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The Gamblers Mass Market Paperback – 4 Jan 2007
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"'a riveting portrait of the notorious Clermont set ... reads like a galloping Mayfair noir thriller'" (Sunday Times)
"'Pearson reveals the charisma, char and wit of these dastardly but debonair millionaires and shows how their code of extreme loyalty led to one of the great crimes of the 20th century remaining unsolved.'" (Sunday Express)
"Whether one buys this solution or not, the book has a repulsive fascination about it. Written in crisp, ironic style without moralising, it leaves you feeling as if you have been studying a fatal disease - gambling - which drives men to absurd lengths, grotesque behaviour and, usually, bad ends" (Daily Mail)
"Riveting book ... Pearson cleverly entices the reader into a whodunnit" (Independent on Sunday)
Britain's foremost writer on crime turns to the disappearance of Lord Lucan. The basis of the upcoming ITV drama, Lucan, starring Rory Kinnear and Christopher EcclestonSee all Product description
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As England is a country obsessed with class and ready to defer to anyone with a posh accent these spivs and layabouts step to the head of any queue. An example is the group who spent three years at Oxford University in the 1950s, did no studying as they gambled full time, and left without degrees. It seems the University allowed this and, I assume, allowed these idlers to occupy places that could have been taken by hard working plebs. Later they move into choice jobs if they choose to work but often continue as full time gamblers.
John Aspinall started the Clermont Club where only aristocrats or the extremely wealthy were permitted. Aspinall, besotted by a romantic notion of aristocrats, was happy to relieve them of their unearned wealth. The favoured method was chemin de fer which left many of these upper class toffs broke. One of the losers was Lord Lucan, elevated by his title, but really a pathetic parasite. As a member of the House of Lords (unelected) he would take a cab to sign in and pick up his allowance but he never gave a speech. Lucan provides an excellent example of the warped values of these "superior" people. He decided to kill his wife and often spoke about this to his friends. However, he needed £10,000 for his escape. He asked Jimmy Goldsmith to loan him the money.
Goldsmith wanted no part of this but did not want to offend his friend. He offered to give Lucan the money knowing that Lucan, as a gentleman, would accept a loan but not a gift. Lucan refused. So, with his skewed values Lucan saw the murder of his wife as acceptable but not a gift of £10,000. Dominic Elwes, another charming parasite, had no money but received free meals at the Clermont in return for his conversation. Those whom he saw as his friends later abandoned him and he killed himself.
This is a coruscating expose of a section of a class which still lords it over the rest of us. The usual reaction of the plebs (to which group I belong) is a knee jerk deference. The only use these upper class spivs have for those who work for a living is contempt as they see them as their inferiors and treat them as such. John Pearson has written a riveting book about a class of society which deserves the contempt which it bestows on the rest of us. Their superiority is illusory and Pearson exposes them in all their drab posturing. These emperors indeed have no clothes.
Pearson has a gift for keeping the forward momentum of the book and for supplying a constant flow of interesting titbits about the connections, family anecdotes and bizarre sexual practices of the various characters in the Clermont Set, so there is never a dull moment. This was a group of people amongst whom some achieved great success, and others succumbed to great tragedy, whilst all the time leading complicated personal lives.
An interesting, highly readable, true story of an unscrupulous group of entrepreneurs who briefly blazed in the firmament of swinging London in the 1960s and 70s.
On a more personal note - and the book aside, it would seem as though Bingham's progeny cry his innocence from the roof-tops and castle battlements, seemingly forgetting that the innocent 29 year old Sandra Rivett was brutally murdered when Lucan mistook her for his estranged wife, Veronica, Countess of Lucan. Sure, he never went to trial, for the simple reason that he ran away with his lordly tail between his legs. Was he murdered, then? I think it's a plausible explanation, as I suspect he was just to damned cowardly to take his own wasted life.
Perhaps there is a green baize table, somewhere in a shadowy corner of Hell, where sits Lucan and the Clermont set, throwing dice for the rest of time.....
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