Now vanishing into the mist and the Thames mud, its actors either long dead or elderly, the Profumo case is netted up from...


AN AFFAIR OF STATE: The Profumo Case and the Framing of Stephen Ward

Now vanishing into the mist and the Thames mud, its actors either long dead or elderly, the Profumo case is netted up from the deeps and found still to be wriggling with life. British authors Knightley and Kennedy (not that Caroline Kennedy) have performed a piece of major magic in this densely detailed, ever-vivid act of reclamation. Being reclaimed to society is Dr. Stephen Ward, the great victim of this fiasco. An osteopath and pencil portrait artist, Ward suddenly found himself rising through society once he had laid his marvelous thumbs and fingers on Gandhi and Churchill and brought relief to their bones and lesions. He became society's osteopath. Among his clients was Billy Astor, an immensely wealthy neurotic who not only fell spellbound by Ward's bone-handling but also by his bevy of teen-age followers. Ward, a charming reconteur but not highly sexed man, kept his apartment open for fresh young female waifs who tramped in and out at will and whom he would shape and refashion. Billy Astor adored Ward's troupe and gave him a grand cottage to use for parties and as he wished on the huge Astor grounds called Cliveden. Among Ward's troupe was Christine Keeler, who slept around. Yevgeny Ivanov, a Russian naval attachÉ and ben vivant, became a close friend of Ward's, a fact which came to the eye of British Intelligence. MI5 enlisted Ward to use lvanov as a kind of unofficial phone booth to Moscow. Come the Cuban missile crisis, the Ward-Ivanov telephone line to Kruschev paid off handsomely. However, when the tabloids discovered that John Profumo, the British war minister, was supposedly sharing a bed with Christine Keeler, who was supposedly sleeping with the Russian attachÉ, the ensuing scandal nearly toppled the Harold Macmillan government and brought about Profumo's resignation and Ward's completely unwarranted conviction as a procurer (he was ""out in the cold"" as far as MI5 was concerned). Disillusioned to the bone, Ward suicided. All told, a glow of sadness hangs over this vastly well-told tale, a sense of lost illusions for everyone concerned, including the reader.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 1987


Page Count: -

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1987