The Monster’ll Fix It

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Savile

In the autumn of 1980, Dan Davies was taken by his mum to watch a recording of Jim’ll Fix It at Shepherd’s Bush, west London. At the time it was one of the biggest family shows on television. Presented by mad-capped, Top of the Pops DJ Jimmy Savile, the formula had worked since 1975, making every Saturday night Christmas Day for a handful of the thousands of children who wrote into the show hoping that Jim would make their dreams come true.

Dan, however, came away nonplussed. Disillusioned by seeing the unvarnished reality of a TV show being recorded – and anyone who has knows that it’s a stop, start affair that can go on for hours – Dan noticed something else about Jimmy Savile that bothered him.

“In his gruff manner there seemed to be a suggestion of menace. For someone we all felt that we knew so well, there was something remote and cold and untouchable beyond the façade. I spent the car journey home in silence.”

It wasn’t until his mid-teens that Dan’s interest in Jimmy Savile was re-kindled. He happened to read a copy of Savile’s autobiography As It Happens. It was, he said, read in one sitting and became his Rosetta Stone. From that moment on his obsession began. He started to collect anything he could on Savile; newspaper clips; magazines and old Jim’ll Fix It annuals. Friends thought he was joking when he spoke of his ‘Jimmy Savile Dossier’ and how he “was going to use it to one day bring him down”.

Dan later went on to become a journalist. In 2004 he was working for Jack magazine when the editor had heard enough of Dan’s conspiracy theories and decided that he should do an article on him, subsequently sending him to Scarborough to interview the man himself.

It was the beginning of a relationship that was to last seven years. He went on write several articles about Savile. The result is a book that is deeply disturbing and timely, as new allegations begin to emerge.

In Plain Sight

In Plain Sight: The Life and Lies of Jimmy Savile deconstructs the myth of the man who the NSPCC now claim to be the biggest paedophile predator in its 129 year history.

So how did James Wilson Vincent Savile; Knight of the Realm; Order of the British Empire; marathon runner; pioneering disc jockey; hospital reformer; television presenter and competitive wrestler actually groom a nation? And why did none of these allegations come out whilst he was still alive?

Dan Davies’ book starts with the removal of Savile’s headstone from Woodlands cemetary in Scarborough less than twelve months after it was erected. It was done at night to avoid further controversy. Before it had been removed a bottle had been thrown at it, and relatives of those buried in neighbouring plots expressed concern about their loved ones.

We get to hear how Savile was the youngest of seven, and how he was always a sickly child who came close to death at a very young age after a pram accident. It’s actually quite telling that Savile’s account of this story is quite different from other people’s. It was the start of a game of smoke and mirrors, which he continued to play for the rest of his life. Polished and embellished anecdotes which worked well in interviews fell apart after the simplest of scrutiny. Piece by piece, Davies fits together Savile’s life story with the abuse we now know about.

SavileOBE

The narrative is intertwined with the investigation that was being carried out by journalists Liz MacKean and Meirion Jones for the BBC’s Newsnight programme. After Savile’s death they pursued the rumours that he had sexually abused young girls at the Duncroft Approved School for Girls during the 1970s, which was a security facility for the criminally minded who were above average intelligence.

Davies dissects the disaster of Newsnight, who chose not to run the story claiming that they didn’t have enough evidence, only for ITV to break the story over a year later. He charts how the revelations nearly engulfed the entire BBC and the subsequent enquiries that were established – not only at the BBC, but in other organisations such as the NHS and West Yorkshire Police – to find out who exactly knew what and why nothing was done to stop it.

This is a well researched book that sheds new light on Savile’s depravities. It’s a tale that staggers belief that it was never revealed at the time and it’s a story of robbed childhoods and shattered lives by a man who was deeply entrenched in the establishment – and who was, whilst he was alive – simply invulnerable.

Perhaps the most chilling aspect of this story involves an anonymous letter send to the Vice Squad at Scotland Yard, dated 13 July 1998. It reads: “He thinks he’s untouchable because of the people he mixes with,” and it closes with, “When Jimmy Savile falls, and sooner or later he will, a lot of well-known personalities and past politicians will fall with him.”

In Plain Sight: The Life and Lies of Jimmy Savile by Dan Davies is out now.

Steve Clatworthy – Senior Bookseller

 

 

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What’s new at Waterstones Camden?

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Today we thought we’d tell you about what’s been going on recently here at Waterstones Camden. We’ve made a few changes and have done a few tweaks, just to make your book-buying experience even more lovely than it already was.

For example, from now on all of our Hardbacks are positioned at the front of the store to your left. We done this to make it even easier to find exactly what you want as soon as you walk in. This is true for all Crime Hardbacks as well, so no more scanning the entire range of the Crime section just to find what’s new.

HB Fiction

With Camden being a huge tourist attraction (40 million people visit our market every year), we have super-boosted our London section which you can find just inside the front door to your left. Whether it’s just a map or guide-book you are after or a beautiful coffee book on the capital, you’ll find it here. In fact, every book that we have on London can all be found in that part of the store, so if you after a book on Jack the Ripper or The Blitz, we’ve got the answer.

London Bay

Our Buy One, Get One Half Price Crime table has also made a more prominent appearance near the front. So all of our paperbacks on special deals can be found in the one place for easier browsing.

In order to accommodate these changes, we’re afraid that our Classics bay has gone for the chop. But fear not! We have simply integrated them into our paperback fiction. Of course we still sell Austen, Dickens and all the rest, but you’ll now find them in alphabetical order by author in our Fiction section.

We also moved our Waterstones Book Club titles to their own dedicated table as you walk in on your left. Don’t forget if you’ve read one of the titles you can always shout about it on Twitter using the hashtag #wbookclub.

And don’t forget Father’s Day which is coming up on Sunday 15th June! We’ve got the perfect read for him, including a fantastic range of cards and wrapping paper.

Father's Day Table

Well that’s all from us and we look forward to seeing you soon. In the meantime you can always contact us at camden@waterstones.com or you can follow us on Twitter: @waterstonesnw1

Who exactly is Claire North?

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Harry August

 

In 1927 there was a novel published in Germany called The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Set in Mexico in the 1920s, the story revolves around two poverty-stricken Americans who join forces with an ageing Mexican in search for gold. The book was a hit and went on to be made into a film in 1948 by the director John Huston, who also directed The Maltese Falcon as well as an adaptation of James Joyce’s Dubliners.

The most striking thing about the novel is that no-one knows who wrote it. The pen name used was B.Traven and most scholars agree that it belongs to a German stage actor called Ret Marut, although this has never been verified.

It appears that pseudonyms are back in vogue. J.K Rowling was recently ‘outed’ by The Sunday Times for publishing a crime novel under the name of Robert Galbraith, which is understandable if you want to see if people will buy the book for the quality of its writing, rather than who wrote it.

This brings us neatly onto The Fifteen Lives of Harry August. First published on the 8th April, the author is said to be Claire North. When it first arrived in our store I was fascinated by the premise and quickly turned to the back cover to find out who this new and exciting author was. That’s when I hit a brick wall. It simply states: “Claire North is a pseudonym for an acclaimed author who has previously published several novels in different genres.”

So to Google. Nothing. Twitter. Nothing. And it was this precise moment when the question: “Who is Claire North?” started to take over my life. I started to ask fellow colleagues, but I was greeted with shrugs and blank expressions. I asked our followers on Twitter, but no avail. There was nothing else for it. I had to buy the book and read it in order to try and decipher the writing style. Surely, something would give it away? A turn of phrase, style of prose.

What is clearly evident from the very first page, is that whoever Claire North is, this isn’t his/her first novel. Not by a long chalk. The crafting of language and the flow of the text is written by someone who knows exactly what they’re doing, and they’re doing it very well.

This is the story of Harry August. A man who cannot die. Well, he can die, but he just ends up being born again exactly where he was born the last time – New Year’s Day 1919. Harry is a mnemonic and can remember everything from his previous lives, which causes a bit of a problem – like having to repeatedly go through puberty over and over again.

Harry goes through several lifetimes, in each one trying to discover exactly what is going on. Building on the mistakes he has made in his previous lives, he travels the world searching for an answer or a meaning to his existence. Several lifetimes later he reveals through an advert in The Times during the 1960’s about the disaster at Chernobyl in 1986. That’s when Harry’s life/lives beginning to change.

Fortunately, we don’t have to wait too long to find out exactly who Claire North is. It will all be revealed on Simon Mayo’s show on BBC Radio 2 this Tuesday. Whoever it is, they have written a brilliant novel that I suspect will fly off of the shelves once we know exactly who authored it.

Update

We now know that Claire North is in fact the talented Catherine Webb/Kate Griffin.