11 August 1999
The Lawyer has decided he'll never become a millionaire by waiting for the goddess Equity to bless him with another 3000 chargeable hours and an assistant capable of working the photocopier, and so has started writing his novel.
Every lawyer, of course, believes he has a novel in him, along with a terrific article for the Law Quarterly Review, which professors will brandish at students in lecture halls, shouting: "Garbidge on the Moral Imperative of Tort and its Applications in SMEs in the Context of a Federal Europe: read it or die!"
Most of the Lawyer's joined-up writing is done by his secretary but this hasn't deterred him, and he's up in the study most nights, clicking away. He's got his record Minesweeper time down to 82 seconds, and will get writing again any moment now, he assures me. Research for the novel has encompassed taking home an armful of John Grisham films from Blockbuster and watching them with Subjudice taking notes, followed by a brisk discussion on whether Julia Roberts will be past it or not by the time the Lawyer's book makes it to Hollywood.
Because all lawyers' novels follow the same lone-legal-hero-against-the-forces-of-evil plot I have no doubt that my husband will come up with a winning formula. The main problem will be choosing his enemy (big business, sinister government, corrupt leadership team, wicked golf club that denies hero membership), and said hero's name. Will he go for the manly neutral (Kirk Deighton, Tow Law), the dangerously classbound (Newton le Willows), or the simply ridiculous (Guy Sandolls, Wiz Ardofuz, Bart Elship-O'Temkin).
The children, of course, want to be in it, and Subbie has already won a place as the plucky kid who hides the stolen file in her school folder and kicks the baddies in the knees (she can't reach any higher, I pointed out when he showed me the first draft, which had the baddies doubling over in agony). Deminimus is the angelic youngster who brings the hero and heroine together in the penultimate chapter over his tiny hospital bed ("Don't worry, son, that extra head might be the result of living next to a nuclear power station, but when I'm through with those bosses it's going to send your parents to a Florida pool-side condo for the rest of their lives"). The plot seems to leave little room for poor Liability, who may have to settle for a starring role as the hero's hotdog in Chapter Three (no onions, heavy on the mustard).
As is usual with the lawyerly genre, our too-busy hero is in the process of being divorced by his super-svelte wife, a doctor who spends her days flying off into war zones to carry out complex battlefield brain surgery frequently featured on national news. She has fallen for her helicopter pilot, a six-foot blond called Sven, and as she has no kids the only problem with the separation is who ends up with the New York penthouse.
I wondered if the Lawyer would consider writing in a role for a slightly rotund, fun-loving mother-of-three who has an imaginative way with shepherds pie and a sideline in proof-reading for a publisher of romantic novels, the sort of work that best fits in with a lifetime of ironing for five. Apparently it would never sell in Hollywood, even if you could get Bette Midler to play me. "For goodness sake, this is drama, you can't have comedy interludes," said the Lawyer, testily. "It's not Shakespeare." You can certainly say that again.