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No Ordinary Man: A Life of George Carman

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | No Ordinary Man: A Life of George Carman.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Dominic Carman(Author)

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The successful defence of former Liberal leader, Jeremy Thorpe, on charges of conspiracy to murder, made Geroge Carman QC famous. His mastery of cross-examination and speech-making succeeded in winning a string of high-profile cases that earned him the titles of Great Defender and King of Libel. 'Gorgeous George' attracted a string of celebrity clients and his public triumphs made front page news. Yet, this very private man remained a mystery. In a full and frank account of his life, Dominic Carman explains how his father, the ambitious boy from Blackpool, fought to become the star of the Bar. This compelling account, reveals the story of a man whose private life was as extraordinary as his public life was successful.

It is quoted in No Ordinary Man that 10 days before he died of prostate cancer at the beginning of 2001, George Carman whispered quietly to his son, Dominic: "I'm not going to be able to do it," he said. "You'd better do it instead". After a lifetime at the Bar during which he had risen to become one of the highest profile barristers in British legal history, Carman's decision to ask his son to write his biography may just have proved to be the one of the few gambles he took that backfired. For sure we get plenty of details and insight into his celebrity trials, involving Jeremy Thorpe, Elton John, Tom Cruise, the Hamiltons, Jonathan Aitken et al, but what sticks in the mind is the portrait of Carman the private man. Dominic pulls no punches as his father emerges as a chain-smoking alcoholic with homosexual tendencies, who repeatedly beat all three of his wives. Some may view this as the ultimate in filial disloyalty, while others may see it as an abusive bully getting his just desserts. More importantly than either, perhaps, it's honest biography. Those who reckon that the great and the good should be exempt from close personal examination, and that they should stand and fall by their achievements, miss several tricks. Getting to the very top often involves a ruthless trampling over the feelings of colleagues, friends and families and it is to Dominic's credit that he is prepared to lay bare the price his father paid for his years in the limelight. It certainly helps to explain how barristers like Carman can live with the knowledge that their advocacy has kept a guilty person out of prison, or more worryingly, put an innocent one inside. We are told that Carman drew no pleasure from the fact that the Coronation Street star, Peter Adamson, admitted his guilt on charges of indecent assault five years after he was successfully defended, and yet Dominic goes on to say that "privately, many jokes were made about confessions emerging from other guilty people he had got off". Clearly, George was a man who liked to have things both ways. But Dominic's approach does leave just one last matter unsolved. Would his father be happy at the posthumous treatment he has received? On that one, the jury is likely to remain out.--John Crace

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Book details

  • PDF | 331 pages
  • Dominic Carman(Author)
  • Hodder & Stoughton Ltd; 1st edition (24 Jan. 2002)
  • English
  • 5
  • Biography

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Review Text

  • By catherine on 15 May 2004

    I'm really not sure whether biographies that set out to tell the true story about someone's life always hit the mark. Relatives often make bad biographers because they lack objective judgement. So I began this with a degree of scepticism. But Dominic Carman has done an excellent job here by giving what is obviously an honest account of a very unusual life story. In revealing the truth about his father, Dominic shows us two sides of a truly remarkable man.George Carman was clearly never ordinary in any convential sense.As this book graphically tells us he was a serial wife beater, an alcoholic and a compulsive gambler. He was also the best jury advocate of his generation, a great speechmaker and a brilliant cross-examiner of witnesses - that much is evident from the majority of the narrative which is devoted to recording his cases in court. The triumphs are well documented and easy to read. So too is Carman's desperate other life. In what is a very readable book, it is difficult to draw any firm conclusion, except to agree with the author's verdict that Carman was indeed 'No Ordinary Man.'

  • By Verity on 24 July 2017

    This is a fascinating account of a man who had a lot of different aspects to his life. His public life could not have been more different from his private life. He represented many very famous people in the 80s and 90s from all walks of life. I did see him in action through my work and he was a brilliant orator. The end of the book is slightly unusual. We chose it to read and discuss at my book group and there was plenty of material . I would recommend this, even if you are not interested in the law.

  • By Nicola on 13 August 2017

    Good book but sad and strange man who it seems was very clever at his job and poorly equiped in all other aspects of life. Begs the question as to why his son felt the need to write about these things?

  • By B. J. snellgrove on 3 November 2015

    the candid behind-the-scenes look at this remarkable man who inspired fear in his adversaries

  • By A. BUTTERWORTH on 7 July 2006

    When I heard George Carman on Desert Island Discs in 1990 I was disappointed how little he revealed about himself. So, apparently was Sue Lawley. Carman was like a witness determined to give nothing away under cross examination. The reason is revealed in this fascinating biography; Carman's private life was too desperately awful to be made public. So bad that it is astonishing that his high-profile career didn't implode under the weight of the sort of revelations that he was so expert at extracting from witnesses in court. It seems likely that Carman was a repressed homosexual. His only sexual contact with any of his wives appears to have been the minimum needed to produce a son. And yet he was anxious to be seen as a ladies' man and also to have a permanent female partner in life. A drunkard, serial wife-beater, intellectual and physical bully, and compulsive gambler, he earned more than a million a year at his peak and threw most of it away, staving off bankruptcy more than once by selling the family home. So disdainful of his own father that he had to be persuaded to attend his funeral yet making his son his principal confidant and almost a partner-in-crime.For anyone who followed Carman's legal career in the media this book is a must-read to learn about the man behind the headlines. The facts portrayed are stranger than fiction and the description of Carman as "no ordinary man" is revealed to be a considerable understatement.

  • By A. R. Pickard on 2 August 2017

    Not a bad read, however he should be regarded for what he was a nasty little man, serial wife beater, a drunk, hiring prostitutes and rent boys, to say that he was a good advocate is like saying Joseph Menegle was a good physician or that Jimmy Savile was a good DJ.His family ought to be ashamed of this disgusting creature.


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