BOOKS

Crowning insults

ANN FINLAYSON October 6 1986
BOOKS

Crowning insults

ANN FINLAYSON October 6 1986

Crowning insults

BOOKS

THE QUEEN’S SECRET

By Charles Templeton (McClelland and Stewart,

379 pages, $22.95)

In the predawn hours of July 9, 1982, Michael Fagan, an unemployed laborer, scaled the walls of Buckingham Palace and startled Queen Elizabeth II with an unexpected visit to Her Majesty's bedchamber. Fagan's audacious act, trumpeted in the Fleet Street tabloids, alarmed the Queen's loyal subjects. Although no harm was done, could such a thing happen again? Canadian novelist Charles Templeton insists that it could, and with dire con sequences for the British monarchy. In The Queen's Secret, his fourth novel, the evangelist-turned-literary-i ack-of all-trades exploits the possibilitywith a staggering lack of taste and prodigal doses of lethal prose.

Templeton’s monarch, Queen Mary I ill, is a nice lady. On the job, she is a 1 conscientious public servant; in the marital bed, she is a flirtatious comj panion to Edward, the royal consort. | Princess Victoria, the couple’s only child, will one day be Queen. But Victoria’s lover, Jeremy Walsh, presents a royal problem. A divorced Catholic who is also a Polish-American Rhodes Scholar, his job as The New York Times's London correspondent is to re! port unpleasant truths about the decline of Britain. With a potential scandal looming, Mary and Edward resort to the obvious solution: to produce a male heir. But after the connubial deed is done, an intruder enters the palace and forces his attentions upon Her Majesty. The resulting question: if the Queen is with child, whose is it?

Templeton’s insipid writing fails to make that scenario convincing. At one point he writes, “The car made its surefooted way past the Parliament buildings onto the Victoria Embankment.” And his chronicles of royal intimacy are excruciating. Recollecting Mary’s first pregnancy, Edward muses, “You looked like an overweight angei . . . the sexiest damn angel in the firmament.” Set in a future indistinguishable from the present, The Queen's Secret serves up joyless nonsense about a royal family that deserves better. In real life, most of its members maintain a grace and dignity that the novel conspicuously lacks.

-ANN FINLAYSON