A rapid-fire biography about the improbable life of humanitarian Stefan Templeton, a “bad guy gone good because he’d never really been that good at being bad.”
Matthews (Ace of Spades: A Memoir, 2008) met Templeton in 1977, when both were the only two mixed-race children at their Baltimore school. But where the author was a skinny, fearful outsider, his friend was already revealing himself as the relentless force of nature he would become. Born to a Norwegian mother with “blood ties going back to the 900s and Olaf the Holy” and a black Vietnam vet turned philosophy professor, Templeton was a walking singularity from the start. He spent his childhood and adolescence in Europe and the United States, shuttling between the sophisticated chaos of his mother’s bohemian circles and the stable but square world of his father’s middle-class home. Though a soft “mama’s boy” at first, he learned Taekwondo from his black-belt father and became a first-class fighter, both in the dojo and on the streets. His exposure to European culture and education and the intellectual discipline of his father shaped him into a profoundly thoughtful young man—and a magnet for girls and women on both sides of the Atlantic. Despite his self-confidence, Templeton lacked real direction. He attended a prestigious university-preparatory school for international students in England where he became the lover of a rich Parisian girl. From there, he went trekking through jungles in Colombia, then trained in Marseille to join the Cousteau diving team. He then drifted into the Scandinavian criminal underworld and fled to Japan, where he almost killed a man in barroom brawl. In Thailand, he experienced the unexpected spiritual awakening that transformed him from warrior criminal to warrior hero dedicated to helping those in need. Matthews’ narrative reads like “the stuff of fiction, the stock-in-trade of thrillers and James Bond movies”; it’s also an exhilarating narrative about redemption and the power of personal choice.
Eat your heart out, James Bond.