QC bids to be the bar’s Barbara Cartland

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By Maleha Khan on

Housing law specialist creates bodice-ripping alter ego with steamy tales of the Inns of Court


Life as a housing law silk must be pretty mundane at times — which is doubtless why one specialist QC is relieving the monotony of bedroom tax intricacies by indulging a penchant for romantic novel writing.

By day he is Andrew Arden, a silk of more than 20 years’ standing at London’s Arden Chambers and a pretty big wheel in the housing law world. Chambers & Partners directory lists him as the “godfather of housing law”, a “genius” and the “pre-eminent expert on housing and local government law”.

Even taking into account the standard breathless nature of legal directory praise, that is impressive. To put it bluntly, Arden has written the book on housing law — several times, in fact.

Which is probably why he has created the alter ego of Bernard Bannerman, a spinner of romantic tales, most of which seem to be set around the Inns of Court.

So the author of the “Manual of Housing Law” and the general editor of the “Journal of Housing Law and Local Government Finance: Law and Practice” also offers a hungry readership “The Judge’s Song” and “The Last Wednesday”, in his bid to become the bar’s version of Barbara Cartland.

Usefully, Arden/Bannerman offers tasters from his fictional works on a promotional personal web site. Here’s a snippet from “The Judge’s Song”:

“Every time I finish up with someone else, and go back to Sandy, I can’t remember why I left. There’s no one who’s a patch on her, or with whom love-making comes as close to transcending isolation. If I say there’s no one who’s as good as her I don’t mean that she’s invariably kind, or sensitive, or moral, or unselfish. She has the sharpest tongue of anyone I know, can be intolerably demanding in the most irritating, petty ways, can cut someone down to size swifter than a samurai’s sword and when she wants something, heaven help anyone who stands in her way. What I mean is: no one else I know has got all their appealing and unappealing qualities in such perfect balance.”

Perhaps Sandy is based on the odd ball-breaking housing law firm partner. Next comes a passage from “Controlling Interest”:

“She wasn’t a great looking woman. A bit overweight. Her hair was a mess and her dress sense was markedly inferior to her ability at law. But she was warm, and good company. We used to get stoned, go out to the late night supermarkets, stock up on sweet goodies to feed the munchies, and come back, usually to her place rather than mine, to settle in front of the fire and gradually undress the night away. I’d always thought, she knew what she liked and she knew how to get it.”

Hmm, skinning up and then dashing to the late-night Cost Cutter never seemed to feature in Barbara’s works.

A treat from “The last Wednesday” rather neatly illustrates why chaps can fall down when trying to write in the female first person voice:

“He said: ‘You and I should get together. We should get to know each other better. We should get real close.’ I looked down at his pants. A thing like that could hurt. I passed up the opportunity.”

Neither does Arden shy from penning bar-related bodice-rippers in his own name. A selection from “The Programme”:

“Although he had played his part, and commanded unquestioning obedience to the rituals of humiliation and shame that Cassandra had devised, he preferred tunnels with shafts of unexpected light to caves of unrelenting night. When their personal relationship changed, he seized the opportunity to separate their spiritual paths.”

Often at times like this, the clichéd response is “don’t give up the day job”. But Arden already has — or at least part of it. A year ago he stood down as head of the chambers he founded.

Perhaps he has an eye on a gong — after all, dear Babs bagged a damehood. Mind you, she did publish more than 700 novels, so Andrew Arden and Bernard Bannerman have their work cut out.