Friday, 19 August 2016

A Very English Scandal : Sex, Lies and a Murder Plot at the Heart of the Establishment by John Preston (2016)

I remember the Jeremy Thorpe trial in 1979 and this book, though brilliant and a real page-turner, lets the reader down in one big way. First, the good stuff. It's like 'breaking news in a book'. There it is, in print: The downright allegation that Jeremy Thorpe ordered the killing of Norman Scott. 

We may have all suspected that this was the case but this book's author, John Preston, comes right out and actually says it. Brave? Certainly, on the day of Thorpe's death in 2014, journalist Tom Mangold refuses to make the claim. 

Anyway, it's spine-chilling that such a distinguished person as Thorpe did the things he did and then was protected to get away with it. So, the book's brilliant. However...

I remember the trial and I remember the massive homophobia that surrounded it. No one was protecting Jeremy Thorpe at my school. If you were called Jeremy or Norman, you were gay. People accused others of 'biting the pillow' as a derogatory insult. This saying came out during the trial, attributed to Norman Scott. It was all revolting and the book doesn't look at this rampant hate-filled stuff at all. Maybe it wasn't in the book's remit but I certainly remember it and I think it's worth a mention at least. 

The reporting of the trial, and society's response to it, held back the gay rights movement in the UK. But that said, the book's a brilliant look at how an important person could get what they wanted and how the establishment looked after its own. 

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