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A Very English Scandal : Sex, Lies and a Murder Plot at the Heart of the Establishment (TV series tie-in edition)


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Product Description

This is the shocking true story of Jeremy Thorpe, the leader of the Liberal Party in the 1960's, and the first British politician to stand trial for murder, recently adapted as a 3 part BBC television series staring Hugh Grant as Jeremy Thorpe and Ben Whishaw as his boyfriend Norman Scott.

Behind oak-panelled doors in the House of Commons, men with cut-glass accents and gold signet rings are conspiring to murder. It's the late 1960s and homosexuality has only just been legalised, and Jeremy Thorpe, the leader of the Liberal party, has a secret he's desperate to hide. As long as Norman Scott, his beautiful, unstable lover is around, Thorpe's brilliant career is at risk. With the help of his fellow politicians, Thorpe schemes, deceives, embezzles - until he can see only one way to silence Scott for good.

The trial of Jeremy Thorpe changed society forever: it was the moment the British public discovered the truth about its political class. Illuminating the darkest secrets of the Establishment, the Thorpe affair revealed such breath-taking deceit and corruption in an entire section of British society that, at the time, hardly anyone dared believe it could be true. ''A Very English Scandal'' is an eye-opening tale of how the powerful protect their own, and an extraordinary insight into the forces that shaped modern Britain.

Author: John Preston.

Paperback, 352 Pages, Orig. Publ. 2017, This Edition Publ. July 2018

Recommended by Graeme Aitken

"Who would’ve thought that a political biography would be so entertaining and witty? Well perhaps you would have an inkling if you have seen the new television adaptation of this 2016 book, which has a top tier cast (Hugh Grant and Ben Whishaw) and creative team (screenwriter Russell T. Davies and director Stephen Frears) behind it. In a nutshell, the book explores the scandal that engulfed Jeremy Thorpe, one time leader of the British Liberal Party, who in the early 1960s had a relationship with a young man, Norman Scott, back when homosexuality was still illegal. Scott drifted in and out of employment and had a history of psychiatric problems, and often turned to Thorpe for financial help. As Thorpe’s profile rose, his history with Norman Scott became more and more problematic. Eventually, he decided the only way to silence him was to have him killed and instructed his fellow Liberal MP and right-hand man Peter Bessell (the most unlikely of assassins!) to make it happen. This plot unraveled badly for all concerned and resulted in the death, not of Norman Scott, but of a great dane named Rinka who was ‘the size of a small pony’! Eventually the press got wind of the story which led to the political trial of the century... Viewers of the TV series must have imagined that some of the more outlandish aspects had been fictionalised, but no, they all come from the book which highlights a grand cast of English eccentrics. Take for example, the eighth Earl of Arran aka ‘Boofy’, a member of the House of Lords, whose wife the Countess was a a champion powerboat racer. The two of them shared a love of badgers and allowed the creatures free reign in their home which necessitated the wearing of gumboots to avoid being bitten by them and contracting ringworm! As well as being passionate about the rights of badgers, the Earl also took up the cause of Homosexual Law Reform as his elder brother had been homosexual and had committed suicide after years of psychiatric treatment. This is political biography/true crime which reads like a comic novel, and if it stretches credulity for the author to recount supposed conversations between the main players, apparently many of them come from Peter Bessell’s book Cover-Up or from his aide-memoire that he prepared for the trial. Preston had first-rate access to key people and materials, including meeting with Norman Scott himself and being shown the private memoir he wrote about the affair. He also met with the sons of two other (now deceased) major players - Peter Bessell and trial lawyer George Carman - and was given access to Carman’s case notes for the trial. In his afterword, John Preston mentions that in writing the book peculiar noises emanated from his study - ‘chortles of amusement or - just as often gasps of disbelief than groans of despair’. This thoroughly gripping and witty account with its larger than life characters is absolutely certain to have the same effect on readers!"


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