The bestselling book that inspired the Bafta-winning BBC drama
Corruption. Blackmail. Conspiracy to murder. A Very English Scandal has all the hallmarks of a classic thriller with one difference. It's all true.
In the late 1960s Jeremy Thorp, the charismatic leader of the Liberal Party, was at the height of his political career. But homosexuality had only just been legalized, and a former relationship with a younger man named Norman Scott threatened to destroy Thorp's carefully curated facade. Helped by fellow politicians, Thorpe schemed, deceived and embezzled until he saw only one way to silence his ex-lover for good.
Meticulously researched and endlessly extraordinary, Thorp's trial captured the moment that British society discovered the truth about its political class - and learned just how far the Establishment will go to protect its own.
'Gripping. A story of cack-handed assassins, buffoonish policemen, dodgy Home Secretaries' Daily Telegraph
'I loved it; eccentric, dark, humane and English in the very best sense' Alain de Botton
'Retold with masterful skill . . . It grips like a detective story' Daily Mail, Book of the Week
JOHN PRESTON'S NEXT BOOK, FALL: THE MYSTERY OF ROBERT MAXWELL, IS AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER NOW
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.