winner, Booker finalist Half-Blood Blues [Kindle] spanning fifty years, beginning with a young black German jazz musician in Berlin in 1939.) Farzana has also won a Dayne Ogilvie Prize from the Writers Trust of Canada, an award exclusively for lgbt authors. The manuscript of her as-yet-untitled third novel was one of Sarah Schulman's favorite books in this year's Band of Thebes poll.