TITLE & AUTHOR: In Plain Sight (The Life and Lies of Jimmy Savile) by Dan Davies
RELEASE DATE: 17 July 2014
PAGES: 592 pages
WHAT’S IT’S ABOUT
Winner of the 2015 Gordon Burn Prize and the 2015 CWA Non-Fiction Dagger
Shortlisted for the Orwell Prize and the James Tait Black Prize
Dan Davies has spent more than a decade on a quest to find the real Jimmy Savile, and interviewed him extensively over a period of seven years before his death. In the course of his quest, he spent days and nights at a time quizzing Savile at his homes in Leeds and Scarborough, lunched with him at venues ranging from humble transport cafes to the Athenaeum club in London and, most memorably, joined him for a short cruise aboard the QE2. Dan thought his quest had come to an end in October 2011 when Savile’s golden coffin was lowered into a grave dug at a 45-degree angle in a Scarborough cemetery. He was wrong. In the last two and a half years, Dan has been interviewing scores of people, many of them unobtainable while Jimmy was alive. What he has discovered was that his instincts were right all along and behind the mask lay a hideous truth. Jimmy Savile was not only complex, damaged and controlling, but cynical, calculating and predatory. He revelled in his status as a Pied Piper of youth and used his power to abuse the vulnerable and underage, all the while covering his tracks by moving into the innermost circles of the establishment.
Shortly before midnight, on a hill overlooking the North Yorkshire seaside town of Scarborough, the wrought-iron gates of Woodlands Cemetery were locked shut.
WHAT I THOUGHT
I have my own, personal reasons for wanting to read this book. The Jimmy Savile case is infamous. After his death he was accused of sexually molesting children. These accusations triggered similar accusations for many British celebrities under Operation Yewtree. I suspected what Savile was when I was a child and saw him on Jim’ll Fix It. He made my flesh crawl and I thought he was a dirty old man. I’m only sorry he died before rotting in jail for his crimes. I hope hell is hot enough for him.
In Plain Sight is a difficult book to read and judge. I found the book fascinating and repulsive in equal measures. Even though the book deals with Jimmy’s life and the accusations after his death that destroyed his reputation, there is no sensationalism or gory details – no attempt to gossip or share scandal. In Plain Sight could have been such a book and no doubt there has been but instead the book attempts to explore who Savile was and why he was allowed to get away with what he did for so long. There is no doubt Saville did a lot for charity. He raised millions but not a penny of that cancels out the sexual abuse. The book implies Saville was obsessed with raising money for because he thought this was his salvation. He could groom and molest children as long as kept raising his millions. It doesn’t work like that. The most fascinating aspects of In Plain Sight is the portrait of Savile, his rise to fame, his oddity and charisma and how it won so many people over, his obsession for young girls and just how he got away with it for so long. One of the most shocking aspects of In Plain Sight was how many people turned a blind eye to the molestation or facilitated it by providing him an entourage of young girls or access to them. A lot of people will burn in hell with him. In Plain Sight is an honest, often disturbing glimpse into how our society allowed a monster to thrive.