Queer Saint: the cultured life and mysterious death of an aesthete

This week another book has been completed and sent to its publisher: Queer Saint: The Cultured Life of Peter Watson is the biography of art patron, scandalous gay roué, love of Cecil Beaton’s life, and – in the end – victim of a jealous lover’s violent passion.

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Cecil Beaton (left) with Peter Watson in Cecil’s bedroom

There’s always a deep, warm satisfaction when you bring a book to a conclusion and know that you’ve done it well – the characters have come to life, the story grips, and the settings (in this case 1930s New York and Paris and wartime London) are tangible. The chapters are compiled, the footnotes checked, the text polished, and then the precious document is attached to an email and - after a moment’s nervous hesitation - you tap “Send”.

In this case, the journey has been a challenging one – so many letters, so many diaries, so much of Cecil Beaton’s illegible scrawl to ruin one’s eyesight over, so many turns and dramas in Peter Watson’s life, so many lovers … and finally, so many questions about his tragic death in his  bath at the age of 47, apparently at the hand of Norman, the jealous, unbalanced boyfriend who was the chief beneficiary of Watson's will.

But the harder the journey, the more moving it is when the story comes to a good and satisfying conclusion.

At this point, we’re waiting (that’s my co-author Adrian Clark and I) to hear what our editor at John Blake Publishing thinks of the book. Tension … tension …

© Jeremy Dronfield 2017