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Against The Law by Peter Wildeblood

I have learnt a lot about an out-of-print book called Against The Law over the past few days. Oddly, the trail of this book led right back to Victoria, British Columbia, where AbeBooks is headquartered.

Written by Peter Wildeblood and published in 1955, Against The Law played a key role in the decriminalization of homosexuality. However, it has appeared on AbeBooks.co.uk’s list of top 10 bestselling books in July and August. Clearly, this is one of the most wanted secondhand books in the UK at the moment.

A journalist for the Daily Mail newspaper until he was embroiled in a national scandal, Wildeblood’s book is an account of his arrest for indecent acts, trial, imprisonment and release after 12 months in prison. During the infamous trial in 1954, Wildeblood became one of the first men in Britain to publicly declare his homosexuality.

This landmark book argues that homosexuality between consenting adults in private should not be illegal and explains that imprisonment actually encourages homosexuality. It was the first book to explain what it meant to be a homosexual to a mass audience of Britons. Against The Law became a focal point in the campaign to legalize homosexuality in the UK. In 1957, the Wolfenden Report recommended decriminalization and 10 years later the Sexual Offenses Act legalized same-sex relations in private.

Wildeblood’s career took a new direction after his imprisonment. He went on to own a Soho drinking club, which provided material for his second book, A Way of Life. He also wrote a novel called West End People, which became a musical. In 1969, he became a producer with Granada Television but moving to Canada in the 1970s where he worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in Toronto. He retired to Victoria on Vancouver Island and died in 1999 at 74 years old.

Against The Law sounds like a remarkable book written by a remarkable person. You’d think that Wildeblood had ultimately been successful in his goal. Perhaps not. Today, I read this feature in The Times (of London) about the just-released autobiography of Graeme Le Saux – an English footballer who was labelled as a homosexual by fellow players and the fans because he read The Guardian newspaper and liked the arts, and didn’t confirm to the traditional footballing stereotype. In some ways, prejudice remains as strong ever.

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