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Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Beneath The Streets by Adam Macqueen

Beneath The Streets by Adam Macqueen.
Published in ebook format 2nd March 2020 and in paperback 13th April 2020 by Lightning Books.
Read April 2020.

When Jeremy Thorpe hired thugs to kill his ex-lover, they botched it. What if they had succeeded?

It is February 1976, and the naked corpse of a shockingly underage rent boy is fished out of a pond on Hampstead Heath. Since the police don’t seem to care, twenty-year-old Tommy Wildeblood – himself a former ‘Dilly boy’ prostitute – finds himself investigating.

Dodging murderous Soho hoodlums and the agents of a more sinister power, Tommy uncovers another, even more shocking crime: the Liberal leader and likely next Home Secretary, Jeremy Thorpe, has had his former male lover executed on Exmoor and got clean away with it. Now the trail of guilt seems to lead higher still, and a ruthless Establishment will stop at nothing to cover its tracks.

In a gripping thriller whose cast of real-life characters includes Prime Minister Harold Wilson, his senior adviser Lady Falkender, gay Labour peer Tom Driberg and the investigative journalist Paul Foot, Adam Macqueen plays ‘what if’ with Seventies political history – with a sting in the tail that reminds us that the truth can be just as chilling as fiction.


What a cracking book! I absolutely flew through this alternate history of Seventies political history and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Adam Macqueen takes the whole Jeremy Thorpe affair and skillfully reworks it into an alternate reality in which the assassination attempt against his ex-lover, Norman Scott, actually succeeded - rather than resulting in the accidental shooting of his dog, Rinka.

At the beginning of the story, we meet our would be hero, Alex (aka Tommy Wildeblood), a down on his luck ex-rent boy who is scraping together an existence by helping a private detective snap pictures of in-the-closet gay men in compromising situations for the purpose of divorce proceedings. The rather extravagant nom de plume Alex uses, Tommy Wildeblood, is in fact taken from his favourite book, Against the Law, which he credits as being the one book that saved him during his difficult adolescent years, when he was struggling with his sexuality - a book that has now become his constant companion and a kind of talisman.

Tommy finds himself accidentally involved in an investigation into the death of an under-age rent boy called Stephen, whose body has been pulled out of a pond on Hampstead Heath. The police seem determined to put this death down to misadventure, but Stephen was clearly beaten before he died and Tommy finds it very suspicious when Special Branch seem to be keen to play down any talk of murder.

As the plot thickens, Tommy stumbles across what seems to be an enormous cover-up of the private goings on of the leader of the Liberal Party, Jeremy Thorpe - who it appears has somewhat of a double life as a respectable family man and MP during the day and as a flamboyant gay man about town at night. When he finds out that Jeremy Thorpe's ex-lover, Norman Scott has also been murdered and the death again covered up, Tommy knows that he must carry on with his quest for justice to the bitter end.

What follows is a web of intrigue worthy of a political spy novel, with abductions, threats of violence, suspicious deaths and deep dark conspiracies that take us to the very heart of the corridors of power of the Seventies! The tension is palpable and you do not know how Tommy is going to survive in this arena of heavyweights. It's addictive, thrilling and utterly delicious and has the most chilling of twists at the end. But enough of spoilers will pass my lips...

One of the things I most enjoyed about this book is the care Adam Macqueen has taken with setting the scene for Beneath The Streets

This is a country which is still findings its way in the aftermath of the legalisation of homosexuality for men over 21 in 1967. Society in general is not comfortable with the idea of men or women being openly gay and prejudice is still rife - although we are starting to see some hopeful signs of change. It is not surprising then that Tommy and his friends are very careful about how they live their lives, even when on the right side of the law - and the threat of violence is palpable. This really adds to the feeling of danger surrounding Tommy's quest.

The way Adam Macqueen describes 1970s London, especially around Soho, is so beautifully done that you can almost feel yourself walking among those sleazy streets, full of sex shops, topless bars and the like. It's grimy, raw, open in its intentions, and feels completely authentic, but is also makes a wonderful contrast to the environs Tommy finds himself in later in the book - even the clean, salubrious and apparently upstanding streets of London hide a shady side that is every bit as sordid - and I loved this.

I must also say that Adam Macqueen has done an absolutely stellar job with the way he uses the references to popular culture in this book - it was just like being back in the 1970s! And drop in a well done for the title of the book - I always love a clever title!

Although I vaguely remember the infamous Jeremy Thorpe trial in 1979, being only 12 and much more interested in the popular culture side of the time that Adam Macqueen refers to so well in this book, I admit I could not remember many of the details. So before I embarked on my adventure with Tommy Wildblood I made sure to have a quick refresh of what actually happened, and I highly recommend that you do the same - by the way, the history reads like a novel in itself, so be prepared. Doing this research certainly enhanced my enjoyment of this book and my admiration for the excellent job Adam Macqueen has done here. Very impressive indeed, Mr Macqueen.

I heartily recommend this book, and can't wait to read Tommy's next adventure, The Enemy Within

Thank you to Adam Macqueen and Lightning Books for providing me with a copy of this book, in return for an honest review. 

Beneath The Streets is available to buy now from your favourite book retailer.

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