The gay-oriented book Earthly Powers (1980)
was narrated by an 81-year-old successful, homosexual writer, Kenneth Toomey, a figure loosely based on W. Somerset Maugham.
However, it seems that many of the scenes were of a more personal nature. At least one source has claimed he was a closet homosexual.
Of himself, in the Guardian, Burgess wrote:
I published a novel about contemporary Russia at the time of my disgrace, and this was reviewed at some length in the New Statesman – I will not say by whom – and considered as a literary demonstration of my homosexuality... I never had to prove homosexuality, which would have been difficult for one who is boringly normal. I offer this anecdote to prove nothing.
Within the novel, the narrator of the story, Kenneth Toomey, penned a self-described “bad” first novel, Once Departed, in which he claimed
I told no one that I could bring myself to compose the more intimate scenes only by imagining them as homosexual.
In a twist on “Art imitating Life”, or maybe “Life imitating Art”, did Burgess write Earthly Powers out of his personal experiences or his private desires for an alternative life-style? Or was he imagining his homo-erotic encounters in the book by doing a reverse of Toomey's technique from “Once Departed”?
Is there any real evidence to support the theory that the book was based on the life of Willie Maugham, and not on Burgess' own life?