Fortune’s Spear: The Story of the Blue-Blooded Rogue Behind the Notorious City Scandal of the 1920s
Gerard Lee Bevan was the model of an Edwardian swell arrogant, smooth, wellconnected and highly cultured. He married money and influence; his wife Sophie Kenrick was a cousin of the future prime minister Neville Chamberlain and over the years he kept a string of showgirl mistresses. But his was a success built on fraud and deception, and eventually Bevan could sustain the fiction no longer.
After a series of desperate swerves, he fled the country on 8 February 1922, abandoning his family and leaving his stockbroking and insurance empire in ruins. Thus began an extraordinary flight across Europe disguised as a Frenchman, using a stolen passport, with his mistress at his side. His subsequent arrest in Vienna, and the Old Bailey trial that followed, would shock the entire country.
Fortune’s Spear is a parable of the way in which the prospect of easy money draws risk-takers in every era into a spiral of greed and deceit. Bevan may have been forgotten but he richly deserves to be remembered. Drawing on contemporary evidence and told with novelistic flair, Martin Vander Weyer s gripping biography brings him vividly to life.
A wonderfully vivid biography of the man responsible for one of the great City scandals. The world that Martin Vander Weyer recreates with a novelist’s flair and historian’s attention to detail may be long gone, but this very human morality tale of high talent and high connection fatally compromised by a flawed character is timeless.
- David Kynaston, author of City of London: The History
Exciting stuff … It is a rattling good yarn and leaves you wondering whether the man had a rotten core from the beginning or whether it was addiction to money and social position which seduced him into crime. It is a cautionary tale.
- Martin Jacomb, The Spectator
This well-researched and well-written book is more than the story of a City scandal. It is a fascinating slice of social history and a rumination on fraud and folly.
- Allan Massie, The Scotsman
Fortune’s Spear is a splendidly rich account of a fraud that both symbolises its own era and prefigures our own. Unlike many financial writers, Vander Weyer writes so clearly that even a financial illiterate like myself can just about grasp what he is getting at. He also has a wonderfully broad frame of cultural reference.
- Craig Brown, Book of the Week, Daily Mail