In a 1982 interview with the LA Times, Brian Eno joked that everyone who purchased the first Velvet Underground album went on to start a band. A Touch of Templeton poses the question: what if every one of the 125 million readers of Fifty Shades of Grey went on to write a book?
Templeton follows the story of Patsy Cunningham, a black local authority solicitor who begins a romantic, erotic relationship with Richard Templeton, a white, privately-educated partner at Templeton & Rye Chambers and two-time winner of Barrister of the Year. Patsy’s skilful negotiation at an outer-borough hearing catches Templeton’s eye and he invites her to his chambers, where the relationship, er, begins. The novel then goes on to knit some fairly explicit sex scenes with legal minutiae and office-politicking, and as the relationship between Patsy and Richard deepens so too does the international intrigue of the plot.
It is too easy when reviewing erotic fiction to use comparisons with Fifty Shades, but here I think it is relevant. Past touchstones of erotica – Miller, Bataille, Sade (pictured) et al – with their sometimes-extreme scenes of violent pornography, were nevertheless evocative and skilfully drawn. But Fifty Shades, with its Mills-&-Boon-ish prose and meandering plot tapped a quintessentially Modernist truth: sex, like all things, is not the preserve of high literature, and a sexual relationship is not always la pièce bien faite.
Author: PE Campbell
£9.99, Grosvenor House Publishing
Unfortunately Templeton, like Fifty Shades, has some fundamental problems with clarity, characterisation and even outright typography (‘Spilt second’ for ‘split second’, for example. ‘Jane Austin’, egregiously, for another). Yet, also like Fifty Shades, those formal problems become less noticeable – almost endearing – as the novel progresses. The slapdash chaos of Cunningham’s life is matched by her frenetic, seemingly un-proofread narration. But perhaps that is being generous.
The novel does have strengths. The legal passages ring true (no mean feat) and Campbell (a solicitor herself) has an enviable knack for phonetic dialect, which is notoriously difficult to write well. In short, this reads like a promising first draft of a hobby novel, but I cannot believe it is a finished product.
You never know, though. The Velvet Underground & Nico was added to the Library of Congress in 2006.
Sam Eckett is acting digital publishing manager at the Law Society Gazette