We may have come a long way from the days when a goat was saddled with all the iniquities of the children of Israel and driven into the wilderness, but is our desperate need to find some organisation, person or other to pin the blame on and absolve ourselves of responsibility really any more advanced? Charlie Campbell's book highlights the plight of all those others who have found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time, illustrating how God needs the Devil, as surely as Sherlock Holmes needs Professor Moriarty, or James Bond needs Blofeld. Every person and society needs someone to oppose. Scapegoat ranges from serious contemplation of Jesus and contemporary issues of Government blame-shifting to conspiracy theories like David Icke's that the Duke of Edinburgh is one of many giant shape-shifting extraterrestrial lizards who secretly run the world. Scapegoat is a tale of human foolishness that exposes the anger and irrationality of blame-mongering while reminding the reader of their own capacity for it. Moving from the Bible to the modern Royal Family, from medieval Witch burning to reality TV, from the whipping boys of the Renaissance court to Blairite politics, this is a brilliantly relevant and timely look at social history that uncovers, in an accessible and entertaining way, countless stories of obsession, mania, persecution and injustice from the highest echelons of society to the lowliest outcast.
Charlie Campbell is a literary agent and captain of the Authors Cricket Club, whose original members included P G Wodehouse and Arthur Conan Doyle. He was previously Deputy Editor at the Literary Review, where he ran the Bad Sex in Fiction Prize among other things. He currently lives in London.