As a Member of Parliament and Leader of the Liberal Party in the 1960s and 70s, Jeremy Thorpe's bad behavior snuck under the radar for years. Read more...
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As a Member of Parliament and Leader of the Liberal Party in the 1960s and 70s, Jeremy Thorpe's bad behavior snuck under the radar for years. Police and politicians alike colluded to protect one of their own. In 1970, Thorpe was the most popular and charismatic politician in the country, poised to hold the balance of power in a coalition government. But Jeremy Thorpe was a man with a secret. His homosexual affairs and harassment of past partners, along with his propensity for lying and embezzlement, only escalated as he evaded punishment. Until a dark night on the moor with an ex-lover, a dog, and a hired gun led to consequences that even his charm and power couldn't help him escape. Dubbed the "Trial of the Century," Thorpe's climactic case at the Old Bailey in London was the first time that a leading British politician had stood trial on a murder charge, and the first time that a murder plot had been hatched in the House of Commons. And it was the first time that a prominent public figure had been exposed as a philandering gay man, in an era when homosexuality had only just become legal. With the pace and drama of a thriller, A VERY ENGLISH SCANDAL is an extraordinary story of hypocrisy, deceit, and betrayal at the heart of the British Establishment.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-07-11
- Reviewer: Staff
In 1979, Jeremy Thorpe, a popular member of Parliament, stood trial over claims that he hired an assassin to murder model Norman Scott, who claimed to be Thorpe’s ex-lover. In this addictive true crime account of one of Britain’s greatest political scandals, London-based novelist Preston (The Dig) chronicles Thorpe’s early, secretive love life, at a time when sodomy was still illegal, and his exposure. Thorpe is portrayed as repressed and concerned with his public image and political career; he involved colleagues in schemes lasting years to silence Scott. Though Scott had a cache of Thorpe’s incriminating letters as evidence, Thorpe always maintained that they were never lovers. Drawing from Scott’s memoir and documents from Peter Bessell, a political colleague of Thorpe’s with a checkered business past, Preston blends factual with farcical, recounting, for example, a horrifying incident with Thorpe’s helicopter and a protester standing too close to the rotor blade—a huge clump of hair seen on the ground turned out to be a muddy wig blown off. The trial near the end is riveting, with Thorpe’s lawyer demolishing Scott’s and Bessell’s credibility; Thorpe was acquitted. Preston caps off the dramatic account by discussing the widely held belief that the acquittal was an establishment cover-up, even though Thorpe never regained his career, and died in 2014. Though knee-deep in politics, scandal, and betrayal, the book also conveys the sobering, grim reality of lives destroyed by dirty politics and homophobic culture. (Oct.)