Set in Phnom Penh in 1962, amongst the diplomatic community (British, American and Russian) with its tensions, friendships, intrigues and affairs and against the background of the Cold War and Cuban missile, The Crocodile Princess takes historical figures, from Prince Sihanouk to Peter Cook, from Dudley Moore to Kenneth Allsop, and Lenny Bruce, constructing an alternative history in a slightly parallel world in which Cook has suffered a crisis which has led to his dropping out of comedy and into diplomacy (his father was a diplomat and his public school specialized in preparing its pupils to work for the Foreign Office).
The use of real characters in a fictionalised world has some affinity with recent novels such as The Damned United and Alma Cogan, but Gregson brings a unique voice and perspective. This is a world in which David Frost drowns – Cook famously saved Frost’s life, but in this parallel world wasn’t there to save him – a world in which Phnom Penh and the strange story within the story of The Crocodile Princess provide an alternative comedy for Cook to speak. Cook’s crisis is linked to the novel’s exploration of the boundaries of comedy and satire, and the alternativeness of the history. Fast-paced, witty, full of intrigue, misdirection and set in the heat of Phnom Penh in an extraordinary moment of history, The Crocodile Princess is a gripping read from the accomplished author of Not Tonight Neil.