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Playboys and Mayfair Men: Crime, Class, Masculinity, and Fascism in 1930s London

Angus McLaren

6 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 1421423472 / ISBN 13: 9781421423470
Published by Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017
New Condition: New Hardcover
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Bibliographic Details

Title: Playboys and Mayfair Men: Crime, Class, ...

Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press

Publication Date: 2017

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition: New

About this title

Synopsis:

In December 1937, four respectable young men in their twenties, all products of elite English public schools, conspired to lure to the luxurious Hyde Park Hotel a representative of Cartier, the renowned jewelry firm. There, the "Mayfair men" brutally bludgeoned diamond salesman Etienne Bellenger and made off with eight rings that today would be worth approximately half a million pounds. Such well-connected young people were not supposed to appear in the prisoner’s dock at the Old Bailey. Not surprisingly, the popular newspapers had a field day responding to the public’s insatiable appetite for news about the upper-crust rowdies and their unsavory pasts.

In Playboys and Mayfair Men, Angus McLaren recounts the violent robbery and sensational trial that followed. He uses the case as a hook to draw the reader into a revelatory exploration of key interwar social issues, from masculinity and cultural decadence to broader anxieties about moral decay. In his gripping depiction of Mayfair’s celebrity high life, McLaren describes the crime in detail, as well as the police investigation, the suspects, their trial, and the aftermath of their convictions.

Review:

"Angus McLaren is the most imaginative, productive, and thorough scholar I know in the history of modern sexuality and gender studies. Clear, witty, and thematically rich, his engaging book effectively brings alive the social, cultural, and urban scene of 1930s London in a way that readers of crime dramas and mystery thrillers will enjoy. A tour de force."

(Robert A. Nye, author of Crime, Madness and Politics in Modern France: The Medical Concept of National Decline)

"Playboys and Mayfair Men is a rich, innovative and exciting cultural history of 1930s Britain. McLaren uses a sensational robbery case as a starting point, before taking us on a thought-proving journey encompassing the topics of crime, class, gender, sexuality and politics. Essential reading for anyone interested in the 'devil's decade'."

(Adrian Bingham, coauthor of Tabloid Century: The Popular Press in Britain, 1896 to the Present)

"A fascinating story, a model of research and analysis, and beautifully written, Playboys and Mayfair Men is that rare thing: a book that entertains the reader as much as it challenges the boundaries of existing scholarship. This is essential reading for anyone interested in twentieth-century Britain."

(Stephen Brooke, author of Sexual Politics: Sexuality, Family Planning, and the British Left from the 1880s to the Present Day)

"If London society found the 1938 sensational trial of the 'Mayfair Men' riveting, so too will readers of this exhilarating book. Combining accessibility with erudition, Angus McLaren brilliantly demonstrates how the 1930s’ 'playboy' became a cipher for current anxieties concerning gender, class, crime, generation, and politics. This is cultural history at its best."

(Lucy Bland, author of Modern Women on Trial: Sexual Transgression in the Age of the Flapper)

"With four 'idle and seductive' London upper-class men’s violent crime in 1938, atop resonant evidence of their generation’s resistance to Depression-era impingement upon expected class, gender and sex privileges―in a grim contra-parallel with flappers (for which see Lucy Bland, Modern Women on Trial)―McLaren has done it again. A riveting tour de force, shrewd, erudite, compelling."

(Judith A. Allen, author of Sex and Secrets: Crimes Involving Australian Women since 1880)

"a detailed contextual analysis of the period and its obsessions."

(Times Higher Education)

"I found Playboys & Mayfair Men riveting."

(Literary Review)

"[McLaren] succeeds in extracting from a seedy tale some novel insights into the culture of pre-war Britain."

(New Statesman)

"McLaren uses an impressive range of sources, both primary and secondary, to plunge deeply into the world of Mayfair men not only in the 1930s but also in the postwar world. In a sense, they were the successors of the flappers and the Bright Young Things of the 1920s."

(Peter Stansky, Stanford University Journal of Interdisciplinary History)

"The book is a delight to read, due largely to its effective organization, clear analysis of the playboy identity, and the timeliness of its portrayal of class and gendered entitlement... McLaren's style is compact and clear throughout, and the book would be an excellent addition to readers' lists for students interested in gender, class, and interwar Britain. On a more general level, the subject matter will appeal to anyone aware of the class privilege and playboy mentalities increasingly on display in our contemporary world."

(Brett Bebber, Old Dominion University H-Net Reviews)

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