Review: An Accidental Icon by Norman Scott

“Ten years ago it was the Profumo case,” Quentin Letts said The times. “Today’s hottest retro scandal is the trial of Jeremy Thorpe.” The story of how the prominent Liberal MP stood trial for conspiracy to murder his former lover, Norman Scott, has both Michael Bloch’s “authoritative biography” of Thorpe and recently inspired John Prestons A very English scandal which became a TV drama.

Now it’s Scott’s turn himself, the groom and male model whom the then leader of the Liberal Party allegedly tried to kill in 1975. In this memoir, Scott, now 82, tells the story of his troubled, dysfunctional upbringing and traumatic adult life. While many of the book’s details strain credibility, the story has “a hypnotic impetus as Scott’s life reels from one mishap to the next.”

For much of his life, Scott was a “punchbag,” Richard Davenport-Hines said in Literary Review, and his memoirs are “a vivid reminder of the callousness” of late 20th-century English life. Born in 1940, he was sexually abused by his mother and never knew his father. He was accused – wrongly, he claims – of theft and taken to a detention center at the age of 14.

Scott discovered his love for horses and began working in stables. He was working at one in the Cotswolds in 1961 when a “skinny, elegant figure with a Homburg hat” emerged, says Craig Brown The Post on Sunday. This was “rising Liberal MP Jeremy Thorpe,” an “inveterate predator,” who invited him to get in touch if he ever needed help. Later that year, Scott was released and reappeared in the House of Commons after a stint in a psychiatric hospital. Thorpe greeted him warmly, took him to his mother’s home in Surrey, and forced him to have sex.

This set the pattern of their affair, which Thorpe always revolved around “quick sex,” Lynn Barber said in The Daily Telegraph. The relationship soon deteriorated, and Scott’s life “became increasingly noisy.” He moved to Thorpe’s constituency in north Devon and told ‘anyone who would listen’ about their affair.

This led to the infamous “botched assassination attempt on Exmoor” when Andrew Newton, the would-be assassin, only managed to shoot Scott’s dog, Roger Lewis said The audience. Thorpe was acquitted at his subsequent trial, one of the great “miscarriages of justice of modern times”. It is fitting, then, that Scott should have the last word in this very odd book, notable for its “mingling of horror and farce” and for the remarkable number of mishaps it describes. He may be a tragic figure, but Scott “deserves a medal for resilience.”

Hodder & Stoughton 328 pages £22; The Bookstore of the Week £17.99

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