Anything But Woolly

Jo Wilding finds The Mammoth Book of Sex Scandals more than lives up to its billing.

The Mammoth Book of Sex Scandals is a comprehensive romp through the limitless libidos of the rich and famous.  The sort of book you might pick up at the airport, or find on the holiday home bookshelf: with its colourfully headed chapters, amongst them ‘Royal Romps’ and ‘Musical Bent’, this is fun non-fiction, perfect for dipping into between dips in the pool.

Nigel Cawthorne appears to have done his research; my own threw up no outstanding libel suits.  Lying on the beach, you can therefore luxuriate in the knowledge that lawyers are not profiting obscenely from Sex Scandals’ publication, not this time round at any rate; and that your newly-acquired dinner party conversation fodder should hold up under questioning.

The accounts range from dry and convoluted (Parnell and Thomas Jefferson lack the narrative err thrust of, say, Profumo); to moving (Beethoven, fittingly, springs to mind); to downright bonkers, in every sense of the word.  Hollywood, one feels, would have been a happier place had the stars of silent film learnt to keep their traps shut and pants on after the director yelled cut.

The best stories combine titillating detail with wry commentary.  Transcripts of Charles and Camilla’s private conversations make for fascinating reading; it’s both disturbing and oddly reassuring, ‘hearing’ our future monarch get excited about life as a tampon.  How anyone could accuse the royals of being out of touch is beyond me.

The order and classification are occasionally a little contrived.  Obama kicks off proceedings in far from dramatic style, whilst Bill Clinton is omitted from the opening chapter ‘Presidential Peccadilloes’ in favour of crustier candidates.  (Don’t fret though; he’s to be found lurking in ‘Dirty Democrats’.)

This is a book I am ashamed to be seen reading; but more shameful is the fact that, every now and again, I found myself enjoying it.  May I make just one small request?  That the second edition – God help us – be illustrated.

The Mammoth Book of Sex Scandals by Nigel CawthornePublished in paperback by Robinson on 17th May 2012 £7.99