Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Conversation with Legal Thriller Writer Robert Bailey

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with Robert Bailey
with Robert Bailey

We are delighted to welcome legal thriller writer Robert Bailey to Omnimystery News today, courtesy of JKSCommunications, which is coordinating his current book tour. We encourage you to visit all of the participating host sites; you can find his schedule here.

Robert introduces retired law professor Thomas Jackson McMurtrie as The Professor (Exhibit A; January 2014 trade paperback and ebook formats), the first in a new series of thriller to feature the character.

We recently had the opportunity to discuss this new series with the author.

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Omnimystery News: Did you write The Professor with the intention of it being the first in a series?

Robert Bailey
Photo provided courtesy of
Robert Bailey

Robert Bailey: I wrote The Professor without any thought to whether Tom McMurtrie or Rick Drake would come back in any future books, but I'm so excited to have them return in Between Black and White. I think the development of a character is important in a series character, but the maintenance of core values and principles is just as important. Michael Connelly does it about as well as anyone with the Harry Bosch series.

OMN: We introduced The Professor as a legal thriller. Would you agree?

RB: Yes, which has the obvious advantage of attracting that crowd of readers who enjoy authors like Grisham, Connelly, Iles and Turow. However, it also pigeonholes you a little, as there is certainly a redemptive quality to The Professor that the term "legal thriller" doesn't quite capture. Indeed, at its core, The Professor is the story of a man redeemed.

OMN: Have you included any of your own personal or professional experience into the book?

RB: The character of Rick Drake is loosely based on me when I was in law school. I was on the trial team in law school, and was a bit of a bull in a china shop during the early part of my development. Also, the character of Powell Conrad is largely based on my best friend from law school, who is now an assistant District Attorney in Alabama.

OMN: Tell us a bit about your writing process.

RB: I am a situational writer. I think of a situation and a character, and then I start writing. I don't outline, but I do have a vague idea of how I want the story to begin and end. The story is told piece by piece as it pops into my head, and characters are added and expanded as I write. To me, the process of the story unfolding page by page without a road map (only a destination) is the fun of writing.

OMN: And where do you usually write?

RB: My writing environment has changed over time. When I started The Professor eight years ago, I was newly married with no kids and living in a very small house that actually had a lot of room to maneuver. I wrote in a guest room every morning for an hour or two. Now, eight years later, I live in a bigger house with three kids spaced from ages nine to three, and finding a place to write has been a challenge. For the past two years, I have written at the kitchen table before work, but we have just now converted an upstairs attic into a small writing studio that I am very excited about. As Stephen King says, you really need a place where you can "shut the door" and let your imagination take over. I'm hoping the studio will do that for me. I write in silence — no music — and I typically drink two or three cups of coffee during a session, which normally lasts around an hour and a half.

OMN: What is the best advice you've received as an author.

RB: Write every day at the same time for a certain period of time. It has to become a habit. This comes from Stephen King's memoir, On Writing, which I think is mandatory reading for any aspiring writer. Writing is a job, and you have to show up every day at the same time and place, and, as you work, hopefully you will find that stubborn muse.

OMN: Were you involved in the design of the book's cover?

RB: Exhibit A gave me a lot of input on the cover, and I am so excited with how it turned out. I really think it captures the flavor of the book, as the football goalposts in the background represent Tom McMurtrie's past while the silhouetted image of Tom reaching out is representative of Tom's journey to redemption in the story. Also, the four fingers held up is symbolic of both football and life, as The Professor is truly about a legendary man beginning the twilight, or fourth quarter, of his life.

OMN: What kinds of books do you read for pleasure?

RB: I love almost any kind of thriller. I particularly enjoy the Lincoln Lawyer and Harry Bosch novels from Michael Connelly, the Penn Cage series from Greg Iles, John Sandford's Prey novels and Harlan Coben's stand alone thrillers. Brad Meltzer, Michael Koryta and William Landay are also favorites, as well as Dean Koontz, Stephen King, John Grisham and Scott Turow.

OMN: Since you're now writing a series, do you have any particular favorite series characters that you look forward to reading?

RB: Harry Bosch in Michael Connelly's books, Lucas Davenport in John Sandford's Prey novels, Mickey Haller in Connelly's Lincoln Lawyer series, the Penn Cage series from Greg Iles, the John Corey novels by Nelson DeMille and the Lincoln Perry novels from Michael Koryta.

OMN: What about non-series characters?

RB: Tom Joad (The Grapes of Wrath), Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird) and Jake Brigance (A Time to Kill).

OMN: You've mentioned football a couple of times, so we assume you're a fan.

RB: I love Alabama football, and Tom McMurtrie is a fictional member of Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant's famed 1961 National Champions.

OMN: What's next for you?

RB: Well, we are set to launch The Professor with a book signing event on January 30, 2014 at The Huntsville Museum of Art in my hometown of Huntsville, Alabama, and we already have six other signings booked with more to follow. While promoting The Professor, I will be plugging away at book number two in the Tom McMurtrie and Rick Drake series, which takes Tom and Rick to Pulaski, Tennessee to help out an old friend.

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Robert Bailey Book Tour

Robert Bailey was born in Huntsville, Alabama, the son of a builder and a schoolteacher. From the time he could walk, he's loved stories, especially those about Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant and his beloved Alabama Crimson Tide football team.

Robert obtained a Bachelor of Arts in History from Davidson College in North Carolina. Law School at the University of Alabama followed, where Robert made Law Review, competed on the school's trial team and managed to watch every home football game.

For the past thirteen years, he's been a civil defense trial lawyer in his hometown of Huntsville. He's married to the incomparable Dixie Bailey and they have two boys and a little girl.

When Robert's not writing, practicing law or being a parent, he enjoys playing golf, watching Alabama football and coaching his sons' little league baseball teams.

For more information about the author and his work, please visit his website at or find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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The Professor by Robert Bailey

The Professor
Robert Bailey
A Thomas Jackson McMurtrie Legal Thriller

A retired Professor of Law who hasn't tried a real case in forty years teams up with a former student who's yet to trial a case at all, in order to clear both of their names …

Thomas Jackson McMurtrie, a longtime law professor at the University of Alabama, who, 40 years after giving up a promising career as a trial lawyer to teach law students at the request of his mentor, Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant, retires to his farm an angry and bitter man, betrayed by both a Board member he mistook for a friend and his own failing health. Meanwhile, the young family of one of Tom's oldest friends is killed in a tragic collision with an 18-wheeler.

Believing his career is over, Tom refers his friend to a brilliant, yet beleaguered, former student, Rick Drake, who begins to uncover that the truth behind the tragedy is buried in a tangled web of arson, bribery and greed.

When a key witness is murdered on the eve of trial, the young attorney, in over his head and at the end of his rope, knows he needs help … and there's only one man who can help him. Print/Kindle Format(s) Print/Nook Format(s)  Kobo eBook Format


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