Political chicanery

2008-10-02 08:05

JAMES and Ben Long are a father and son team - father being a writer of fiction based on historical fact and son a playwright. But here they are writing non-fiction, an account of the events that saw Samuel Pepys, most famous to us now as a diarist but then an MP and Secretary of the Admiralty, imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1679 and in imminent danger of being executed for treason.

He was set up, and in a time of religious hysteria, his friendship with the unbending and Catholic Duke of York - later to be James II - made him a target for Whig conspirators, determined to prevent any Catholic contamination of England. And although Pepys, even when imprisoned, managed to do an extraordinary job of investigating his accuser, the thoroughly unpleasant Colonel John Scott, he never seems to have fully comprehended the full ramifications of the plot.

The Longs have done their research, and tell their story - of murder, conspiracy, sabotage leading to shipwreck, forgery, swindles and lies with energy. I did find that the story got a little bogged down in its own complications in the middle third but generally, The Plot Against Pepys is well-presented popular history, dealing with an era when political chicanery ruled. As the cliché goes, there is nothing new under the sun.

Margaret von Klemperer

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