by MALACHY CARROLL Maundy Gregory by Tom Cullen (Bodley Head £3) Perhaps the "in-word" of 1974 will be "corruption." and therefore Mr Cullen's splendidly written book on one of the arch-villains of that high noon of political squalor — the six years of Lloyd George's Premiership — comes almost as a kind of cynical tract for the times.
Maundy Gregory was an honours broker, who made the audacious claim that he had the blood of eight English kings, starting with William the Conqueror, flowing through his veins. Perhaps it was this alleged blue plethora that decided his destiny as one born to hand out 'Sir' and 'Bart' to, those he invited to ennoble themselves at a profit (he claimed) of some £30,000 a year to himself!
The Coalition Liberal Chief Whip, Captain Guest, wanted to create a political fund through selling honours, but, to keep his own hands clean, he employed Gregory to select the recipients and to receive the cheques. Gregory had a fine time, until his own repeated indiscretions caught him out.
Even so, Gregory's luck ran on with only diminished volume: Those who wanted to keep their names unmentioned when the outcry arose saw to it that he had a steady income, sent in cash to him in France, for the rest of his life.
Readers will no doubt remember his name in connection with the death and strange burial of Mrs Rosse, who left him £18,000 in a will written by himself. Mr Cullen details it all here, and seems to have little doubt about Gregory's having murdered her.
This is a fascinating book about one of the muddy sideissues of a seedy period.