So, who told the biggest whoppers? Was it Amerigo Vespucci, the oily Florentine who claimed to have discovered America a year before Columbus, thus succeeding in having the New World named after him? Or perhaps you prefer Alexander VI – the Borgia Pope – who dissolved his daughter Lucrezia’s first marriage on the grounds that she was still a virgin, despite the fact that he himself had known her carnally.
Hmm, well I suspect that a new – and admittedly minor – candidate for the title might be Philip Kerr, the author of this cruiserweight tome The Penguin Book of Lies. Kerr claims in his introduction to have had a fixation with lies and liars since childhood: ‘While my friends fenced with imaginary swords and upheld the honour of the King’s Musketeers, I was alone in venerating the person of the Cardinals Richelieu and Mazarin … and from the age of eleven Machiavelli’s The Prince remained by my bedside.’ He even professes to have chosen his subsequent careers as lawyer, adman and author with this obsession in mind.
Tell us another, Phil. I suspect that like any other jobbing hack, he probably hadn’t even thought about the subject of this book until