'THE LIONS OF yesteryear have become the unicorns of today.' So wrote Professor David Cannadine in The Decline and Fall ofthe British Aristocracy (1990). This novel is partly about the hunting down of these supposedly silly old 'unicorns' - or impoverished aristocrats - and partly about the morality of doing so.
There are, alas, no references to any of the many surviving 'lions' or heavy swells, as Hugh Massingberd calls them, and the image of the aristocracy presented in this book is decidedly, if sometimes splendidly, ridiculous. The main fdy under scrutiny suffer kom 'correspondophobia', eat badger meat, steal from their old nanny's bulging purse and take their whisky through a straw. 'Simple really,' explains the embattled Earl of Bevan. 'Question of economv. Alcohol reaches vour bloodstream auicker.. .'
The hunter is a second-generation American TV reporter called Maggie, who has cut her teeth on programmes about child prostitution in Brazil and who believes - at the start of-the storv anvwav - that nice, S,, decent people don't make good television. She is certainly not very nice herself. Her thoughts and utterances are vinegar$ She says 'Jesus' far too often and is only upstaged in nastiness by her boyfriend back home, who