The Times Scotland, November 27, 2007
A maverick lawyer who went on hunger strike after she was wrongly struck off for dishonesty by the Law Society of Scotland has exacted revenge by writing a steamy work of romantic fiction about sexual antics within Edinburgh’s legal establishment.
Maria Thomson and her husband Gordon achieved notoriety as motorbiking solicitors, who drove their Harley Davidson to work and started the day to the tune of Tina Turner’s Simply the Best. To boost their radical image they established ‘law cafes’ to break down barriers with their clients, or ‘friends’ as they liked to call them.
However, the couple fell from grace when they were found guilty of the misuse of legal aid by the Scottish Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal. The Thomsons lost their home, sold their cars and were forced to the brink of bankruptcy, before they cleared their names of dishonesty on appeal in 2001.
Over that period Mrs Thomson spent 10 days on hunger strike outside the Law Society of Scotland’s headquarters in Drumsheugh Gardens. She has since worked as a hypnotherapist and a physiotherapist before embarking on a full time career as a novelist.
Revenge said Mrs Thomson was in her mind when she began writing Dark Angels.
“It was really enjoyable, a cathartic experience. It’s working title was Child of Vengeance. In the end if was a kind of therapy. You write best about what you know and the fantastic thing is, [my heroine] Brodie McCLennan always wins. Which I didn’t – but then he who laughs last, laughs longest.”
That said, thee book bears the imprint “any resemblance to actual persons .. is entirely coincidental”.
Dark Angels, published under the pseudonym Grace Monroe, is the first in a four-book sequence featuring a feisty female lawyer with a motorbike who battles the sexism of the legal establishment and refuses to accept its privileged codes. The book is said to have caused consternation within the law society.
It opens with the murder of “Lord Arbuthnot of Broxden, Lord President of the Court of Session … the highest Law Lord in Scotland” who has just left a public toilet frequented by “cottagers” when he is slain by Kailash Coutts “the most notorious dominatrix” in Edinburgh.
Coutts, the reader discovers, already has form. She was pictured on the front page of the Sun with the senior partner of one of Edinburgh’s oldest legal practices, “trussed up like and turkey” after paying her “to inject him with water until his testicles swelled up like footballs”.
As the novel rushes along, the reader is overwhelmed by the depictions of a legal world which is secretive and old fashioned in public life, but outrageously debauched behind closed doors.
“To preserve my sanity over the years I’ve had to do lots of things tongue in cheek, but it’s really very close to the truth,” said Mrs Thomson, 46, a mother of four. “ The recent stuff that has come out about the judiciary and solicitors really proves that. When it strayed too close, my editor red-penned it.”
The author cited the cases of two prominent legal figures – Julian Danskin and former Sheriff Hugh Neilson - who had recently become embroiled in sex scandals as proof that the spirit of her book was essentially correct.
Danskin, the former chairman of East Fife football club, was convicted in 1999 of abusing members of the Boys Brigade Company of which he was captain, and served nine months in prison. “He was dismissed by his bowling club long before the Law Society took any action against him,” said Mrs Thomson.
Neilson quit after he was picked up by police at a sauna in Glasgow in 2004. Wearing a towel, he told officers he was only there “to have a shave”. “I laughed and I laughed when I heard that,” said Mrs Thomson.
Dark Angels is published by Avon – which bills itself as “Real Reads for Real Women” – but is “more hardcore” than Mills & Boon said the author, who has worked with an editor, Linda Watson-Brown.
The racier writing of romantic fiction breaks through occasionally, such as Brodie’s encounter with Somerled Buchanan, a scion of one of Scotland’s oldest families: “Opening his shirt, I ran my hands down his chest, the small hairs catching on my fingers.”
Even robing for court is described in a way which the more masculine barristers might not recognise: “The black cotton felt heavy and warm as I pulled its voluminous warmth around my shoulders.”
The Law Society refused to comment on the book, though a spokesman said it was unlikely that members would attend an author’s reading in Edinburgh tonight.