The story starts earlier. The legendary American faction writer, Dominick Dunne, the factional heir to Truman Capote, was friendly with Jimmy Goldsmith and John Aspinall, spending many evenings with them in the Clairmont Club and Annabelles.
In the mid-1980s, Jimmy Goldsmith and John Aspinall told Dominick Dunne, who was renowned for his rigorous research skills, that they had a problem – they had lost Lord Lucan.
The story they told Dominick Dunne was that, after the murder of Sandra Rivett, they had smuggled Lord Lucan out of the country where he had spent a decade on estates owned by Jimmy Goldsmith in South America.
However, Lord Lucan wanted to return to the UK because he was desperate to see his children and, being a man of fastidious British upper-class habits, hated living abroad. So Jimmy Goldsmith and John Aspinall had him declared dead and smuggled him back into the UK.
Then he disappeared.
Dominick Dunne sat on the story because, after all, he was American and wrote about major American scandals, not English ones of no interest to an American public. Then, around twelve years ago, Kathleen Hewtson contacted Dominick Dunne as a fan of his and said she wanted to write factions too, and he suggested that she research the Lord Lucan case.
Which she did.
Lady Lucan was easy to find via the Internet as her e-mail address was published on her website, but she was not interested in talking to Kathleen as Kathleen, young and American, did not know how to address a member of the British Aristocracy properly. So Kathleen asked an upper-class English friend of hers to rephrase her communications in an appropriately deferential manner, and eventually Lady Lucan started responding, leading to an intense six month correspondence.
The story Lady Lucan told Kathleen about her upbringing, their courtship, their honeymoon and the events leading up to Lord Lucan’s disappearance were riveting. The denouement of what happened after Lord Lucan returned to the UK was jaw-dropping.
While ‘Dark Green Nights’, being fictional, is not a faithful biography of the relationship between Lord and Lady Lucan as such, it borrows heavily from the conversations conducted between Kathleen Hewtson and Lady Lucan and the speculations that were raised. Indeed, there are scenes in the book that Kathleen wrote not understanding their social significance which would be immediately apparent to someone who is English, such as when the fictional girlfriend of the aristocrat spends a weekend with friends of his and is sent to sleep in the old servants’ quarters while her aristocratic boyfriend is allocated a guest room.
Is the story true? Who knows? That is why it is a fiction.
Might ‘Dark Green Nights’ finally answer a question posed for nearly forty years – what happened to Lord Lucan?
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