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Carman, Dominic

CARMAN, Dominic


PERSONAL: Married; children: three. Education: Attended Durham University.


ADDRESSES: Offıce—c/o London Business Review, Delta House, 175/177 Borough High St., London SE1 1HR, England.


CAREER: Worked in banking, then for News International and Euromoney Publications; IIR (conference company), European head of operations; London Business Review, founder and publisher, 2000—.


WRITINGS:


No Ordinary Man: A Life of George Carman, Hodder and Stoughton (London, England), 2002.


SIDELIGHTS: Dominic Carman is both the son and biographer of George Carman, a prominent British lawyer who was perhaps best known for handling libel suits. No Ordinary Man: A Life of George Carman describes the public and private sides of the elder Carman, who came from a middle-class family in the north of England. George Carman first became famous in 1979 when he won the acquittal of Jeremy Thorpe, onetime head of Britain's Liberal Party, who had been charged with conspiring to murder a man alleged to have been his lover. Later, Carman won numerous libel suits brought by celebrities, such as singer Elton John, actor Tom Cruise, and publisher Robert Maxwell. Sometimes he crossed to the other side, acting in defense of newspapers against libel claims, and was usually victorious. For all his success in court, however, he had many failings in his personal life, according to his son's account, which was published a year after George Carman's death. Dominic Carman reports that his father was an alcoholic, a reckless gambler, an abusive husband, and a cruel, cold parent. He also believes his father may have been sexually molested as a child—a possible explanation for some of his later behaviors. He further makes the case that George was a repressed homosexual or bisexual who was tormented by the denial of his true nature.


No Ordinary Man "reads strangely . . . albeit grip-pingly," commented Emma Brockes in the London Guardian. She noted that many of George Carman's former associates have denounced his son for the book's negative portrayal, but "in his defence, Dominic says that they saw only one side of his father and that a biography, if it is to be worthwhile, must tell the whole truth." Spectator reviewer Jonathan Sumption, though, had a different point of view: "George Carman was not important enough for his personal problems to become public property. There is no need to lie about them, when it is possible to say nothing about them at all." For Sumption, the chapter in which all three of George Carman's wives detail his violence toward them, sometimes committed in front of Dominic, is unnecessary information. Guardian critic Alan Rusbridger, however, found this chapter "revelatory" and added, "Uncomfortable though these testimonies are, it is difficult to deny the right—some would even argue duty—of these women, Ursula, Celia and Frances, to tell their stories."

Rusbridger continued, "Many who liked Carman and others who have cause to be grateful to him will find these sections distressing. They will struggle to reconcile the mischievous, gossipy friend and the loyal, tenacious advocate of fond memory with this new and disturbing evidence of a bullying, at times frightening, domestic tyrant. But then that struggle to reconcile the good and the bad, the admirable and the ugly, is at the heart of Dominic Carman's own exploration."

Rusbridger thought the biography "more patchy" in dealing with George Carman's legal career, with the stories of his cases "well told" but offering "few fresh disclosures," except in the portion dealing with Carman's defense of the Guardian in a suit brought by former government official Jonathan Aitken. This section features extensive interviews with Aitken, the judge in the case, and other interested parties. Independent contributor Robert Verkaik, on the other hand, praised the narratives of certain cases, relating, "Dominic Carman's excellent use of original legal papers provides valuable insight into the case of Ken Dodd, who stood trial for tax evasion. . . . [George] Carman skillfully played on his client's persona as a scatterbrained eccentric, incapable of a complicated act of fraud." Rusbridger summed up the book by saying, "It is, by turns, funny, painful, voyeuristic, Pooterish, muddled, touching, unbalanced, amateurish, painful, racy, angry and—despite it all—affectionate." Meanwhile, Verkaik concluded, "Many have said that Dominic dared not write this book while his father was alive—for fear of being sued. But it remains a painstaking investigation into a life which George Carman had gone to great lengths to hide."


BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:


periodicals


Daily Mail, January 25, 2002, Tom Bower, "The Guilt of Carman QC," p. 51.

Guardian, January 14, 2002, Paul Kelso, "'Dark Side' of Libel Lawyer Revealed," p. 11; January 25, 2002, Emma Brockes, "Daddy Dearest," p. 4; January 26, 2002, Alan Rusbridger, "Carman v. Carman," p. 9.

Independent, January 24, 2002, Robert Verkaik, "The Demons That Drove the Great Defender," Comment section, p. 5.

Spectator, February 2, 2002, Jonathan Sumption, review of No Ordinary Man: A Life of George Carman, p. 31.

Times Literary Supplement, February 8, 2002, Michael Beloff, "Silken Dalliance," p. 27.*

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