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‘The minister’s nephew recounts an extraordinary life . . . a vivid account’
HENRY DE QUETTEVILLE, Telegraph

‘Completely absorbing and told with huge compassion, integrity and skill’
CAROL ANN LEE, author of The Murders at White House Farm and A Passion For Poison

‘What a book. I didn’t have to turn the pages. They turned themselves I literally consumed the book in just a few hungry sittings . . . Julian Hayes is perfectly placed to tell this story, particularly it’s captivating human side . . . most definitely a must read’
DR SALEYHA AHSAN, filmmaker and journalist, Cambridge

In November 1974, British MP and former cabinet minister John Stonehouse walked into the sea off a beach in Miami and disappeared, seemingly drowned.

Then he was found – on the other side of the world, in Australia – and his extraordinary story began to come to light: a Labour cabinet minister and a devoted family man; also in a long-term affair with his secretary, and a spy for the Czech State Security agency, who had committed fraud and attempted to fake his own death to escape catastrophic business failures.

Was it a mental breakdown as he later claimed? Or were there more sinister reasons for his dramatic disappearance?

This is the definitive biography of Stonehouse, written by Julian Hayes, who, as the son of Stonehouse’s nephew and lawyer, Michael Hayes, is uniquely placed to tell the story of this charismatic but deeply flawed politician. As a criminal lawyer in London, Hayes has used his in-depth knowledge and experience of the criminal courts, not least the Old Bailey, where the Stonehouse trial took place, to forensically examine Stonehouse’s story, including Czech defector Josef Frolík’s claim that he was a spy.

Hayes has unearthed secret reports in the archives in Prague written by Stonehouse’s former spymasters. He has also gleaned much from family members and lawyers involved in the trial and from the trial documents and other government papers held in archives in the UK and Australia.

Reviews

What a book - and what a character. I loved every minute . . . I should imagine that had Stonehouse's life story occurred to John Le Carré as a plot for one of his novels, he would have dismissed it as too far-fetched. Completely absorbing and told with huge compassion, integrity and skill. Stonehouse was ahead of his times in many ways, yet decadent, deceitful but also very engaging and intelligent . . . it's really the power of his personality that drives the book, which is ripe for dramatic interpretation of some kind, either television or film. Julian Hayes is a born storyteller too, and his family certainly gifted him with a remarkable story that lingers long after the final reading.
Carol Ann Lee, author of <i>The Murders at White House Farm</i> and <i>A Passion For Poison</i>
[Hayes], a criminal lawyer, mounts the case for the prosecution. This is that Stonehouse was an avaricious chancer who faked his death in a last-throw attempt to escape a series of failed and fraudulent business dealings in which he had entangled innocent friends and relatives, including the author's father. While posing "as if he were the innocent victim of the entire, bizarre spectacle", Stonehouse was a "callous" man who brought "a tidal wave of distress, anguish and ruin crashing down on his extended family, not only Barbara and their children, but also dragging his nephew, Michael, and his young family under with them.
Andrew Rawnsley, Guardian
The minister's nephew recounts an extraordinary life . . . The book is a vivid account of how, in the 1960s and 1970s, Stonehouse - once tipped as a future Labour prime minister - betrayed his country, made a mockery of domestic and international law, ripped off investors and friends, humiliated both Harold Wilson and Parliament and shattered his own family and then, when the jaws of his self-made trap began to close around him, organised and executed a fake-your-own-death escape of such breathtaking chutzpah, he later tried to explain it as the work of a second personality living within him.
Harry de Quetteville, Telegraph
What a book. I didn't have to turn the pages. They turned themselves . . . Julian's sharp, succinct writing weaves fact and detail together into a captivating narrative . . . the authentic truth from the perspective of one who was a witness. Julian Hayes is perfectly placed to tell this story . . . His legal expertise makes sense of criminal proceedings, but while he beautifully lays out the factual detail, it is the human side of this very personal story that is so captivating. Some of this obtained through conversations with his family but also the recollections of a young Julian, who witnessed much of what is shared through the innocent eyes of a child. This is most definitely a must read.
Dr Saleyha Ahsan, filmmaker and journalist, Cambridge