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The Leader

New English Library, London, 1967
(price: 5/-; 192 pages)

(first published in Great Britain by Anthony Blond, 1965)

dedication: For Piers Jessop

The blurb on the back:

Vincent Wright is a seedy, asthmatic bank clerk who dreams of dictatorship. He looks in the mirror and sees the new British Fuehrer.
His British First Party hates Jews and niggers, holds health camps, chants slogans and stirs up race hate. His supporters are thugs, perverts, beats and spivs.
Their story - and the rise and fall of Vincent - is as topical as today's headlines.

'Brilliant study of neo-Nazi, anti-Semitism ... Gillian Freeman is among the finest contemporary novelists.' - Brigid Brophy, New Stateman
'Undoubtedly the best of her novels ... an exact and finely observed account of the lunatic right-wing fringe in Britain. I recommend this very strongly.' -
Oxford Mail

When I was about nine-years-old we had a science teacher who was obsessed with the debilitating effects of long hair on men. He was also an active pederast and always keen to let us know that Britain had been fighting the wrong enemy in the Second World War.

I only mention this charming man because he bears a striking resemblance to the hero of Gillian Freeman's great novel of neo-Nazis. Vincent Pearman is a nothing little bank clerk who meets a retired Army officer, Colonel Fox, through a shared interest in Nazi memorabilia. Between them, they agree that the country's going to the dogs, and that it's not the same as the old days of Empire: 'Young men are pampered nowadays, all that central heating and ice cream,' as Fox explains in a typically Rigsby-like diatribe. (Ice cream?)

So they form the Britain First Party, with Vincent as leader, just as soon as he's dumped his surname (suspiciously Jew-esque) and become Vincent Wright. From there on, the book's a blueprint for all subsequent 'it could happen here' novels - see Cromwell Jones for example.

It gets a bit schematic at times, but this is a fine book, as you'd expect from Gillian Freeman. She was - if you don't know her work - one of the best middle-brow novelists of the 1960s: she wrote the early gay classic The Leather Boys, a great study of porn and its offshoots in The Undergrowth of Literature, and co-wrote the screenplay for The Girl on a Motorcycle. And she knew how to get a story moving along nicely. Try this one - you'll enjoy it.

Gillian Freeman
Gillian Freeman


from the maker of:
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The Liberty Man
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Jack Would Be A Gentleman
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The Leather Boys
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The Marriage Machine
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Nazi Lady