When the news began to break about the black side to Jimmy Savile’s life, like most people, I was utterly disgusted. But I grew up regarding him as a fairly creepy, perverse character, and so I can’t wholeheartedly say I was shocked by the revelations. Sick to my stomach, but not shocked.
I just kept looking at those gurning images of him leering out from the corner’s of news reports thinking: “well LOOK at him, he’s HORRIBLE!” Its almost ludicrous how bogeyman-like his face was. How was he not being investigated on a daily basis for just LOOKING like a dirty bastard?! But when you think about how many people were able to turn a blind eye to actually witnessing those ring encrusted fingers creeping up skirts, its overly hopeful to wish that someone would have locked him up based on his gargolic appearance alone.
My recoil response is the only reaction I have to Savile; I can remember Jim’ll Fix It being on sometimes as I ate my dinner, but don’t recall being particularly engaged or entertained. Maybe I was lucky, my TV viewing began at the tail end of his presenting career, so I was spared the onslaught of his appearances during the 70s. But I have always struggled to see anything appealing about him, and certainly couldn’t understand how he could possibly be seen as “desirable”. Even looking back at clips of him in his heyday: that weird snap on hair, the teeth, the clear and very apparent unfriendly air, the obvious strangeness of him – I have always been baffled by his fame and wasn’t at all rocked to find out he was a completely base human being.
Like me, Davies grew up creeped out by the guy, but to almost obsessive levels. Davies spent many years, preceding the meetings with Savile that make up this book, telling anyone who would listen about his misgivings regarding the TV star. Having happened upon a copy of Savile’s autobiography in his teens (a text that “put flesh on the skeleton of a dormant bogeyman“) and been a bemused and unimpressed audience member during a filming of Fix It as a child, Davies had Savile “fixed in my mind” and he was determined to one day “bring him down“.
In Plain Sight goes as far as possible to doing this as can been done when the quarry is already dead and rotting in the ground. Savile comes off as a thoroughly bleak and bizarre human being, almost more so than I could have imagined. He is like every bad guy, every twisted character your mind could conjure, with a layer of added horror.
This is an incredibly researched book and the relationship that develops between Davies and Savile over many years is fascinating. It fluctuates from hate to flickering warmth and back again, and you can almost feel Davies straining against his emotions towards the man, both positive and negative. A small insight perhaps into how Savile was able to manipulate just about anyone into liking him, even those who have made it their life’s work to unearth the dark side of his character.
If you are reluctant to pick this book up fearing graphic descriptions of his crimes, don’t be put off; Davies tackles the awful incidents with utter respect and humanity. There is nothing gratuitous here and victims are able to discuss what happened to them on their own terms. This book gives a voice to those who have been silenced for so long and ultimately goes someway to satisfy Davies’ desire to bring Savile down.
Unfortunately, for everyone involved, the demolishing of Savile’s kingdom came far too late. Davies’ book will stand as a record of his crimes and a supporting platform for his victims, but ultimately Savile evaded the net to the end. The image of that smiling, smirking face, dead and tucked up in bed, fingers crossed in a final gesture of “getting away with it”, must haunt all his victims, and is certainly an image I cannot shake.
And there are many, many incidents in this book that will leave you dumbfounded and incredibly angry. Personally, I will never be able to forget the story of how Savile asked for “six dolly birds and a tent” in return for an appearance at a Gala. That he got what he requested, after council meetings and press articles had discussed the matter and agreed to it, is unbelievable and deeply sickening. That a town was able to prostitute its young female population, in return for a celebrity endorsement, has to be one of the most shameful examples of his ego and bizarre, almost bewitching, power over people.
This book is upsetting and affecting, but it is astoundingly well written and if you have any inkling to read it I highly recommend it. This behavior must never be tolerated again and we must begin to try and understand how it could possibly have happened in the first place. This book goes some way to closing off one era in hope of another, its just a crying shame Savile isn’t here to read it and have that smirk wiped of his face once and for all.
- ISBN: 9781782067436
- Published by Quercus Books (out now)
- Sent review copy via Netgalley