In 1918, the "Vigilante" newspaper claimed that the German Secret Service held a book containing the names of 47,000 British establishment members who were sexual perverts.
It was claimed Britain was losing the war because the Germans were blackmailing these figures and thereby sapping the country's strength.
The "Vigilante" was exploiting popular belief that Britain had become a decadent state still in thrall to the immoral cult of Oscar Wilde.
The extreme right wing politics of the newspaper's publisher were becoming dangerously popular and in the sensational libel trial that followed many high society members were drawn in.
Wilde's devoted 'friend' Robbie Ross and his one time lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, both became embroiled in the bitter battle over Wilde's reputation.
The author uses original documents and archives to narrate the history of this bizarre scandal, made all the more unusual by having occurred during the final year of World War I.
He produces a portrait of wartime society, telling of transvestites in the trenches, of drug clubs in London, and of the roots of British fascism, discerning the seeds of intolerance which would inform the troubled years to come.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 256 pages
- Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
- Publication Date: 01/04/2011
- Category: British & Irish history
- ISBN: 9780715640821