Scoundrels – Victor Cornwall, St. John Trevelyan

25 April 2019
Scoundrels Book Cover Scoundrels
Duncan Crowe, James Peak,
Black Door Press

Spanning much of the 20th Century and revolving around the infamous gentlemen's club of London, Scoundrels is the jaw-dropping memoirs of disreputable spies Majors Cornwall and Trevelyan.

The Majors recount scandalous tales of murder on Everest, panda hunting with the last Chinese Emperor and the theft of a uniquely sordid item from the Nazi fortress Klunghammer. But why have they been under house arrest for over thirty years?

Historically accurate, morally questionable and absolutely true, Scoundrels is one part Flashman to two parts Mordecai Trilogy, stirred vigorously and dashed in the face of Ian Fleming. It will leave you with a nasty taste in your mouth and horribly hungover.


Major Victor Cornwall and Major Arthur St John Trevelyan are two stereotypical English aristocrats, from an era when they had servants dealing with all the details that every activity required. They exhibit that air of confident superiority yet often lack common sense. They hold an undiminished belief that anything is possible and giving it a jolly good show, they succeed. Scoundrels is a superbly entertaining, mischievous and humorous account of their lives from school in 1931, through the Second World War, to continuing to serve their country in 1951. 

The novel starts with Cornwall writing a letter to Trevelyan in 2016 outlining his plans to write their memoirs. What has precipitated this endeavour is a feeling of being hard-done-by and being under house arrest for over 30 years. Victor wants to record his exploits, as he sees them, but Trevelyan refuses to participate and indeed requests that Cornwall cease writing to him. Ignoring this request Victor sends a sample to Trevelyan of his account of a race they participated in in 1950, from Paris to Dakar, without the use of motorised vehicles – i.e. using animals. The account of their exploits is one of the funniest tales I’ve read, I mean seriously laugh out loud – I nearly suffocated. The structure, how each step is carefully presented, how the pace is maintained and how the punch lines are perfectly delivered, is just brilliant. There is this constant sense of being teased into knowing that someone or something is being set up and the anticipation builds until the climax is revealed. The outcome is typically harmful to someone, including themselves. Yet they somehow manage to successfully achieve their goals. 

Because the Paris to Dakar account leaves Trevelyan feeling the brunt of the joke and ridiculed in print, he decides to contribute directly to the writing of the memoirs. Thus begins the joint tales of Cornwall and Trevelyan. Following schooling in Winstowe College, they become friends and then members of the Scoundrels Gentleman’s Club in London.

“Gentlemen memberes of Scoundrelles are at their libertie in all things, and not subject to the laws of the land of England, nor rulings of court nor tribunal. But they are subject to the laws of theire Club. 

Gentlemen memberes of Scoundrelles are exempt from all Crown taxation, in perpetuity. But they are not exempt from the fees of theire Club. 

Gentlemen memberes of Scoundrelles are upon their honour to accept theire duties, emissary work, and other missions, for the furtherance of the King of England and of Justice.”

The dialogue defines the characters, it develops their personalities, their outlook on life and their interactions. The novel is riddled with political incorrectness and is forcibly masculine. 

The writing shouldn’t be underestimated because it is very clever how the pace, jokes, innuendos, plot, and dialogue all contribute to a wonderful reading experience. It is hilariously funny and I do have a very visual and slapstick sense of humour. So this book felt it was just written for me.

I would highly recommend this book and I would like to thank Duncan Crowe and James Peak, for providing me with a copy of their book in return for an honest review.

Additional Book Ratings
Cover Design: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Title: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Proofreading Success: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Quality of Book Formatting: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Illustrations: N/A
Number of Pages: 412
Number of Chapters: 20 (approx 20 pages per chapter)

Peter Donnelly

Founder of The Reading Desk, supporting readers, authors, publishers and book industry. Top Reviewer on Amazon, Goodreads, and NetGalley

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