“Conspiracy of Secrets” review

F1 reviews

The motor racing world knew Louis Stanley as the former manager of the BRM team who also made a significant contribution to improving safety standards in Formula One.

This searing new book by his stepdaughter Bobbie Neate makes the astonishing claim that Stanley was the son of former prime minister Herbert Asquith, who had an affair with a woman named Venetia Stanley.

Louis Stanley married into the world of F1 when he took his second wife, Jean Owen, who was the sister of Sir Alfed Owen, who owned BRM. Author Neate was one of Jean’s children from her previous marriage.

Through BRM, Stanley introduced Marlboro sponsorship to Formula 1, famously entering a five-car team in 1972. He also helped improve safety in the sport, setting up the Grand Prix Medical Unit which travelled to European races to provide medical care to drivers, sometimes over the objections of circuit owners.

But Stanley’s racing activities are only referred to in passing here – apart from a few mentions of Jackie Stewart and Graham Hill, and a few first-hand accounts of the family going to watch BRM.

Stanley was regarded by many in F1 as pompous and overbearing. But a darker side to him is revealed in this book, where he is referred to throughout as ‘Stepfather’ – the omission of the definite article a pointed sign to the reader from page one.

Neate’s description of being sexually abused by Stanley is quite appalling. That, and his treatment of her mother after she became ill, motivated Neate to investigate, document and expose his murky past.

The text gives the distinct impression that she formed a conclusion about Stanley’s background and then set out to prove it. But her claims are backed up by a substantial amount of research which reveals much to be sceptical about in his past.

Neate uncovers what she believes is the foster family that raised him, painstakingly traces his upbringing and early life, and discovers a string of lies and fabrications in his personal history.

The details of Asquith’s obsession with Venetia Stanley are a matter of historical record. He scribbled romantic notes to her during cabinet meetings and fell into a depression when their affair ended in 1915, with ramifications for the government of the country during World War One.

The incredible tale comes tumbling out in a breathless rush that is disjointed and hard to follow at times. The absence of an index – always an infuriating omission in reference books – doesn’t help matters.

Its key claim is so astonishing and Neate’s rage at her stepfather so plain that the book cannot help but invite conflicting interpretations. The anticipated release of further letters from the Bodleian library in 2015 may go some way towards settling the matter.

If you measure your likely interest in the books that feature on F1 Fanatic by how much racing action they contain, then this one is definitely not for you. But if the summary above has piqued your curiosity, I’d be fascinated to hear what you make of this book’s stunning claim in the comments.

F1 Fanatic rating

Rating three out of five

Buy “Conspiracy of Secrets” (UK)

Buy “Conspiracy of Secrets” (USA)

Conspiracy of Secrets

Publisher: John Blake Publishing
Published: 2012
Price: ??17.99
ISBN: 9781843583721

Reviews

Browse all Reviews

F1 Fanatic earns a commission on products sold via the links to our affiliate partners above, however you are not charged any extra. See here for more information.

Advert | Go Ad-free

14 comments on “Conspiracy of Secrets” review

  1. Roald (@roald) said on 6th May 2012, 14:22

    The end of your review really captures the reason I won’t be reading this book. As serious as the accusations sound, they could have been about a Basketball player or musician for all I cared…

  2. BasCB (@bascb) said on 7th May 2012, 6:56

    Hm, does not really sound like my kind of book, but thank you for the review Keith.

  3. Actually your review has caught my interest – I think I will be getting this when it comes to paperback or if it’s on kindle.

    People make light of the wheeler dealer’ing that goes on now, but in the past it was a murky world of F1. Bernie always reminds me of the Godfather. Definitely worse than the Ice Cream wars. Sounds like a read – thanks :)

  4. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 7th May 2012, 12:58

    I do love a good conspiracy theory, but having read the review, I have to wonder about this one. The accusations against Stanley are abhorrent to say the least, and it’s quite clear that the author is contemptuous of him for it. Although I haven’t read it myself, I have to say I’m inclined to believe this assessment:

    The text gives the distinct impression that she formed a conclusion about Stanley’s background and then set out to prove it.

    So whatever interest the book might hold for me is lost.

  5. People don’t in general lie in public about being sewxually abused though. That bit of it I am minded to believe.

  6. Adrian Tilley said on 14th May 2012, 19:33

    This is a ciomplete revelation as I knew LTS very well, in fact I was Mr and Mrs Stanleys chauffeur for 10 years. None of the above was obvious in any way and I saw a lot!! Also know Bobbie and the other children.
    A

    • Chloe Forsythe said on 6th July 2012, 13:34

      They obviously were extremely good actors all down to the era and class etc. Stiff upper lip and all that.

  7. Chloe Forsythe said on 4th July 2012, 19:07

    I have just finished reading this book and cannot understand why Bobbie Neate periodically says that she felt sorry for Louis Stanley after describing his lies, deceit and vile paedophile acts towards her. Also it was so involved namewise that I still don’t know whether he knew who his real birth Mother/Father was or not. Ms. Neate obviously did after a mammoth investigative saga of “digging”.

  8. Rebecca Cherry said on 18th October 2012, 19:14

    I read the book – a brilliant read.

  9. mightyspyder (@mightyspyder) said on 17th June 2013, 19:03

    On the recommendation of Doug Nye [Motor Sport] I bought this book… Ye Gods, how i wish i had saved my money. Vengeful it may well be, but it is written as though with treacle at the end of her pen. Slow, repetitive and utterly boring. …

  10. I have read the book as well. As someone who knew Big Lou for many years I can confirm that he was truly “odious” (as Doug Nye was described by Big Lou). Ms Neate, despite her valiant attempts, does not have any evidence at all to support her case. A case that she has determinedly made up her mind about and made her “evidence” fit. But there is other proper clear written evidence, not circumstantial, which proves her conclusions are, beyond any doubt, inaccurate. Oh dear.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 17th August 2013, 21:54

      @edbab1

      there is other proper clear written evidence, not circumstantial, which proves her conclusions are, beyond any doubt, inaccurate

      Really? That’s interesting. Can you give any details?

      • Yes. I have been shown copies of letters to his mother and other documents written by his father when Big Lou was young, very young, which are so conclusive that there is no doubt whatsoever.

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments must abide by the comment policy. Comments may be moderated.
Want to post off-topic? Head to the forum.
See the FAQ for more information.