I’m Sasha Stace and with me is Mark McGinn the person who’s delighted in creating so much trouble for me over the years. He’s kindly given me the opportunity to ask him to explain himself.
SS Mark, before we get into specific cases why did you think it was remotely fair to kill off my father before I had a chance to know him and then have no sibling support in my life.
MM This is so typical of you – straight into the tough stuff. Well to be frank, fairness didn’t come into it, Sasha. Giving you an easy family life would turn people off. Too boring, I’m afraid. And I can tell you that if I’d created siblings they wouldn’t necessarily have been what you wanted. As I remember it, I was more interested in the relationship you might have with your mother, especially after your father died. It was more interesting to have you isolated in your own home, a bit scarred in your teenage years by your mother then seeing how you’d cope with that in later years.
SS And then you got me pregnant the first time I had sex – making me look like an idiot for taking no precautions.
MM It’s not like you to be inaccurate with facts, Sasha. I didn’t get you pregnant.
SS Don’t pinprick. You know what I mean. And if that wasn’t bad enough I was forced to give my baby away. And to top that, you had me raped. There’s a very cruel streak in you, isn’t there?
MM Firstly, you might never have got into law if you’d kept that baby. You know that, don’t you? Natalie was not going to stay at home and look after your baby, whose father was somewhere on the other side of the world. She’d never have done that and frankly, knowing what you know now, you wouldn’t have wanted that. As for the rape, that Judge slipped a drug into your drink. Yes it was rape but you wouldn’t claim it was as bad as some cases you went on to defend.
SS Something else you’ve been cruel about – making my mother so vile.
MM Oh, come on Sasha. You’re doing what Mac accuses you of – being melodramatic. When your dad died suddenly after that murder trial, Natalie was completely bereft. Memories of John and his reputation were all she had left of him. You’re being a bit unkind about your late mother. Besides which, I gave you Mac. You wouldn’t be the person you are today without Mac and his influence.
SS Okay, I’ll concede that. Mac’s been the best thing in my life. I suspect the way he is, he’s based on someone you know. Right?
MM He’s actually a combination of two men, both of whom are sadly no longer with us.
SS And what about me? Am I based on someone you know?
MM Only in the courtroom and ironically, a brilliant male lawyer in your style. I saw a lot of him when I worked there. He later became a High Court judge.
SS And will I get to be a judge?
MM Well, that’s up to you isn’t it? Do you think you’re up to it now?
SS What do you mean? I don’t have problems with booze or drugs.
MM No, although you’re partial to a stiff gin. But I didn’t want you to have the same problems many others do. Or be some lumbering obese person with a disability. But tell us about your psychological battles?
SS I’m supposed to be the one asking the questions. You’re dragging up that time when I had impostor syndrome. Where did that come from?
MM It seemed a logical consequence of the relationship you had with your mother – that feeling of never being good enough, but as you now know, it went beyond that. In Best Served Cold you told psychologist Margie North that your successes were flukes, down to luck. If you remember, you never confided that to Mac. It was why he persisted in pushing you to become a QC, to take silk – a good thing as it happened.
SS You made that whole syndrome thing up, didn’t you?
MM Not at all. Impostor syndrome is quite real,not especially common, but more common in professional women than in their male counterparts.
SS And nothing to do with that obsessive counting thing you foisted on me. Why did you do that?
MM We’ve all got our little quirks haven’t we. Why not you?
SS So tell us one of yours.
MM I have voices in my head – other than my own.
SS There are pills for that although I’d be happier if you had electric shock therapy.
MM Do you have a proper question?
SS I’m a bit curious about why you paired me up with Ben Tyler. Why a newspaper man and not another lawyer or cop.
MM A lawyer or a cop would have been the obvious thing. But after leaving the court, I’d worked a bit in the media industry so drew on that. You already had Mac as a senior legal mentor. Also by not making your partner a cop, you had to work a bit harder in your thinking. And because Ben was covering one of your court cases it worked. But it nearly didn’t if you recall. You were acerbic enough to strip the enamel of the poor lad’s front teeth. Mac helped you out there if I recall.
SS Listening to all this, you make me sound like a fool.
MM We know you’re not a fool, Sasha. But you’ve made some mistakes along the way. I’m afraid crime readers aren’t interested in reading about model citizens who never put a foot wrong.
SS I was worried you were ambivalent about our relationship.
MM Not at all. You’re slipping into that self-doubt thing again, aren’t you? You need to remember you do solve cases.
SS Yes but always with help. It’s as if you think I can’t cope on my own.
MM I admit, some crime heroes seem to piece together all the clues on their own, even if they do take one step forward and two back. Speaking of one step forward and two back, how are you getting on with Clay Tempero these days?
SS I’m afraid that’s all we’ve got time for today.
MM Why are you flushing, Sasha?
SS I’m not. If you carry on like that, we won’t do this again.
MM Like what?