A North Devon journalist has moved from one controversial character to another with Jeremy Thorpe as the subject of his latest book.

North Devon MP and former Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe was once described as a 'dazzlingly talented man'. Picture: PA/PA WireNorth Devon MP and former Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe was once described as a 'dazzlingly talented man'. Picture: PA/PA Wire

Following the success of his study of Lady Chatterley's Lover author D H Lawrence, Chittlehampton-based Philip Dalling has spent the last few months pursuing the life and legend of the former Liberal Party leader and North Devon MP, whose career ended shrouded in scandal.

The new book, Jeremy Thorpe A Dazzlingly Talented Man is published by Halsgrove and follows the summer portrayal of Thorpe by Hugh Grant in the BBC drama A Very English Scandal.

Philip said: "Following the recent television dramatisation of the Thorpe story, Halsgrove chairman Stephen Pugsley, who has strong North Devon connections, was struck by how popular and respected the former MP remains in his old constituency, among political allies and opponents alike - despite the Norman Scott Affair and the 1979 Old Bailey trial.

"Halsgrove commissioned me to write the book and I agreed providing I could get the backing of people locally who had known and worked with Jeremy through both triumph and disaster.

Philip Dalling says his new book is more about the man and his political career, rather than the events which ended his career. Picture : PA/PA WirePhilip Dalling says his new book is more about the man and his political career, rather than the events which ended his career. Picture : PA/PA Wire

"The family of Thorpe's long-time political agent, the late Lilian Prowse, and Peter Bray, Lilian's assistant during the Thorpe years and later agent for the constituency in his own right, have made particularly valuable contributions.

"The book would lack credibility if it attempted to ignore the Scott affair and the trial, but the major thrust is Thorpe's political life and achievements.

"The title is taken from a quote by a political journalist writing in a national newspaper, and is one of many assessments of Thorpe's life and work by leading figures in the Westminster world.

"People active in politics locally during the Thorpe era have also contributed their memories and their views, from a time when the Liberal Party had some 60 local branches in North Devon's towns and villages."

Hugh Grant on the set of A Very English Scandal in Chittlehampton. Jeremy Thorpe lived nearby and was well regarded by locals. Picture: Matt SmartHugh Grant on the set of A Very English Scandal in Chittlehampton. Jeremy Thorpe lived nearby and was well regarded by locals. Picture: Matt Smart

Philip, whose family roots in North Devon stretch back more than 200 years, lived and worked for many years in the Erewash Valley, on the border between Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, which was the setting for D H Lawrence's finest novels and short stories.

Lawrence was controversial not only for his explicit novels but also for his behaviour while living in the West Country during World War One.

He and his German-born wife, Frieda, who was a distant relative of the flying ace Manfred von Richtofen, the `Red Baron', were expelled from Cornwall in 1917 under the Defence of the Realm Act, suspected of sending messages to German ships lying off the coast of the county.

Hugh Grant as Jeremy Thorpe and Ben Whishaw as Norman Scott on the set of A Very English Scandal in Chittlehampton. Picture: Matt SmartHugh Grant as Jeremy Thorpe and Ben Whishaw as Norman Scott on the set of A Very English Scandal in Chittlehampton. Picture: Matt Smart