Anton Du Beke: Romance is more my literary passion | Books | Entertainment

Estimated read time 8 min read

Anton Du Beke has added another string to his bow (Image: Daily Express)

In the flesh, Anton Du Beke is even more debonair than on Strictly Come Dancing. He may be dressed in a smart sports jacket rather than black tie, but there is an innate elegance to this man who is well on his way to becoming an entertainment legend.

He positively glides onto the stage of the packed venue in south Wales where he is set to chat for an hour or so about his latest novel. It’s his sixth, would you believe, and is called The Paris Affair. The narrative moves seamlessly between two time periods and locations.

It’s the Paris of 1926 and young dancer Ray Cohen arrives from London to compete at the prestigious Exhibition Paris dance competition. Once in the French capital, he is led astray by Hugo, a charismatic dancer born of the streets, who introduces him to the city’s nightlife and a beautiful stranger called Hannah Lindt.

Then we’re in wartime London of 1941 and Raymond, now known as Raymond de Guise – and who has become a debonair, handsome, dramatically charismatic, dashing dancer (we can only wonder who he’s based on!) – is doing his bit fighting in North Africa.

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Meanwhile, his wife Nancy must balance her new position – as Head of Housekeeping at the Buckingham Hotel – with her duties as a new mother to their child. As the war rages on, someone from Raymond’s past arrives at Nancy’s doorstep, asking for help. It’s a brilliant set-up to Anton’s latest page-turner.

“I love writing my books – although strictly speaking, I talk into a dictaphone and have a wonderful assistant who types my words out for me,” he admits to me later.

“I get completely wrapped up in the process. I love the history – especially the upstairs/downstairs aspect of it, the romance, the dancing element to the books and also the thriller/espionage element to this particular one.

“When I started writing, I wanted to be the next John le Carré. I love spy novels, you see. But after my second book, Moonlight Over Mayfair, was nominated for the Romantic Historical Novel of the Year Award I realised romance was more my thing.

Anton and his fellow judges

Anton and his fellow judges (Image: BBC/Ray Burmiston)

“I liken the experience to opening a wardrobe, stepping inside and discovering Narnia. Anything and everything is possible. It totally fires up my imagination. People and the lives they live – or have lived – totally fascinate me.

“When people read The Paris Affair or any of my books, I want them to react in the same way they do when they listen to music they love. To totally immerse themselves in it.

“To step inside the story and imagine themselves there – the Paris of the 1920s or London of the 1940s.”

Anton’s latest book has already been quite memorably described by author Santa Montefiore as “Downton Abbey with dance”. “That’s a wonderful way to describe it,” Anton, 57, continues.

Anton and family hit the town

Anton and family hit the town (Image: Dave J Hogan/Getty )

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“Oh, I would love that. I think it would be perfect. It’s a lush, lavish story and set against a fascinating backdrop. In fact, I believe there has been talk about turning my books into a mini-series or a film. I would love it to be dramatised in some way, shape or form.”

We’re sure he would and, no doubt, would want to be involved in the production process, but where on earth would he find the time?

In addition to his writing, there are his Strictly commitments, his live dancing shows which also include singing and a bit of chat, his telly travelogues and theatre shows with Strictly professional Giovanni Pernice plus he’s doing panto again this Christmas – playing Smee in Peter Pan for four exhausting weeks at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking, Surrey.

Doesn’t he get, well, a bit cream-crackered? “You want to try having six-year-old twins,” Anton, who shares George and Henrietta with his wife, Hannah, jokes.

“I need things to get me out of the house! Seriously, I just love everything I do – although my very favourite thing is being a father.

“It’s all in relatively short bursts – the singing and dancing live shows I do, the projects with Giovanni, the panto… And when it comes down to it, it’s all about the same thing, isn’t it? Story-telling and connecting with people.”

It’s highly unlikely there will be panto for Anton next year as, in 2024, for the first time, he will be going on the road with a brand new festive show – Anton Du Beke & Friends – which he has already started to plan.

And for those who like to plan, tickets are already on sale.

“It will be thrilling. A live band, me and special guests as we bring a winter wonderland of song, dance, stories and laughter to stages nationwide next November/ December 2024.

Anton du Beke

Anton moved from the dance floor to the judge’s table (Image: Daily Express)

“Christmas songs, Christmas spirit – I just love everything about Christmas time – and we’ll have the most wonderful evening together at the most magical time of year.”

Along with Craig Revel Horwood, and Tess Daly, Anton is one of the three Strictly stars who have been involved with the show since it began an incredible 19 years ago!

In addition to the sparkle, glitter, and sheer razzmatazz of the show, he feels it’s the fact the public
ultimately decides which celebrities stay in the show that has made it such a success.

“It’s genius and is the reason, of course, how couples in the bottom half of the leaderboard get to stay for another week,” Anton continues.

“So, the viewers must vote for their favourite pair. If you don’t vote, it’s the bottom two couples who will always end up in the dance-off. That’s so predictable. I can tell you that as a competitor, there’s nothing more satisfying than staying in the competition when you haven’t scored very well.

“It means the viewers love you. When a couple near the top of the leaderboard end up in the dance-off, it means people don’t like ’em much!”

As a chap in his mid-fifties Anton’s fitness levels, perfect posture and easy, fluid way of moving must be the envy of people many years his junior.

When he was performing every week on Strictly, he was constantly exercising but what about now when he’s no longer strutting his stuff so regularly? “I have what I call a lucky body,” he chuckles.

“A lot of the guys and girls I’ve competed with over the years have had to retire with dodgy knees, hips or ankles. I don’t have any physical issues.

“I’m also sensible about what I eat. We all know what good and bad food is, that we’ve got to eat fruit and vegetables and protein, and the difference between good and bad carbs and fats.

“You don’t have to be super-strict, just sensible. Burn more calories than you consume. If I’m not moving much, I don’t eat much. In addition to dance practice, I play golf when time allows and also have a personal trainer who’s wonderful and looks after my body extremely well.

“She keeps me in the shape I need to be in and I owe a great debt of gratitude to her.”

Not that he exactly enjoys the workout sessions by the sounds of it. “Training isn’t my favourite thing,” he adds with a smile. “She mixes it up so you don’t know what you’re going to get. I like to have a chat and do a couple of dumbbell curls. But she wants to do a proper workout. I don’t mind but it does get in the way of a chat.”

  • The Paris Affair by Anton Du Beke (Orion, £20) is out now. Visit expressbookshop.com or call Express Bookshop on 020 3176 3832. Free UK P&P on orders over £25. Visit antondubeke.tv for tour tickets and information

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