Anton du Beke chats to Peter Anderson about writing his new novel One Enchanted Evening ahead of another UK-wide dance tour with Erin Boag in January.
London, 1936. Inside the spectacular ballroom of the exclusive Buckingham Hotel the rich and powerful, politicians, film stars, even royalty, rub shoulders with Raymond de Guise and his troupe of talented dancers from all around the world, who must enchant them… captivate them… and sweep away their cares. However, accustomed to waltzing with the highest of society, Raymond knows a secret from his past could threaten all he holds dear.
Nancy Nettleton, new chambermaid at the Buckingham, finds hotel life a struggle after leaving her small home town. She dreams of joining the dancers on the grand ballroom floor as she watches, unseen, from behind plush curtains and discreet doors. She soon discovers everyone at the Buckingham – guests and staff alike – has something to hide…
“I have to hope for that elusive line of tens!”
Throughout his career, Anton du Beke who lives in Burnham Beeches in Buckinghamshire, has loved a good story, but up until now he has told it through dance or more recently song. Now, with One Enchanted Evening, his debut novel, Anton has put them into words. So, did all those years of characterisation in dances (and who hasn’t loved some of his creations on Strictly!?) help him with the characters in the novel? He says: “The novel’s characters are based on people I’ve met or stories I’ve heard throughout my career. There are plenty of stories – whether it is of the dance bands and those who loved them – or tales of evenings down the pub, where after the pints had flowed, it tended to be fists that started flying.”
I find it interesting that Anton’s novel harks back to the halcyon days of the 1920s when Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin represented a more avant-garde scene. He laughs. “That’s a connection I hadn’t made. But I loved stories that were based at a definitive period in history.” One of his favourite current writers is Berkshire-based writer Robert Harris whose novels once again are set during World War II.
I ask Anton whether he hopes to continue writing. “Well,” he replies, “there are certainly plenty of tales and adventures I still have in my head for the hero, and there is a second book in the pipeline. But just like my success – or lack of it in Strictly – how many books the publishers are keen on printing depends on the audience vote – and I just have to hope for that elusive line of tens!”
• One Enchanted Evening is published by Bonnier Zaffre in hardback, paperback and e-book and available from all good booksellers and online.
Look out for our January competitions online and in your local Round & About for your chance to win tickets to Erin & Anton’s show at a theatre near you!