Title: In Plain Sight: The Life and Lies of Jimmy Savile. Author: Dan Davies. Published: 2014. Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
When he died in 2011, Sir Jimmy Savile was arguably one of Great Britain’s longest standing famous entertainer. His career spanned over half a century and included pioneering parts in the development of DJ-ing, the launch of music shows/radio stations such as Top of the Pops and Radio One and his infamous dream come true style show Jim’ll Fix It. Alongside this he played a pivotal role in raising money for so many charities through fund raising, his own sporting endeavours and his links to those high up in British politics and the Royal family. Over decades he had established a wholesome and almost caring image and on his death large parts of the population were devastated to lose such a high profile name. And then the truth came out.
Throughout his career Jimmy Savile had access to some of the most vulnerable in our society and he abused this power at every given opportunity. Not only did he abuse young girls, he created a whole facade to hide behind, so that the image of him with young girls, or his comments about teenagers in particular were seen as part of his jokey personality. Through friendships with those in high places he was able to hide this abuse and ensure that he always had the upper hand. Dan Davies met Jimmy Savile many times over the last decade of his life and it is these meetings, the stories that Savile told him and the subsequent police investigation that form the basis of this book.
When my aunty asked me what I was reading and I replied with “a book about Jimmy Savile” she pulled a face and asked me why. I didn’t grow up watching Savile on the television – Jim’ll Fix It was cancelled when I was 6/7 – yet he was still someone I had vague recollections of before his death and the revelations that have quite rightly tarnished his name since. He was clearly a huge part of British popular culture in the late twentieth century; in fact some of the information about his early career is quite interesting, so why not read a book about him? It’s the knowledge of his secret life that prompted my aunty’s look of disgust. It is fair to say that Jimmy Savile is one of the most, if not the most, prolific celebrity sex offender Britian has ever had the misfortune to nourish.
I can remember shortly after Savile died and all the revelations started appearing in newspapers and the general attitude of ‘of course they are saying that now, he’s dead and can’t answer back.’ I’m as guilty as the next person for feeling a little bit like that, for thinking ‘oh I thought it was like that in the 1960s/1970s and men occasionally groped girls’ arses’, I’ve been in nightclubs before and guys have grabbed my arse and I’ve just let it pass me by (or given them a swift elbow depending on my mood), so I didn’t really think much of it. I’m almost ashamed to be so blasé about my original opinions, but I try to be as honest as possible on here so I’m not going to start screaming ‘I knew he was a wrong ‘un’ when I didn’t have a clue what was being revealed.
Before I read In Plain Sight I was aware that this wasn’t the case and that Jimmy Savile’s abuse was much more serious than a pinch on the bum, but I’m not quite sure how prepared I was for how depraved and disgusting his actions were. There were passages in the book that were disturbing and simply horrific to read about, however I felt Davies dealt with them in a sensitive and truthful tone. There wasn’t a long, dramatic build up to such descriptions; they were very matter of fact, which made them all the more shocking. It is unbelievable to discover that a man renowned for his charitable fund raising had the sheer audacity to abuse so many young people and to blatantly flaunt the fact he liked young girls. As payment for an appearance he was given six local teenage girls to show him around and care for him. He was 50! And people did it. They accepted his terms and gave him whatever he wanted, in awe of his celebrity status they felt he could do no wrong.
All of this is horrific to read about and worse when you remember that this is a non-fiction book, but one of the most bizarre things is the reaction of the BBC to investigative journalists who were working on an expose of Savile’s crimes. Those high up in the BBC claim they were working on an investigation into why Surrey police didn’t press charges against an 80 year old Savile and dropped the TV feature because of this. They failed to mention the huge influx of witnesses accusing Savile of abuse, why? Because some of the abuse took place on BBC property and They wanted to run a Christmas tribute show. You almost can’t believe it!
I feel as though I’m rambling now as I have so much I want to say about this book and the sheer depravity of the man, but I’ll stop. This is a fascinating and at times horrifying read, but for someone who rarely reads non-fiction and who knew little about the man and his crimes it was also an interesting read and one I would recommend. It has certainly opened my eyes and moved away from the over sensationalised reporting in some tabloid newspapers. The one thing Davies readily admits he wasn’t able to do was reveal the real Jimmy Savile, but after reading this book it is clear to see that would have been a bloody impossible mission to achieve.