Monday, August 15, 2005

The Devil's Advocate, Mortimer's Unofficial Biography, Smarts!

I was surprised to see this article from The [U.K.] Independent yesterday about one of my favorite writers, John Mortimer. I've always loved his Rumpole series; been devoted to his lesser known works, such as Summer's Lease; and been moved by his autobiographical work about his father, Clinging to the Wreckage. But, until now, I had no idea what a wild man he really is!

"John Mortimer, wit, raconteur, man of letters and creator of Rumpole of the Bailey, had his famously affable mood shattered yesterday by revelations in a new biography.

" 'Oh God,' he said, on learning that the book will expose salacious details of his private life, including claims that he liked to spank and be spanked. 'But what can I do? I can't stop it. It's a rather unpleasant book.'

"...Mortimer is known to the public as a brilliant figure who, aside from his work as a judge and QC, wrote the Rumpole series, the script for the classic television series The Jewel in the Crown and numerous books and plays.

"But Lord paints a very different picture, portraying him in The Devil's Advocate as a ruthless charmer and egotist who treated his first wife Penelope cruelly for the 22 years of their marriage during which he is said to have had numerous affairs. It is also claimed that he embellished many of the stories of his triumphs.

"...actress Shirley Ann Field,... who, the book alleges, was 26 when she had her affair with Mortimer, is quoted as saying: 'He was fun, enormously charming, and made me feel so special and safe. However, he had this thing about spanking with hairbrushes. I thought, God, what a strange one we've got here. I just thought the spanking was a public school sort of thing.'

"...Lord does concede that Mortimer's 'close friends, however, are unswerving in their admiration'. 'We all adore him,' said [the writer] Kathy Lette. 'He's just God's gift to womankind.' On another occasion she said Mortimer was 'a total babe magnet'.

"Mortimer said yesterday that he was dismayed that the book will be serialised, and said that an authorised biography by The Times columnist Valerie Grove, to be published by Penguin next year, would set the record straight."

Read the entire story: Mortimer smarts at book's claims he was Rumpy-Pumpy of the Bailey

A Day in the Life: John Mortimer

Buy Summer's Lease here.