A Scandalous Man by Gavin Esler

gavin eslerI know of Gavin Esler as he is a newscaster and reporter in the UK. I chose his book in my local library because I was sure I would enjoy it. Perhaps my expectations were too high. Esler was born in Glasgow, Scotland on 27 February 1953 and is a Scottish BBC television presenter, journalist and author. He was educated at George Heriot’s School in Edinburgh. He gained a BA in English and American literature from the at the University of Kent, England and an MA in Anglo-Irish literature with distinction the University of Leeds. Esler was a main presenter on flagship political analysis programme, Newsnight on BBC2 from January 2003 until January 2014. He is currently the deputy presenter of  BBC News at 5 and a relief presenter on the BBC News Channel. Gavin Esler is also the main presenter of the weekly news discussion programme Dateline London and its Scottish equivalent political analysis Dateline Scotland on the BBC. He lives in London, England.

A Scandalous Man begins in the spring of 2005, a dull general election looms in the shadow of the invasion of Iraq. Then there is the mysterious attempted suicide of Robin Burnett, a disgraced former Tory defence minister forever marked down by a cynical tabloid culture as “a scandalous man”. While, on the surface, Burnett is a standard-issue brutish Thatcherite who has had several extramarital affairs, one of which led to his public downfall and the end of his marriage in 1987, however, he has now fallen in love with an Iranian-American TV reporter. The affair ultimately changes his views on everything, from politics to sex.

The real “scandal” is the poisonous relationship that develops between Britain and America in the post 1979 period.Scandalous The author is very good on Burnett’s uneasy association a figure in the US adminstration, David Hickox, who implicates Burnett in arms dealing during the Iran-Iraq war. A Scandalous Man is a pretty standard tale of parliamentary power and extramarital intrigue, with an incredible plot and predictable characterisations. The sex scenes are only embarrassing.

An attempt at a less conventional structure and story are to be found alongside conventional romance,thriller. This is a multiple narrative of diverse Londoners in a post 9/11 world. The book strays into the life of Burnett’s angry son Harry, fledgling translator of Kundera, and the multicultural London he inhabits. Harry attends an Arabic for beginners class in Acton, but finds himself studying in the ridiculous situation of being in a class  with two humourless fundamentalists, one MI5 officer, who is watching them, a radical Muslim lawyer and a beautiful Turkish woman who helps to heal Harry’s wounded heart. Oh dear!

Esler has some astute political observations to make in A Scandalous Man. However, he may, have to move into less obvious, non-Newsnight type territory. With regret, I cannot recommend this book.

Valerie Penny

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