Maxwell was a brooding presence, someone who thrived on chaos, but a man who could also by turns be charm personified. Nowadays, he is best known as father of his youngest daughter Ghislaine who languishes in a Brooklyn gaol because of the alleged activities of another monster.
John Preston (whose last book on Jeremy Thorpe was turned into a TV drama) brings Captain Bob back to life in his 300-page thriller Fall. The book is based on interviews with hundreds of people who knew him including members of the family. Preston places at centre stage the family background (most of the family died in the Holocaust). His own father was a violent man.
Preston quotes Bob Bagdikian, Dean of the Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. who said “Neither Caesar nor FDR nor any Pole has commanded as much power to shape the information on which so many people depend,” but it was not enough for Bob; he wanted to beat the man with the same initials as he, Rupert Murdoch. It was the ongoing rivalry with Murdoch who was usually one step ahead. It was this rivalry that led to his precipitous fall financially and ultimately from his boat.
Richard Stott, one of his editors, said that “it was the uncertainty and deep insecurity of the true outsider, a man who feels he has been precluded from the world of others and had therefore determined to build his own, with his own rules for his own game”.
Maxwell determined that he was going to be Prime Minister but although he was MP for Buckingham for two terms, the highest public office he reached was as head of the House of Commons Catering Department, the ultimate thankless task.