Publication Date: May 08, 2018
Soon to be a 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.
Excerpt from A Very English Scandal
Thorpe took a letter from the inside pocket of his jacket and handed it to Bessell.
“Read it,” he said.
Bessell saw that the envelope was addressed to Thorpe’s mother, Ursula, at her house in Surrey. The letter inside was written on blue notepaper. Although the letter was very long—seventeen pages—and the handwriting hard to decipher, Bessell soon got the gist of it. The writer began by apologising for bothering Mrs Thorpe but reminded her that he had once been a guest in her house. He went on to claim that he and Jeremy Thorpe had been lovers.
For the last five years as you probably know, Jeremy and I have had a ‘homosexual’ relationship. To go into it too deeply will not help either of us. When I came down to Stonewalls that was when I first met him. Though he told you something about the TV programme and Malta. That was all not so true. What remains is the fact that through my meeting with Jeremy that day I gave birth to this vice that lies latent in every man.
Thorpe, the man claimed, had promised to look after him. But the affair had ended and he had reneged on his promise. [ . . . ]
He ended with an apology and a plea. ‘Can you understand any of this, Mrs Thorpe? I’m so sorry. Please believe me, I’m desperate for help.’
Bessell looked up to see Thorpe staring intently at him.
“Is it true?” he asked.
Slowly Thorpe nodded.
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“Preston has written this page-turner like a political thriller, with urgent dialogue, well-staged scenes, escalating tension and plenty of cliffhangers.” —New York Times Book Review
“Written with tremendous energy and narrative flair.” —Wall Street Journal
“The most forensic, elegantly written and compelling account of one of the twentieth century’s great political scandals… An entertaining mix of tragedy and farce, involving people in high and low places.” —The Guardian