An Accidental Icon
by Norman Scott (Hodder & Stoughton)
Had his life gone as others had planned it, Norman Scott's would have long been over. An unsolved murder on the moors of Southern England, his body discovered beside that of Rinka, his adored great dane. Plans have a tendency to warp and change so Scott thankfully remains alive and well. His life, one worthy of writing about, but not an easy trip to have survived and prospered through. He transcribes with great candour, details that make their awfulness seem strangely benign. A perfect mix of farce and tragedy, it represents a world most fiction writers would steer clear of for fear of being disbelieved, though it also perfectly proves that revenge is a dish best served stony cold.
To modern eyes Scott was a victim of grooming, though one with an innate tendency to survive. Sexually abused by his remote and imperious mother, after a term in remand at her behest for the puported theft of a bale of hay, and a stay psychiatric care, this needy youth fell under the gaze of the exploitative and powerful politician Jeremy Thorpe, once seen as a future Prime Minister of England. When he got his hands on Scott he repeatedly performed the first of many acts of rape. He also kept his National Insurance papers thus hampering his victim's right to paid work. An act of imperious control that would became Thorpe's eventual self-generated nemesis.
As with many whose human peers emotionally disappoint them, Scott developed a passion for animals, horses primarily, and dogs, that yet remains, although he has also maintained a loving relationship for the past quarter of a century. Fame is often a poisoned chalice that falls upon those least prepared to savour and survive it. With more twists than dime store pulp fiction, Scott traverses the Swinging Sixties in a medicated haze of prescription drugs. Along the way he has affairs, the most notable being with the artist Francis Bacon, is befriended by the ballerina Margot Fonteyn, and the heir to the Guinness dynasty. He also forges a successful career as a fashion model and designer, whilst surviving a myriad of suicide attempts, a plethora of prescription drugs, and a brief stint of homelessness where he takes up residence in the cubicle of a public toilet.
Along the way his on-off-on affair with Jeremy Thorpe, a charming, ambitious man, but also in the closet. Scott becomes a problem which Thorpe decides to solve by having his lover murdered. The dog becomes the first and only victim since the murder weapon jammed twice. Eventually a vulnerable young man is thrown to the lions of the establishment at a time when homophobia was a moral right and not a facet of ignorance. Scott, duly crucified and shamed lost the court case, but the damage to Thorpe's career was irredeemable. A hollow victory that saw him fade from public view.
With the ensuing years and the emergence of new evidence Scott has been reassessed and understood, portrayed with tremendous aplomb and sympathy by Ben Whishaw in the film A Very English Scandal which starred Hugh Grant as a brilliantly cadaverous Thorpe. Norman Scott emerges from these pages as a sanguine and genial soul, who when young was his own worst enemy. Now eighty-two he lives quietly in an ancient cottage on Exmoor surrounded by his menagerie. A grandfather of four, and a father of two, he is a modern personage who has lived beyond the time of simple labels to become An Accidental Icon. A man perfectly entitled to having the last word.
Here is a book that deserves to be The Naked Civil Servant for the modern world. Affectionately dedicated to his late friend April Ashley, it is a crash course on survival, a source of pleasure as well as inspiration that leaves the reader with the warmth of a lingering inner smile. An example that truth prevails against the odds, sometimes.