David Peace’s Jimmy Savile Novel

How do you deal in fiction with a figure as grotesque, as calculatedly and yet unfathomably outlandish, as Jimmy Savile? The only morally and aesthetically satisfying approach would be to write a novel about Savile in which Savile himself never appeared – a novel about the Leeds club scene, the BBC, Top of the Pops, about the NHS, Stoke Mandeville and Broadmoor, in which the characters that mattered were the victims, the enablers, the bystanders, the blithely ignorant and those in wilful denial. Blot him out entirely, but bring the institutional contexts and the human consequences of his abuses into focus. Call it, I dunno, Now Then or something – a reckoning, a commination.

Someone has to do it. David Peace is probably thoroughly sick of being asked when he’s going to do it. However, given the “Savile does not appear in person” rubric, he could quite reasonably answer that he already has – the world of 1974 is identifiably Savile’s world, corrupt, swaggering, heedlessly violent and violating. What’s needed is to bring the same vision to bear on the past 20 years, to run it right up to the present. Now Then. Do you think the age of smartphones and the internet, of instant access to information and to the means of disseminating information, doesn’t still have its secrets, hidden in plain sight?