Wednesday, February 17, 2010

BabyBarista recommended by Dr Michelle Tempest at The Psychiatrist Blog

Thanks to Dr Michelle Tempest for recommending BabyBarista and the Art of War on her excellent Psychiatrist Blog. Michelle was the editor od the ground-breaking book The Future of the NHS and is also the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the Conservative Party in the North West Durham constituency at the General Election. You can follow her progress here. She writes about Babybarista:

"If you are looking for a great read then look no further than confessions of a pupil barrister. It can be bought here. If you thought that legal eagles spent their time studying behind antique desks, think again! This book lifts the lid on legal chambers and offers readers a unique insight into the dirty tricks barristers use to battle each other, in and out of court. It left me asking the question, do these characters think they are above the law?"

BabyBarista covered at TotallyLegal.com

There's an article at TotallyLegal.com about the making of BabyBarista and the Art of War which you can read here or below.

Writing for Harry Potter’s Publisher

Tim Kevan is barrister-turned-novelist and creator of the infamous BabyBarista. Totallylegal editor Natalie Harris asks him about how he came to write a novel for Harry Potter’s publisher, Bloomsbury.

Back in early 2007 I had been practising as a barrister at 1 Temple Gardens for some nine years and was enjoying the life of a common law practitioner based in London. But I’d always dreamt of living by the sea and the surf and maybe even writing a novel. I just couldn’t quite see how it could be done. At that time I’d just finished co-writing a motivational book entitled ‘Why Lawyers Should Surf’ with Dr Michelle Tempest, a book which encourages people to look for inspiration outside of law and used surfing and the power of the ocean as metaphors for living the day to day. Next I wanted to sit down and write a legal thriller. But instead what popped out was a legal comedy about a fictional young barrister doing pupillage. I called him BabyBarista which was a play on words based on his first impression being that his coffee-making skills were probably as important to that year as any forensic legal abilities he may have. It’s a strange thing to say but I discovered that this bold, irreverent and mischievous voice along with a collection of colourful characters had simply jumped into my head and the words started pouring onto the page.

I wrote it as a
blog and was hopeful it might raise a few smiles but in my wildest dreams I hadn’t imagined quite the extraordinary set of circumstances which then unfolded. First The Lawyer Magazine commented “If this is a fictional account it is genius”. I then emailed a few publishers and started getting interest as well as taking on a literary agent who had approached me direct. In the meantime, I was contacted by Alex Spence of The Times and he very kindly offered to host the blog and finally, I got a book deal with Bloomsbury Publishing of Harry Potter fame - all within the space of less than three months.

Since that hectic start, it’s been a long haul. I’ve finally taken a break from the Bar and moved to North Devon where not only have I been able to go surfing a little more frequently but I also finished the first book in the BabyBarista series as well as continuing to write the blog. The book finally came out last August and does seem to have been well-received with broadcaster Jeremy Vine describing it as “a wonderful, racing read - well-drawn, smartly plotted and laugh out loud” and The Times Law Section calling it as “a gallop of a read” and their Books Section mentioning its “relentlessly racy, rumbustiously Rumpolean humour”.

The book is called BabyBarista and the Art of War and centres around BabyB’s first year in chambers where he is fighting his fellow pupils for the coveted prize of a permanent tenancy. It’s a fictional caricature of life at the Bar and includes characters that probably exist in most workplaces such as UpTights, OldRuin, BusyBody, Worrier and even JudgeJewellery and her penchant for stealing cheap jewellery. Alongside the pupillage race is an altogether different battle with BabyB’s corrupt pupilmaster TheBoss whose dishonest fiddling of chambers’ records to avoid a negligence action all starts to unravel and threatens to embroil BabyB’s entire career.

With the first book finished, I’m continuing to write the blog as well as working on book two in the series. Ultimately I intend to return to the Bar part-time and based in Devon but hopefully through my chambers in London. In the meantime, I continue to enjoy life down here by the sea.

Tim Kevan is the author of ‘BabyBarista and The Art of War’ published by Bloomsbury and available on
amazon. For more information visit The Barrister Blog.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

BabyB reviewed mid-Atlantic!

Award for the most extreme review of BabyBarista and the Art of War goes to adventurer Dr Rob Casserley, five times Everest summiteer and currently on a mission to become the first man to row the Atlantic followed by climbing Everest once more. So, mid-Atlantic, being battered by winds driving him South towards Venezuela, he just sent out the following two tweets (click on left to enlarge): "On brighter note, just finished BabyBarista,a witty hard 2 put down book about the shenanigans going on in a firm of barristers...By some bloke Tim Kevan. Makes me glad 2 b of the fairer profession! Highly recommend it!" To follow Rob's progress, click here.

Friday, February 5, 2010

BabyBarista arrives Down Under

I'm really delighted that BabyBarista and the Art of War has just received a very nice review in the New South Wales Bar Association's Bar News (at page 109) which you can also read by clicking on the picture of the left or reading below. I'm even more pleased by the fact that the review is by Richard Beasley who is not only a practising barrister (and a qualified solicitor) but also the author of one of my very favourite legal novels ever Hell Has Harbour Views which is both extremely funny and also a fantastic page turner of a read which I couldn't recommend more highly. It is available direct from Australian bookshops such as SeekBooks.com.au and also on amazon.co.uk. The review reads as follows.

BabyBarista and The Art of War

There are no heroes here, BabyB. We’re all just shadows. Dim reflections of the real world. Sitting around packaging it all into neat and tidy little issues... I can’t stand it BabyB. The law. The whole thing. It sucks the poetry from our souls. Boils it all down to cynical platitudes. You know, if it wasn’t for the money ....

So laments UpTights, a senior barrister in the fictitious London chambers which is the stage for the action in Tim Kevan’s very funny novel, BabyBarista and the Art of War.

It’s no wonder UpTights is depressed. Her Head of Chambers is pompous and mediocre in equal measure. The most senior junior specialises in professional negligence of his own making, dishonesty and adultery. Another barrister is sleeping with a clerk. The most senior woman is addicted to Botox and to flirting with much younger men when drunk. Another is a Vamp, who drops her wig for every guy in town. Many of the others fret that they will turn out like the older ones when they grow up, while others fear that they are now entrenched in that ugly terrain of not being good enough for top work, but too senior for the bread-and-butter. The readers are all intensely jealous of one another, and backstab at every opportunity. As for the rest of chambers, they are in the main all airs and graces, but no manners.

Tim Kevan has been a barrister for over 10 years, and despite the characters in his book, remarkably none of those was spent on Xth Floor Wentworth-Selborne. Having joined 1 Temple Chambers in London in 1996, and having written a number of legal texts dealing with consumer credit, personal injury and sports law, Kevan first ventured into the literary book world in 2007 with the non-fiction work Why Lawyers Should Surf. Written with Dr Michelle Tempest , it’s a kind of self-help book for lawyers who want to both improve their legal skills and their lives. For a number of years Kevan has also written a legal blog for The Times, and from this BabyBarista and the Art of War has emerged.

The plot revolves around the contest between four baby barristers and their year-long quest for the one available room in chambers at the end of their pupillage. employing tactics from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War – ‘kill or be killed; the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself’, etc – BabyBarista is determined to end up with the room no matter what Faustian pact he has to make. For 12 month he puts the better parts of his soul aside, summons the darker parts (and a great deal of creative energy), and gets to work on his competition.

Written in the style of a diary, the novel never loses pace, nor does BabyB run out of inventive means of undermining, tricking, demoralising and defeating his enemy. Phone taps, secret video, identity fraud and Facebook are all part of his arsenal as one by one he sets upon his fellow pupils TopFirst, BusyBody and The Worrier. BabyB may be a novice advocate, but he is a master manipulator.

There a times during his first year at the bar when BabyB meditates on whether the struggle is worthwhile. His pupilmaster, called TheBoss, who could equally be called Mr Spineless-Bastard esq., sums up all he has to teach BabyB with this:

The law’s not about ivory towers or wigs and gowns. It’s about one thing and that’s costs. Not justice. Not rights. Not defending the innocent or prosecuting the guilty. It’s cold, hard, stinking cash. Your time, literally, is money. You sign away your life, but for a price of which even Faust himself would be proud.

Only those who oppose a Bill of Rights could sum up the profession so succinctly.

Telling a story through the mechanism of daily diary entries, and the use of nicknames as distinct from real names (oldRuin, FanciesHimself, the Vamp, JudgeJewellery, oldSmoothie to mention a few), carries with it the risk that the characters will come across as one dimensional and stereotypes. With great comic timing, and with as much sympathy as contempt for the actors in his novel, Kevan avoids this, and what could have been merely a series of anecdotes becomes a well rounded and sharply observed comedy about a profession the author knows very well.

Whether you think this book is merely an amusing parody of the legal profession, or a deliciously accurate portrait, all people who enjoy well-written and funny books, and even a large number of barristers, will enjoy BabyBarista and The Art of War. As for those members of the profession that read this book and don’t enjoy it, I’m sure Tim Kevan has a very apt nickname.