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William John Cavendish Bentinck Scott, the fifth Duke of Portland, who died in 1879, was a singularly eccentric man. What sets him apart from other famous eccentrics is the fact that he had the wealth to indulge his manias to the fullest. Perhaps his greatest achievement was to have a vast network of underground tunnels built beneath his estate, from which, with his horses and carriages, he could secretly escape to the outside world. On a visit to the Duke’s establishment, which still more or less stands, Mick Jackson became fascinated not only by the tunnels but by the stories that surrounded the memory of this strange man. He began to embroider them with fictional ideas of his own, and with the tales the local people passed on to him. Some of the characters’ names in the book are genuine, as indeed are some of the most bizarre details. The actual narrative is, however, pure invention, filled not only with tales of the Duke, but also with the excitement and discoveries of the age in which he lived, and the mysteries that we are still exploring.
This 1992 crowd pleaser made almost as much money for Whitney Houston as its chart-busting soundtrack. A high-wattage star vehicle as only Hollywood can make, The Bodyguard stars Houston as a pop-music diva (now there’s a stretch) and Kevin Costner as the stern bodyguard who is assigned to protect her after the singer receives some nasty death threats. Pop star and bodyguard don’t hit it off at first, but they wear down each others’ defenses, and before long Houston is baring her tonsils with a rousing rendition of the Dolly Parton chestnut “I Will…