Thursday, September 22, 2011

Roll on Friday review of 'Law and Disorder'


Very many overdue thanks to VultureCulture at Roll on Friday for reviewing my book Law and Disorder. You can read the review here or below. You can buy the book at Amazon.co.uk

Tim Kevan has numbered the ranks of the legal bloggers for over three years now. The former barrister pens the musings of a fictional junior barrister, BabyBarrista, who discovers that the bar is stuffed to the brim with incompetent, arrogant and out of touch individuals playing the system for all it’s worth.

And the blog has been popular. It was serialised in The Times, before Kevan switched allegiances to The Guardian once the paywall was installed. And from the blog a book was born. Law and Disorder, Kevan’s debut novel, is the first instalment of BabyB’s career path. It tells the tale of the young pupil barrister navigating his way through a year of pupillage, competing against a motley crew of fellow pupils to score the prize of tenancy.

BabyB's journey starts off with the (non-shocking) realisation that he is little more than a glorified coffee maker And it gets worse as he realises that his chambers are populated by unscrupulous characters.

Early indications that BabyB must get tenancy in order to support his poor, indebted, single mother who has sacrificed herself financially at the altar of his legal dreams - sound like the beginnings of a cliché and made VultureCulture groan inside a little.

However, it turns out that BabyB is not a self-righteous twerp who just wants to make a better life for his poor old ma. He is far from immune to a bit (in fact a lot) of backstabbing in order to grab the tenancy trophy from his thrusting fellow pupils. He plots their respective downfalls with relish - stooping to impersonation, identity theft, Facebook hacking, fraud and some kinky business along the way.

A deft study in the nuances of characterisation this book isn’t. The novel’s cast is colourful, brash and largely 2D - few of them very appealing. Only one person is given a name, BabyB’s confidante and best pal Claire. The rest are bestowed with helpful monikers. TopFirst is the main competition – bright, arrogant but led by his pants. TheBoss is BabyB’s very dodgy pupil master and TheVamp is a tenant in chambers and carry on character with whom BabyB enjoys a brief dalliance. You get the idea.

The reader is catapulted head first into BabyB's Machiavellian scheming. There are certainly elements of cliché and farce throughout - but the book is richer for it. Kevan manages to swiftly draw the reader into BabyB's duplicitous journey. The book is full of humour and sharp observations about the legal system and those who play it to their advantage. It quickly grabs the reader's attention and turns out to be really quite hard to put down.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

WardblawG review of 'Law and Peace'


Very many thanks to Gavin Ward at WardblawG for reviewing my new book Law and Peace. You can read the review here or below. You can buy the book at Amazon.co.uk

With BabyBarista having won the battle for tenancy, one may have thought that he would take things a little easier without resorting to his wayward moral compass, perhaps with fewer dirty tactics capable of destroying careers and, potentially in TopFirst’s case, lives.

Laugh-out-loud from front to back, the book is a racing read, as with the first. When I read the first BabyBarista book I was under the impression that it was a real account of a pupil in chambers. Nevertheless, despite knowing that the second book was still a fictional account, I couldn’t help but questioning on every page if those events had actually taken place in one form or another. As The Lawyer Magazine commented several years ago, “If this is a fictional account it is genius”. Well, the same applies for Law & Peace.

From tales of playing drinking games in court (and I should point out that there is planking in court to come in a future book) to seriously corrupt litigation tactics and indeed crooked lawyers and barristers, Law & Peace covers themes which most legal writers have never approached.

Just as BabyBarista’s first experiences as a pupil were largely influenced by the principles set out in Sun Tzu’s Art of War, so are his actions in Law & Peace. Almost at every possible opportunity where the reasonable person would ask “what should I do next?”, BabyBarista seems to have a clear idea of the possible options and often chooses the most devious, although sometimes he doesn’t really have a choice because of certain characters e.g. SlipperySlope, BigMouth, TheBoss & co.

But it’s not all corrupt litigation: characters such as Old Ruin, “BabyB’s redemption”, demonstrate that there is plenty of good left in the practice of law, which is in stark contrast to SlipperySlope’s idea that barristers and lawyers all end up becoming the same crooked characters.

The description of the novel as a “Machiavellian romp through the legal world” is spot-on, with so many injections of innuendo, you’ll probably have to read the book a second time to get them all. With Tim Kevan also being very tech-savvy there are some amusing passages of barristers getting used to new technologies such as Twitter and smartphones, with a particularly hilarious take on the “sent from my iPhone/Blackberry wireless device” message on smartphones.

Also clearly moving in parts with a developing romance, the novel contains various references to leaving the law and going surfing. Maybe it’s just because I’ve left the long hours of legal practice myself that I liked these references in particular.

Mirroring other comments, perhaps one of the only minor criticisms I’d have is that a lot of the same themes from Law & Disorder are covered in Law & Peace. But I think that’s a good thing and is to be welcomed – if you’ve read one book, you’ll have to read the other. Indeed, as I still do, you’ll enjoy continuing to follow the blogging of BabyBarista, both on his blog itself and on Twitter.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Speaking at Taunton Literary Festival

For anyone who might be interested, I'll be reading from my two BabyBarista novels and talking about how they came about at the Taunton Literary Festival on 29 September at 11.30am at Queen's College in Taunton. Further details are here.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Speaking at Appledore Book festival

For anyone who might be interested, I'll be reading from my two BabyBarista novels and talking about how they came about at the Appledore Book Festival on 29 September from 2-3pm at St Mary's Hall in Appledore. Further details are here.