Von Bulow cast in 'Chamber of Horrors'

CLAUS von Bulow, the New York socialite at the centre of one of the United States's most notorious murder trials (and later portrayed by Jeremy Irons in the film Reversal of Fortune), is suing a small London publishing company over the allegation that he did attempt to murder his heiress wife, Sunny, with an injection of insulin in 1980. A hearing is scheduled for the High Court today. The dispute is about a Martin Amis piece in The Book of Murder - Portraits of Homicide, which was published by the north London firm Xanadu in the summer. It prints a 1983 piece that Amis wrote for the Observer, and subsequently reprinted in his 1988 book The Moronic Inferno, in which he details the arguments for and against Von Bulow, and puts forward various theories as to the manner in which he might have tried to kill his wife. The problem, of course, is that Von Bulow didn't - and has been cleared of the charge twice. When the piece was written, Von Bulow was awaiting an appeal against his 1982 conviction and 30-year sentence: he was cleared at the appeal, and again after a 1985 retrial. Von Bulow is incommunicado, bound by a legal agreement with Sunny's estate from discussing anything to do with the case, though friends say the book has infuriated him because it 'puts him in the Chamber of Horrors'. Amis yesterday said he had no knowledge of the writ. But Richard Glyn Jones, of Xanadu, said his firm hoped to settle the case today. And Sunny, by the way, is still alive, though in a 'persistent vegetative state' in a New York hospital.

THE very latest in UB40 concessions comes courtesy of an electronic information sign outside Islington Town Hall, in north London: 'Out of work? Want your dog neutered?'

Not strictly ballroom SIR IAN Gilmour launched Dancing with Dogma, his account of the Thatcher years, at a party at his son's restaurant in Covent Garden on Monday night. The crowd was full of fans and wets, some wet fans (Lords Prior, Pym and Carrington) and this week's most successful Cabinet minister (Virginia Bottomley) - but Sir Ian still felt obliged to explain that 'the book is not a treatise on ballroom dancing'. The cover photograph shows him dancing with dogma in the form of Mrs Thatcher, at a Young Conservatives' ball shortly after she sacked him in 1981. It is a notable illustration, not least for the fact that Mrs Thatcher is wearing a see-through dress. Initial reaction was mixed among the group of old lags to be seen thumbing through the book's index. Nicholas Budgen MP found himself: 'Page 51, 'a clever, amiable eccentric', oh well, that's all right]' But Sir Robin Day's search for his name was fruitless. 'This book? Definitely on the B list.'

MEANWHILE, at a party at the House of Commons, Edwina Currie was urging guests to steer clear of the egg sandwiches provided to celebrate the publication of her Three Line Quips, yet another anthology of Westminster comic one-liners (curiously, this one has a foreword by John Major). The best story concerns Sir Ivan Lawrence, the MP for Burton, who, after being forced to sit through speech after speech at an increasingly tired and emotional local rugby club dinner, was at last invited by the chairman to give a short address. 'Grove Farm, Drakelow, Burton-on-Trent,' Lawrence replied, and left.

Contagious silence ROBIN Oakley, the BBC's new political editor, was taking a 24- hour break yesterday after his performance on Monday night's news, when he sounded like a drunken goldfish. The voice was not an attempt to be just as distinctive as John Cole, but the result of the unpleasant cold that is doing the rounds in political circles - evidence, if you like, of the unhealthily close relationship between politicians and the media. Peter Brooke, the Secretary for National Heritage, is another sufferer: emerging from Monday's emergency U-turn meeting, he answered reporters' questions in Downing Street with the wheeze: 'I'm sorry. I genuinely can't hear a thing and I've lost my voice.' A good excuse for the lot of them, really.

A DATE for your Filofax: Monday 4 November. That's when the Belgravia Breakfast Club, described by one member as 'a networking forum for businesswomen', will enjoy wine, canapes and a short talk: 'Colours in your Wardrobe'.

A DAY LIKE THIS

21 October 1944 James Lees-Milne writes in his diary: 'On Sunday afternoon I drove over to Westwood Manor and stayed the night with Ted Lister. I enjoyed it but Ted will not go to bed till the early hours and thinks one offensive if one slips away before 3am. John Leslie and Sir Orme Sargent dined. The latter is a tall man with sloping forehead, nose and chin; all slopes. An agreeable evening with much Edwardian gossip and laughter. These three elderly gentlemen are given to story-telling. Have you heard this one? The hotel commissionaire saying confusedly to the lift boy, 'Take this lady up to P. I mean to letter P. I mean to letter P on the door' - and others of this calibre.'

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