A Very English Scandal – John Prescott; Penguin Books (UK)
Many thanks to the publishers of John Preston’s book, Penguin Books(UK), who kindly gave me access to a pre-release copy for review.
This is, perhaps not my usual type of book, but I remember the Norman Scott case and subsequent trial in the late 70’s. At the time I paid little attention, despite it being constantly on the news and in the newspapers. Forty years on, it seemed like a good idea to find out more about what happened.
This is an extremely well researched book, and offers insights that I’m pretty sure weren’t available to the general public at the time.
It documents the story from when Jeremy Thorpe first met the young Josiffe, who later changed his name to Scott. What was it that led Jeremy Thorpe, rising star in British politics, and widely tipped as future Prime Minister, to be sitting in the dock at the Old Bailey, with former friends and colleagues alike asserting that he had plotted to have Scott murdered.
This is an eminently readable book, and Preston does a great job of making all of the main protagonists very human. We see different sides to Thorpe, Bessell, Newton and Holmes, and begin to understand something of the scale of Thorpe’s downfall – despite all of the accused being cleared of the offences of which they were accused, he was really an outsider in British politics for the rest of his days, and his attempts to acquire the peerage he felt he deserved resulted in nothing.
A really interesting book – whether you are familiar with the story or not. As well as looking at one particular case in history, it also explores some of the social, and legal, effects of the changing laws regarding homosexuality in the UK in the last quarter of the 20th century.