celebrity biographer Nigel Lush,
WW1 veteran Leonard Stidges,
Sir Maurice and Lady Brearley of the Budeholme Estate,
and campaigning journalist, Arnie Stidges.
Five characters from Michael Murray’s epic novel, Magnificent Britain.
“As a biographer he’d always had an uneasy relationship with the truth.”
Part One of Magnificent Britain is set in 1971. Nigel Lush is 41 years old and a hugely successful writer of celebrity biographies. He feels that his work is not well regarded and he yearns for recognition as a serious biographer. Initially he is delighted to be commissioned to write the official biography of Sir Maurice Brearley but grows bored with it. When the biography is almost complete he receives a letter inviting him to interview Leonard Stidges a First World War veteran who claims to have revelations about Sir Maurice. Nigel is gay, a fact he keeps very much to himself despite the recent decriminalisation of homosexuality. He develops an infatuation for Arnie Stidges, Leonard’s son, whom he meets when he goes to interview Leonard. As the story unfolds Nigel finds himself caught up in the lives of Leonard and Arnie Stidges with unexpected consequences.
Sir Maurice Brearley
“The man’s a fraud. A liar and a fraud!”
Sir Maurice Brearley was born in 1893 and died aged seventy six in 1969. He was an absolute pillar of the establishment: First World War hero; arms and munitions manufacturer; prominent member of Churchill’s re-armament campaign; expert on orchids and founder of the Magnificent Britain gardening competition. Knighted in 1953, he was married to Lady Celia Brearley and dedicated his life to horticulture and the restoration of Budeholme House and its gardens. He inherited the Budeholme Estate from his mother’s family along with huge wealth from his industrialist father. To celebrate the twenty fifth anniversary of the Magnificent Britain Competition and to commemorate the life of Sir Maurice, Nigel Lush is commissioned to write an official biography. When he hears shocking allegations from Leonard Stidges, Nigel is forced to re-appraise his subject and attempt to tell the true story of this “Magnificent Briton.”
Lady Celia Brearley.
“Hypocrisy is the rock on which all civilised society is founded.”
Lady Celia Brearley is the widow of Sir Maurice Brearley. In 1971, when Part One of the novel begins, she is fifty two years old. She was married to Sir Maurice in 1937 when she was just eighteen and he was forty four. Like her husband, she too is a passionate horticulturalist. Lady Celia is also a recovering alcoholic who when drunk becomes outrageous and salacious. Nigel Lush visits her at Budeholme House to finalise the proofs of her late husband’s official biography. She is fiercely protective of Sir Maurice’s reputation but under the influence of drink she attempts to seduce Nigel and reveals much more about Sir Maurice’s life than she ever has before.
“I only got in touch with you because Dad asked me to. He heard you were writing a book about Brearley and wanted you to find out the truth. You’re a writer aren’t you? Aren’t you supposed to be interested in the truth?”
Arnie Stidges is the handsome, athletic son of Leonard Stidges. In 1971 he is aged thirty six and is employed as a sports reporter on the Medway Argus, his local newspaper. He is concerned to make his father’s last days as meaningful as possible and contacts Nigel Lush on Leonard’s behalf so that the old man can offload his memories of Sir Maurice Brearley. When Nigel has completed his interview with Leonard he contrives further reasons to meet with Arnie. His plans are scuppered however when Arnie telephones Nigel to inform him that Leonard has died. Undeterred, Nigel invites himself to Leonard’s funeral where he makes even more remarkable discoveries.
“We were both walking with a limp. That made me laugh. I remember thinking to meself, I know how I got my limp lad and I certainly know how you got yours.”
In 1971 Leonard Stidges is eighty one years old. He is frail, bedridden and dying from cancer. He has heard that Nigel Lush is writing the official biography of Sir Maurice Brearley and asks to see him. He wants to share with Nigel all he knows about the illustrious war hero with whom he served in the trenches of the Western Front. Leonard makes serious allegations about Sir Maurice but it is only when Nigel has listened to Lady Celia’s drunken confidences that he starts to take Leonard seriously.
Now read on ….
To read a free sample of Magnificent Britain click the Preview button below. (Readers should be aware that this is a novel for adults and there are a couple of scenes of a sexual nature.)