I saw this book advertised in Private Eye, promoted as ‘by a Private Eye hack’ and immediately wanted to read it. It’s a cracking read (if you look on Amazon’s page you will find Tom Robinson using a rather different adjective); fiction which is based on real events.
It’s 1970s London and homosexuality has already been legalised. But the protagonist, who calls himself Tom Wildeblood, is an under-age former runaway and has already had several run-ins with the police while he was working as a ‘Dilly boy’. He’s given that up, is homeless and finding it hard to make a living. By chance, he hears of the death of a boy dragged from Hampstead Heath pond and agrees to investigate it. Just another example of gay-bashing or something more sinister? There was no proper post mortem and the body was cremated with unseemly haste. Through his many contacts in Soho, Tom tries to find out what really happened and as a result, is hunted down by unknown assailants. He has got himself mixed up in the Jeremy Thorpe scandal, which I’ve written something about here. Tom searches in vain for Norman Scott because this is an alternative version of history in which it is Scott, not his dog Rinka, who is killed.
Those of us who remember the seventies will find Macqueen’s reporting very accurate (nothing like my blameless life at the time, I hasten to add), and will have our memories jogged by many names of people then famous but now dead; people from what seems another world. As reviewers have said, the book is a real page turner, with many twists which keep you reading ‘just another chapter’ as you ask yourself, ‘How will he get out of *this*?’ Tom does find answers but not the ones he was expecting, which makes for a surprising and shocking ending. I raced through this ‘what if’ thriller, enjoying it very much but after I’d finished, I felt angry. Angry about the exploitation of young boys by both thugs and what Tom calls ‘officer class’. Angry about police corruption, about government cover-ups and what seems to be a quite illegal use of the Secret Service for purely political ends. As if I weren’t paranoid enough already!