Very English Scandal : Sex, Lies and a Murder Plot at the Heart of the Establishment
Now a major TV drama series starring Hugh Grant and Ben Wishaw, a behind-the-scenes look at the desperate, scandalous private life of a British MP and champion manipulator, and the history-making trial that exposed his dirty secrets
While Jeremy Thorpe served as a Member of Parliament and Leader of the Liberal Party in the 1960s and 70s, his bad behavior went 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, 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.
The shocking true story of the first British politician to stand trial for murder Publisher's description This is a brilliant, sad, startling nonfiction novel about the Jeremy Thorpe murder-plot scandal. It is as funny and dark as anything by Evelyn Waugh or Jonathan Coe. And in these post Cyril Smith/Jimmy Saville days, it's so timely and relevant Jon Ronson A terrific book and brilliantly researched. John Preston writes wonderful dead-pan prose and reveals the depths of depravity, the absurd power of snobbery and the old boy networks of the time -- Claire Tomalin A brilliant exploration of an extraordinary political scandal... deeply researched, fluently written, and darkly comic, it reads like a thriller -- Ben Macintyre I loved it; eccentric, dark, humane and English in the very best sense. It's going to be a sure fire-hit -- Alain de Botton The most forensic, elegantly written, compelling account of one of the 20th century's great political scandals... a real page-turner' Observer Very funny and endlessly extraordinary... makes for amazing reading -- Catherine Shoard Guardian Impeccably researched... full of shocks, surprises and laugh-out-loud moments. Preston revives a forgotten era and delves into the personalities behind the headlines. Times Crime Club Retold with masterful skill... It grips like a detective story, as compelling as BBC2's Life of Duty and every bit as dirty in what it exposes about the upper echelons of society in the Sixties and Seventies Daily Mail Book of the Week This brilliant account made me feel I was hearing the tale for the first time ... Preston is an enthralling narrator Mail on Sunday Gripping ... cack-handed assassins, buffoonish policemen, dodgy Home secretaries and sozzled judges. The conclusion of an Establishment cover-up is hard to avoid Daily Telegraph The unbelievable truth... Preston is a natural storyteller ... he provides the context for actions that seem unbelievable today The Times Wonderfully readable ... John Preston is the ideal author, having researched for years many minor characters and talked to dozens of well-known political and literary friends and enemies of Thorpe Standpoint Fluent, readable ... a vivid tableau of the players in Thorpe's long, tragic downfall Evening Standard I spent a thrilling 48 hours reading it. The narrative is so vivid, the characterisation so brilliant... I thought I knew all about these events, but the full horror of them has only now become apparent -- Antonia Fraser A gripping account of the Jeremy Thorpe case. The details make one laugh out loud or gasp with amazement -- Charles Moore Spectator The whole affair is retold here compellingly and fluently, bringing to life the cast of characters with some verve The i Nothing comes close to the eyepopping outrageousness of the gay murder shenanigans that engulfed and almost destroyed a Liberal leader. Reads like a comic thriller -- Rachel Johnson
John Preston is a former Arts Editor of the Evening Standard and the Sunday Telegraph. For ten years he was the Sunday Telegraph's television critic and one of its chief feature writers. He is the author of a travel book and four novels. His most recent novel, The Dig, was published to great acclaim in 2007.