BOOKS Dark knight’s bi­og­ra­phy chill­ing

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moral land­scape of pop at the time. Though the power ex­change may have been grubby and cor­rupt, he mostly took what was on of­fer. There are fewer al­leged vic­tims of as­sault in those years.

Age was against him, how­ever. He en­tered his 40s as the mu­sic scene em­braced the coun­ter­cul­ture, and it be­came in­creas­ingly im­plau­si­ble for him to pose as the hip young ec­cen­tric. Yet his power within the me­dia was grow­ing, and his predilec­tion for young girls re­mained. The great­est num­ber of the charges now laid against him date from the sub­se­quent decade, as the coun­try moved into the ’70s. In­creas­ingly, his preda­tory at­ten­tions turned to cap­tive au­di­ences in schools, hos- pitals and TV stu­dios.

Much has been made of those who cov­ered up for Sav­ile’s long ca­reer of abuse, or who turned a blind eye. This is as it should be. It would be hard for any­one work­ing in pop mu­sic at the time to claim they hadn’t heard the sto­ries. There were many in the po­lice, lo­cal busi­nesses, govern­ment, the char­ity sec­tor, and in the broad­cast and print me­dia who were like­wise con­spic­u­ous by their si­lence. So, too, in the man­age­ment ech­e­lons of board­ing schools and care homes.

Worse, Sav­ile was not a lone of­fender. Davies re­counts the tragic case of 15-year-old Claire McAlpine, who com­mit­ted sui­cide in 1971, leav­ing be­hind a di­ary record of hav­ing been pressed into sex with two BBC disc jock­eys. One of these was cer­tainly Sav­ile. The other re­mains uniden­ti­fied. Even more shock­ingly, one vic­tim, who says Sav­ile first as­saulted her in 1976 when she was nine years old, talked of be­ing abused by more than 30 men at the BBC.

Here, per­haps, is the fun­da­men­tal flaw in this book. The fo­cus is so fixed on its sub­ject that there is no anal­y­sis of a wider prob­lem. There is a de­tailed ac­count of how the post­hu­mous BBC TV show News­night’s ex­pose was sup­pressed, but big­ger ques­tions con­cern­ing moral val­ues in the coun­try’s power-struc­tures go unasked.

Maybe this isn’t the place to ask. This is, af­ter all, a por­trait of one man. As such, it’s a com­pul­sive, colour­ful and chill­ing read, with­out sen­sa­tion­al­ism. But the sig­nif­i­cance of Sav­ile seems to rest on the light he sheds on our re­cent his­tory and on the present, rather than in him­self as an in­di­vid­ual.

The As­so­ci­ated Press/Files

Jimmy Sav­ile was at the height of his fame in 1972. His power only grew, how­ever, and much has been made of those who cov­ered up for Sav­ile’s long ca­reer of abuse, or who at least turned a blind eye.

In Plain Sight: The Life and Lies of Jimmy Sav­ile

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